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A Dog and His Ball Obsession

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My dog is a bit ball obsessed but we’ve been making an effort to break this behavior. On nights when we have the patience, after a game of ball, we’ll say “that’ll do” and ignore any of his pleas to have us throw it again. On nights when we don’t have the patience to deal with the pestering we put the ball away after our game. I’m on the fence about just putting it away all the time, as he tends to be restless when it’s out and doesn’t settle down as well. On the other hand I want him to be able to be in the presence of a ball and not be a weirdo about it. Thought on this would be appreciated.

 

The second part of my ball question is about during play. He will *often* not want to give us the ball or he’ll drop it and then “race us” for it as we reach out to take it. I do not like these behaviors at all, especially the latter. I will now only pick the ball up off the ground if he’s backed off it a few feet, which has worked well. The “give it” is really messy, though. He brings the ball right over to us as if he wants us to have it but when we ask him to “give it” he just won’t let it go. He’ll lean it into us, shove it in our faces, push it into our hands… but the jaws never loosen their grip. What the [email protected]&!? :angry:

 

He is pretty darn good at “give it” unless it’s a ball. He’s decent with giving a ball if I have some treats to trade, but that’s starting to feel like bribery. :mellow: More often then I’d like to admit we’re having “give it” standoffs with the ball because I expect him to follow through on the asked behavior. It’s starting to not feel fun at all… more like a test of wills then a relaxing evening playing a game of ball with my dog. I’m just not sure what to do. Do I go back to the drawing board on training or adjust the game for this quirky behavior? Is this fairly normal or completely unacceptable behavior? I’m at a bit of a loss here…

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Bodhi's pretty ball obsessed, too. We have a variation on you're "that'll do." Just before the last throw, I tell him "last one." I think it's only fair to warn him that this is the last throw. And he does understand, because he doesn't run back as quickly that time, just lopes back rather than races. Then when he brings it back I tell him "all done." He know there won't be any more throws then.

 

As for the game Camden's playing not giving the ball back, I'd use it against him. ;) He already knows what "give it" means and he's choosing to ignore you by playing his own game. I'd use a No Reward marker like "Oops!" and walk away. Game over. Not being able to have another throw is a negative punishment, i.e. taking away something he wants. If he releases the ball and gets another throw, it's a positive reinforcement, so it's own reward. I did this with Bodhi and it didn't take him long at all to come around. For the record, it should also work for a dog who doesn't bring the ball the whole way back, too.

 

As for how to get him to relax in the presence of the ball . . . . well, I'll be watching for suggestions for that, too. :rolleyes:

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My dog (as a puppy) hated to give up the ball. He would start to drop it, his mouth would quiver as he thought about, and tried to, drop it, then his jaws would clamp shut again. What worked for me -- but be forewarned, this took at least 4-6 months -- was to wait him out with another ball in my hand. I would play with the other ball - bounce it, push it back and forth between my hands, happy voice, etc. - to make him think he would prefer to have the other ball. Once he dropped HIS ball, I would mark it with a click or a 'yes' and immediately throw the other ball for him to chase.

 

Good Luck.

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it is about balance and directing drive.

 

learning to balance. some of the craziest frisbee, agility and just ball obsessed dogs I know don't hardly look at a ball if it is not their time. their value is not in the ball only but in the interaction between dog and person.

 

i have a long way to go yet but am ever getting closer with my girl. tons of fun with lots of work thrown in! all done with shaping. biggest thing is to be prepared, consistent and know what it is you want.

 

edited to add...it is too much to write for me. but there are tons of good online courses. i say it again, fenzi dog sport academy is a really good one. so is susan garrett is also a very good resource.

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Bodhi's pretty ball obsessed, too. We have a version on you're "that'll do." Just before the last throw, I tell him "last one." I think it's only fair to warn him that this is the last throw. And he does understand, because he doesn't run back as quickly that time, just lopes back rather than races.

 

I think it was on another one of your posts, GentleLake, that I read about your "last one" cue. I really like the idea and we've started doing that as well... he's just not quite figured it out yet. :) To be fair, we've only started working on that one a few weeks ago and I think with time and consistency he'll understand it better.

 

My dog (as a puppy) hated to give up the ball. He would start to drop it, his mouth would quiver as he thought about, and tried to, drop it, then his jaws would clamp shut again.

 

THIS! This is *exactly* what he will do. I'm relieved that Camden is not the only dog to do this and I really appreciate the suggestions thus far on how to get him past this weird hang-up.

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I think it was on another one of your posts, GentleLake, that I read about your "last one" cue. I really like the idea and we've started doing that as well... he's just not quite figured it out yet. :) To be fair, we've only started working on that one a few weeks ago and I think with time and consistency he'll understand it better.

 

Yep. That one can take some time. It's not as straightforward as learning a cue with a clear, rewardable action, so it can take a dog longer to "get it." But yes, consistency is key.

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Quinn could be ball/toy obsessed. Maybe I better rephrase that. Quinn is toy obsessed, except I don’t allow him to obsess. If we aren’t having a game of fetch or tug, then the toy is put up. Otherwise, I know he would be playing with the toy, trying to get me or someone else to play with him, snarking at the other dogs if they got to close to the toy he is obsessing over, and finally falling asleep with a toy or three tucked close to or under his body. I think he is a more restful and calmer dog because when we aren’t playing, the toy is not an option. He does have some super tough chew toys to gnaw on and he sometimes frolics with them, but mainly they are for chewing.

 

When he was young, Quinn tried to introduce variations on fetch. This included playing keep away, running past me and around me before bringing the toy, tugging instead of releasing the toy, launching painfully into my midsection when returning the toy and probably a few other twists I’ve forgotten. For the keep away behaviors, I put him on a long line and reeled him in, then praised him extravagently for his cooperative nature. For the painful gut punches, I marked the behavior and the game ended immediately. For tugging when I wanted a release, I used a technique I learned in Susan Garrett’s book Shaping Success, where you grab hold of the dog’s collar while also holding on to the toy. The dog can no longer tug and it isn’t so fun. To this day, the fastest way to get Quinn to give you a toy is to simply touch or reach for his collar. It is like he has a button there. He is great with a release verbal command, but sometimes even in his middle age, will toss in a little tug before letting go.

 

Another thing you can use when not liking what the dog is doing is to mark the behavior, then turn your back on him, ignoring him for 10 – 20 seconds, then turning back and resuming the game. For an intense Border Collie, any cessation in play is a really big consequence. I used that technique when using tug as a reward in obedience when Quinn got too rough and grabbed skin. It was very effective in helping him be a little more careful.

 

And yes, consistency is very important. Quinn is always looking for a loophole so I try not to let him find one. :)

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I also started Gentlelakes that's all or last one. It really seems to work with the ball and Frisbee. I say last one, throw and walk to the front porch. She will bring it with her an lay it on the floor.I also use hand, ( I want her to put it whatever in my hand ) not drop it at my feet. In training if I reached for it and she would not give to me, I just stood there. Didn't take her long to figure out that she had to put it in my hand and leave it before I would throw it again.If she brings the Frisbee back and drops it at my feet, I just say hand and she will pick it up and put it there. She also knows the give it command.Sure glad Gentlelake made the suggestion. Thank You.

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Knowing how much these dogs understand and how sensitive they are, it just seemed a more respectful and considerate way to end the game than to leave them so disappointed when the game abruptly stops.

 

I started doing this with my first border collie, Mirk, who came to me in 1982. :) (Man, I still miss that dog!)

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Dear Doggers,

 

A friend had a pet Border Collie that ruled their household with an iron paw. I liked the gyp. One day while visiting, I was sprawled in a lawn chair when she dropped a ball beside my hand. I ignored it. Next she dropped it in the chair. Then the upper part of the chair. Finally, because Dummy didn't get it, she climbed me and carefully tucked the ball beneath my chin.

 

Some months later, her owners had to go to Australia to care for her parents and I volunteered to care for their dog and introduce her to stock work. For the 8 months she was with me she never, not once, had a ball thrown for her. She didn't mind. Unlike food, water and dog-rationality, balls aren't necessary.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Donald McCaig

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For dogs not fortunate enough to live on farms, balls and Frisbees offer exercise and fun. Maybe not as absolutely necessary as food and water, but toys and play are important to Quinn's quality of life. He has a lean, athletic body and his eyes light up when a game begins. Balls and fetch can be incorporated into a dog's life without becoming all the dog thinks about or creating behaviors like your friends' dog exhibited.

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We play ball but usually in the house in the evening for bored dogs. It's really catch not fetch. I toss it to their mouth and they catch it. That way things don't get knocked over in the house.

 

Mick is old, he has always danced to a different beat. He knows exactly how to put the ball in my hand. But his choice is to run around killing the ball or whatever toy we're playing with, it isn't always balls I toss. Most of his fun comes from not giving it back to me.

Call me lazy or a non ball trainer. I could care less if he doesn't give it back to me. Unless it's in my hand it doesn't get tossed. Suits us all perfectly!

 

We also have a weird game of fetch/play in the yard too. I toss the ball, Dew races Faye to get it. If Faye reaches it first she might pick it up or she might just nose it a bit then leave it for Dew. But then....whoever has the ball races over to Mick and gives it to him. It used to end the game if Faye got it because she didn't know the "rules" but she's figured it out now.

Then Mick runs around with it in his mouth killing it for a while then the ball is put back in my hand to toss again.

Works for us and really I don't have to throw the ball half as much. I could care less how they play the game. It's their game. I'm just a willing participant!

 

Adding that I don't teach ball or fetch to any of my dogs. I'm not that fond of playing doggie games and we have sheep to work so they get their exercise other ways. They either teach themselves or I don't have to play!

 

I have had Frisbee dogs way back. I taught them to release it with a toss of another Frisbee. Again game didn't continue or ended unless I got the Frisbee back. I hate Frisbee now. I've seen way to many dogs hurt catching in bad positions, including one of my own.

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My dog (as a puppy) hated to give up the ball. He would start to drop it, his mouth would quiver as he thought about, and tried to, drop it, then his jaws would clamp shut again. What worked for me -- but be forewarned, this took at least 4-6 months -- was to wait him out with another ball in my hand. I would play with the other ball - bounce it, push it back and forth between my hands, happy voice, etc. - to make him think he would prefer to have the other ball. Once he dropped HIS ball, I would mark it with a click or a 'yes' and immediately throw the other ball for him to chase.

 

gcv - I just wanted to let you know that we tried this game last night and it was a HIT!!! He couldn't give me the ball in his mouth fast enough so I'd throw the one in my hand. Once we hit a rhythm it actually felt like we were juggling the two balls. Thanks for this suggestion, we both had tons of fun playing this game (and he was "giving it" like a superstar)!! :)

 

 

 

Dear Doggers,

 

A friend had a pet Border Collie that ruled their household with an iron paw. I liked the gyp. One day while visiting, I was sprawled in a lawn chair when she dropped a ball beside my hand. I ignored it. Next she dropped it in the chair. Then the upper part of the chair. Finally, because Dummy didn't get it, she climbed me and carefully tucked the ball beneath my chin.

 

Some months later, her owners had to go to Australia to care for her parents and I volunteered to care for their dog and introduce her to stock work. For the 8 months she was with me she never, not once, had a ball thrown for her. She didn't mind. Unlike food, water and dog-rationality, balls aren't necessary.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Donald, I have to admit the visual image of that dog climbing on top of you to place the ball under your chin made me chuckle. ;) To your point, I don't entirely disagree with you. I wish I had stock and no "need" of balls or toys, but alas that's just a pipe dream for me. Even his weekly lessons have been put on hold for months as he's not been sound. Poor guy needs *something* to do. I do try to incorporate "work" into the ball games (long distance downs, stays, waits, point him to different directions, etc.) to avoid the game being completely mindless. I'd take sheep over a ball or frisbee any day, but (sadly) for many of us that's just not our reality.

 

GentleLake - Sounds like many people on the boards have incorporated your "last one" command. I know the first time I read it I though "That makes SO much sense"! :)

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Aaargghhh - the 'quote' button is still not working for me.

 

I am glad that the 2-ball game is working. Your guy must be smarter than mine since it took so long for mine to 'learn' it. Actually, he is pretty stubborn :)- so that may be part of the problem.

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GentleLake - Sounds like many people on the boards have incorporated your "last one" command. I know the first time I read it I though "That makes SO much sense"! :)

 

 

Yaaay! It's a movement!! B)

 

I'm all for it if it means we're respecting our dogs more and considering their emotional reactions. :)

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Knowing how prone border collies are to fixating on balls and after playing one game of chuck it and not liking the glazed over, obsessive look she got, my solution was to not play ball with Feist for a while. Now she's picked up the game, but she'll settle down if I say 'that's enough, go play', which she's been taught from when she first came home to mean, go entertain yourself, the game is over. She has gotten more persistent recently as there has been more ball fetch going on while I am out of the house, and I just spent ten minutes getting a ball dumped on me in different ways. I ignored it, said 'go play', and eventually she went and picked up a bone to chew. The key is consistency. If you relent after they've done it for ten minutes, then you'll make them believe you'll throw it eventually if they are persistent.

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Two ball game is the best. Puppy learned to drop in a snap with that (OR the other variation is having a tug toy, recall, say drop and then play tug, pick up the ball, say drop, and then toss the ball).

 

Older dog just carries her ball or frisbee around all the time outside, which is fine with me because her knees can't hold up to fetching. So we just walk, and she carries. She will chase a stick with the frisbee in her mouth, and wack the stick with her frisbee (without dropping the latter).

 

In the house, older dog used to be obsessed. But I ignored her. At first, I would look down and find 5 different toys piled in my lap. But by the time she was a year or so old, she had learned that the human was worthless when occuied with tapping the small folding box, and she would just go off and sleep when she saw me working on the computer.

 

The other thing, I think that helped, is having LOTS of toys. There are so many toys in this apartment, it is like a petstore exploded inside (neither dog destroys toys, so we have every toy I've ever bought them). Resources (food, toys, chewies) are less valuable if more abundant, and for some dogs, this means they become less aroused (or less threatened, if they are prone to holding on or guarding) with a multitude of resources. They're like kids: if a kid gets a sundae, he is excited. If he gets a sundae for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, sundaes aren't as exciting any more.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Visiting in San Fransisco 2 year old June and I were walking in the very large Fort Funston dog park. A woman throwing a tennis ball for her Border Collie noticed June and we chatted while June went on ahead thirty/forty feet. The woman told me that she'd quit her full time job for part time work so she could spend more time with her Border Collie. She had a slinging? device to get more distance for her ball, which she slung several times as we were talking. She said she had arthritis in her shoulder and the ball throwing was painful to her. I suggested she not do it.

 

"But," she said, "Border Collies need the exercise. All of them love to chase balls."

 

When I demurred, she took aim at June and fired away.

 

When the ball struck her, June looked up, "What the hell???" As the woman's dog rushed past June to collect the strange bouncy missile.

 

If you want to play ball with your dog, that's your affair. Some good sheepdoggers do. But unless the owner is unable to walk around the block ball play isn't necessary for exercise and, with a dog genetically primed for obsessive compulsive activity creating a "ball happy" dog is a real possibility.

 

Donald McCaig

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But unless the owner is unable to walk around the block ball play isn't necessary for exercise and, with a dog genetically primed for obsessive compulsive activity creating a "ball happy" dog is a real possibility.

 

It is not my experience that dogs get the same amount of exercise from walking around the block, or around the neighborhood as from running and chasing. But then I live in a subdivision, so walks are sedate affairs. Through extremely simple management, you can provide an excellent workout without creating toy obsession or annoying behaviors. Put the toy away when the game is over and/or do not allow or give in to nagging behaviors. Result: Healthy, athletic, relaxed & happy dog without a sheep in sight. Easy peasy. :)

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^^This.

 

The answer for everything, Donald, isn't just-don't-do-it or put-your-dog-on-sheep.

 

Some people want to do it (whatever "it" happens to be) and are just looking for a better way to do it. They enjoy doing a variety of things with their dogs.

 

And a lot of -- I'd venture at this point in time most -- people with border collies don't have the option of taking their dogs to sheep regularly, so that isn't always a realistic option for providing the exercise and, more importantly, the mental stimulation these dogs need.

 

The caution to be careful not trigger the OCD behaviors border collies are genetically prone to is useful. But, while I often enjoy and welcome your anecdotes about life on the farm, your dogs, their training and your trials and tribulations in that regard, I'm not sure posts like your last one with what could be perceived as thinly veiled criticisms of how people interact, or want to interact, with their dogs is especially helpful.

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I agree with the last two posts.

 

I need dogs with zero interest in sheep because they are everywhere here and if a ball is a useful tool to achieve that aim and provide quick and intense exercise I will use it.

 

Give a dog an interesting enough alternative and the chances are it won't give sheep a second or even first glance.

 

I already spend enough of my time out in muddy grassland in all weathers and the thought of spending even more for the sake of letting my dog work sheep really doesn't appeal.

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...The answer for everything, Donald, isn't just-don't-do-it or put-your-dog-on-sheep.

 

...The caution to be careful not trigger the OCD behaviors border collies are genetically prone to is useful. But, while I often enjoy and welcome your anecdotes about life on the farm, your dogs, their training and your trials and tribulations in that regard, I'm not sure posts like your last one with what could be perceived as thinly veiled criticisms of how people interact, or want to interact, with their dogs is especially helpful.

I don't like mindless toy ball flinging. Used in moderation, my dog and I have evolved ball games involving rules and strategy -- some activities that make the dog think and improves her mouth-eye coordination. Those ball launching devices, like the lady in the park was using (see above), don't seem designed for precision. Mostly distance. Are others getting good accuracy with the sling device? An arm/hand thrown ball can be tossed so that dog's mouth and ball meet at exactly the same spot in the air, even at great distances.

 

The lady Donald met had an arthritic arm; she may have been contributing to OCD-type behavior in her dog, and she smacked June with the ball. Any one of those are good reasons to not throw balls, particularly for her.

 

Sometimes my Josie tells me she really isn't interested, so I don't think she is obsessive about tennis balls and flying discs. But fortunately for us, she usually is up for a few energetic tosses.

 

To respond to the OP, I'd be patient and persistent, and your BC will naturally drop the ball nearby. Then put a command to it. The reward is clear...another throw :) If your dog continues to be restless when the ball is present, put it away until the next game. -- TEC

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Are others getting good accuracy with the sling device? An arm/hand thrown ball can be tossed so that dog's mouth and ball meet at exactly the same spot in the air, even at great distances.

 

Do you mean the Chuck It? I get good accuracy with it and find it easier to throw the ball than doing so by hand. My yard isn't very big, so I don't do really long throws. I like not needing to handle a slobbery and/or muddy ball. For years, I thought the Chuck It was pretty stupid. As soon as I began using it, I was sorry it took me so long to try it.

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