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We're at the point where if I throw the ball, he will run and tap it with his paw and I say "yes" and reward for that. Really, he just did it by chance once and I rewarded it and he got it. Prior to that, he'd just stare at me or the ball when I'd throw it LOL.

Now I'm trying to figure out how do I get him to BRING me the ball? He's done it 3-4 times spontaneously in the past weeks and I've made a BIG fuss about it each time (with food reward) but not sure if he gets it that I now want him to bring the ball.

I thought of stopping rewarding for just tapping it and waiting for him to bring it. But if I stop rewarding for tapping it and coming back, I worry he'll lose interest. And I just don't think he knows what I want, so I need to figure out how to communicate "bring me the ball" better ... he's great once he knows what I'm asking.

Any ideas? This is just for fun and he's starting to really like the game .... plus it gives us a bit of extra exercise when we can't do our second walk of the day. I'll eventually wean off the food reward, but would like to have the full game down first.
 

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Best way I've found is to start by rewarding for holding/giving the toy, and gradually increase the distance you "drop" it. Sophy has never seen the point of retrieving - if really revved up she will run after a toy, but then take it off into a corner to chew. Poppy is much more of a natural retriever - once she caught on that bringing the toy back meant it got thrown again, she was away! Sophy's method now usually involves mugging Poppy as she comes back with the toy...
 
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I "taught" Kodi in a long hallway. I sat at the open end, and shut all the bedroom doors. I threw the ball and he ran after it. Then when he picked it up I'd call him. I also put a long line on him at first, so if he didn't bring it back to me I could reel him in a bit. I didn't use food but lots and lots of praise to get him to enjoy the ball. But he also figure out really fast that if he came back to me, it got thrown again. We now play ball for hours at a time. Now he knows the word ball, and I can gell him "go find your ball" and he knows bring it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The thing is my guy definitely comes back to me ... just doesn't put the ball in his mouth. I'll have to play a game to encourage him to just pick it up and drop again ... any ideas.
 

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So for Mia... she was uninterested in the ball. I got a few tennis balls that sqeeked to make them more interesting. Then I would wave it in front of her jump up and down and make lots of noise to get her all excited then put it away. I did this for several days until she was interested in the tennis ball before I started jumpping up and down. Then I taught her "take" and "give." I clicker trained these with her favorite toy first, then the tennis ball when she was interested in it. Now she thinks balls are fun, and will chase them and pick them up! We're still working on placing them in my hand when she brings them back. But I'm super happy with her progress. A much longer process that Kodi was!
 

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Basically he's not really interested in grabbing the ball yet is he? You said he's done it at times, but he doesn't sound driven to WANT to go GET the ball, so it's THAT bit you want to build more of. If he really wants to grab the ball, you can continue to build him bringing it back as the reward for bringing it back is being able to go grab it again! No point teaching him to bring it back when he doesn't have any *real* desire to even grab it in the first place...


So, you need to start with him taking right in front of you, for a super reward. Mark (ie "yes!!" or a click if you clicker train) and reward any move or interest in it at first if need be, and progress on to him grabbing it to get a jackpot super-duper reward. Make the ball exciting if you need to; by pretending it's awesome for YOU! Dogs are jealous creatures, if someone else is having loads of fun, they want to join in too! So HAVE FUN with the ball! Make HIM want the ball toooooo!

Continue really really rewarding him for actually picking up the ball from your hands, don't worry too much about where he drops it for his reward at this stage, you want him wanting to grab the ball first!!

Build it up and have him keen to go get it from an outstretched arm in any direction, including down at the ground.

Build it more; hold him close to your body by his collar with one hand and hold the ball out with the other hand so you're 'holding him back' (but revving him up, so he's "chomping at the bit" sorta thing) and let him be really keen to grab and get the ball for his reward. Let go of his collar and spin around a little so he's having to 'chase' after it (in your hand) before he can get to it and then make a big deal about him coming back in to your body for a reward. Just really help build his 'drive' to want to grab that ball.

Hold him back by his collar and toss the ball a wee way (like 6 feet, not far!) and rev him up while holding him back, and race him to it! Make it a joint game! so YOu're having fun toooooo! BEAT him to it sometimes too! "Haha! Too slow!! I got it!!! woot! Oooohh, what about this time.... reeeeeeeeeaddddyyyyyyyyy, steeeeeadyyy, GO!" etc etc. Make it a REALLY fun game to be getting that ball!


Only when he's really keen to get the ball will it be worthwhile getting him to bring it back, and you'll likely find that he enjoys these games with you so much he'll be bringing it back anyway. Especially if YOU join in on the games too (and aren't just a static thing sitting there to throw the ball for him!) so he'll be wanting to include you more on the fun ball-y thingy. :p
 
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Lovely description, FD - you have got ME revved up to go and find a tennis ball to play with, let alone the dogs! I think that method will even work on Sophy.
 
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Flyingduster pretty much said it all. I just wanted to add that if this is a puppy, a regular tennis ball may be too large. Retrieving can be done with anything and you might find that he responds better to a stuffie toy or a soft frisbee.
 

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For a dog that isn't toy-driven, you can try tapping into the food drives.

If you take a small zippy bag, like a small cosmetic bag or camera bag, one that closes securely so the dog can't get into it on his own, you can make it his 'starter' retrieval toy.

Take the zippy bag, open it, put a couple of yummy treats in, show it to the dog, and let him stick his nose in and fish out the treats.

Then take the bag, let the dog see you put yummy treats in, zip it, and drop it. If he picks it up even for a second, unzip and let him have the treats.

Progress to having him hold it longer and longer, and then to throwing it. Once he knows he needs you to help him get to the yummy treats, he'll be more inclined to bring it back. If not, use a long line to encourage him to bring it back. But once the connection is made bag=treats, he should have an easier time wanting to pick it up!

Once he is retrieving the treat bag, you can progress to other toys, rewarding when he brings the toy back.
 

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patience! i just kept trying over a period of several weeks and once my poodle learned how to fetch, there was no stopping her. i suppose retrieving is a natural instinct for a lot of dogs, so just encourage what happens naturally. i didn't really pull out any fancy tricks to get my poodle to like it. she magically discovered one day that bringing the ball back to me meant more playtime!

sounds like your pup is almost there. keep trying:)
 

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What worked?

We're at the point where if I throw the ball, he will run and tap it with his paw and I say "yes" and reward for that. Really, he just did it by chance once and I rewarded it and he got it. Prior to that, he'd just stare at me or the ball when I'd throw it LOL.

Now I'm trying to figure out how do I get him to BRING me the ball? He's done it 3-4 times spontaneously in the past weeks and I've made a BIG fuss about it each time (with food reward) but not sure if he gets it that I now want him to bring the ball.

I thought of stopping rewarding for just tapping it and waiting for him to bring it. But if I stop rewarding for tapping it and coming back, I worry he'll lose interest. And I just don't think he knows what I want, so I need to figure out how to communicate "bring me the ball" better ... he's great once he knows what I'm asking.

Any ideas? This is just for fun and he's starting to really like the game .... plus it gives us a bit of extra exercise when we can't do our second walk of the day. I'll eventually wean off the food reward, but would like to have the full game down first.
Jaztoon: what finally worked, if anything? I have a new rescue poodle, miniature,and he has no idea what a toy is, much less a ball. He's food driven, but I don't want to start rewarding with food, because afraid he'll never fetch without it. That happened once with a non- motivated rat terrier.
If love to hear what happened.
 
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