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Hi, all. This is my first post here.

My wife and I adopted a 2-year-old lab/pit mix almost a year ago. He has been great - very obedient, smart, and already with a lot of training in the basics.

One thing we cannot get him to do, however, is bring a ball / toy back to us when we play fetch. He gets so excited to play when a ball or toy comes out, and loves to chase it down when you throw it. Once he gets it, though, he will start running back to you, then change his mind and go somewhere else to lay down and chew the toy. It's especially tough to get tennis balls back from him, because he LOVES chewing them - often until they break.

Any tips on how we could get him to "complete" the fetch? That is, bring the ball back and drop it for another throw? It would be great to add this to our exercise repertoire. As of now, it's not that fun because we end up chasing him to get the ball back.

Thanks!
 

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I have the same prob with my 4.5 month german shepherd puppy and I made a breakthrough today.. :) I threw a ball and on his way back, he saw I had another ball ready to throw. He came over, and I repeated, drop it, and wouldnt throw the other ball until he did. It was an accident, that it happened because he plays keep away, until I walk away and I wanted to get two throws in..lol. When he brought it back and saw I had another, he just spit it out. Then the next few times, i gave the command and praised him. Good Luck and I hope it helps.

Jen
 

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I have the same prob with my 4.5 month german shepherd puppy and I made a breakthrough today.. :) I threw a ball and on his way back, he saw I had another ball ready to throw. He came over, and I repeated, drop it, and wouldnt throw the other ball until he did. It was an accident, that it happened because he plays keep away, until I walk away and I wanted to get two throws in..lol. When he brought it back and saw I had another, he just spit it out. Then the next few times, i gave the command and praised him. Good Luck and I hope it helps.

Jen
THIS!!!!!
I absolutely second this! It works for tug as well if "give" is a little iffy when the dog is all driven to keep tugging. You can also lure a bit with a treat, but I found that a little harder to phase out.
 

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Thanks! I will give it a shot. Tried something similar with one ball I knew he really liked and one that was not as cool, thinking he'd bring me the lesser one and get the good one as a reward. But he just ended up ignoring the one and waiting to get the one he was really after. I'll try with two balls of equal coolness and see what happens!
 

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Personally, I think fetch is one of those games that we humans assume all dogs are going to love, and I think we are often wrong.

For a dog who truly enjoys it, fetch is its own reward. He returns the ball because that's the only way it's going to get thrown again.

Some dogs are about as interested in chasing, and returning, a ball as we would be. Some will chase it, but not return it - fetchus interruptus. Some will only fetch a ball that's thrown into a lake. Some will look at us, after we've thrown the ball, like we're insane. "You want me to WHAT? Why would I do that? YOU go chase it. If you wanted the ball, why did you throw it away? And BTW, your fly is open."

If this was really a forum FOR dogs, instead of ABOUT them, we'd see posts like, "My human keeps throwing a ball and looking at me with some sort of expectations. What the heck does he want, anyway, and how do I make him stop? Ignoring him doesn't work. Would a shock collar help?"

For the record, I have a hound who would rather play fetch than eat* and a retriever that has little or no interest in retrieving. So Esther chases the ball and Molly chases Esther.

It all works out.

*We recently bought 72 tennis balls from Costco for $16. We don't play tennis.
 

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If a dog chases the ball then he's definitely interested in fetch, he has the prey drive. If he doesn't, then it can be a hassle. If he gets the ball and chews on it, he simply doesn't know the game yet but (trust me) he would love to play it. Tennis balls are not good for large dogs, they break up and thus enforce chewing, you don't want this - chewing creates possession but not in a good way. You want the dog to hold the ball because he wants you to throw it again, not because he wants to destroy it. If he manages to tear it apart then his version of the game just got enforced. Buy rubber balls instead - you can start with soft ones intentionally in order to create some (acceptable level of) possession if his drive is too low, ie. he stops chasing after 5 minutes.

What I found frustrated people is when a dog is left to play with balls all day long and when owner comes to play he chews on them as if he just found gold :D.

As for two balls, yes, definitely! Use two (or more) balls for a month or two to enforce chasing, even if he doesn't fetch it, just play around with him and taunt him with balls....
 

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(....) then change his mind and go somewhere else to lay down and chew the toy. It's especially tough to get tennis balls back from him, because he LOVES chewing them - often until they break.
My understanding is that some dogs can develop worn teeth from frequently 'chewing' on tennis balls (specifically), due to the ball's covering or 'fur' being somewhat abrasive.

Not sure of the accuracy of this, could be an urban myth for all I know, but it might be something worth verifying with your vet one way or the other.
 

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Second what RonE said. We should NOT assume that every dog knows how to fetch without being taught. We should NOT assume that every dog will enjoy the game after being taught it.

This is from a post I made a while ago:

Here is a very good step-by-step approach to teach a "fetch". Although it refers to puppies, the exact same approach can be used on an adult dog.

How To Teach Your Dog To Fetch

While the text doesn't emphasize the use of a clicker, you can certainly add the use of one if you want to. Simply add the 'click' at every reward. The link has a video to show you how to do that at one of the later steps, but you can do it the same way at any of the earlier ones.


Some points to keep in mind:

(1) As a general statement, with an adult dog like yours, you may sometimes run up against an already learned behavior that conflicts with what you are trying to teach. You may have to remain at some of the steps a bit longer if that is the case.

(2) When adding distance, SLOW..W..W and steady does it. Don't add too much distance too quickly.

(3) Some dogs are and remain "reluctant retrievers". This can be a breed specific trait as well as a trait of an individual dog. if your dog really doesn't seem to be enjoying this game very much, find another one that you both want to play.

(4) This is basically teaching a fetching game that you can play with your dog. This is NOT the way to teach an obedience retrieve or a field retrieve.
 

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My understanding is that some dogs can develop worn teeth from frequently 'chewing' on tennis balls (specifically), due to the ball's covering or 'fur' being somewhat abrasive.

Not sure of the accuracy of this, could be an urban myth for all I know, but it might be something worth verifying with your vet one way or the other.
Well, first of all, a properly taught "fetch" should NOT entail chewing on the object at all.

But to address your point, it isn't completely an urban myth, but the problem re tennis balls is overstated. Dogs teeth will eventually wear from chewing ANY hard or rough object, in most cases much faster than with a tennis ball.

Here is some advice on the subject from a board-certified veterinary dentist:

There are, in fact, chewing behaviors he finds much more worrisome, as they almost always lead to the need for some major mouth work:

(1) Rolling a basketball across the yard so your dog will chase it. This, he says, is "the most grinding" of ball behavior because dogs chase and chase and run their teeth over a pebbly surface, unable to actually grab it and stop it, and this wears down teeth at warp rate.

(2) Dogs that are crated or kenneled and chew on the wires. This wears the back side of the dog's teeth in a most alarming way.

He also advises against "any chew item that you can't bend." Most owners think hard chew items are great because they remove tartar, but in exchange for a minor reduction of tartar, he says, there's the real risk of a fractured tooth that will have to be addressed. "If you can't bend it you shouldn't give it to your dog," he says.
Source: There are worse things for dogs than chewing tennis balls
 
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