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Whilst my dog Snoozes & Farts on my bed I thought i'd take the opportunity to enquire about training techniques for teaching a dog to return the ball.

For the past two days i've been using a 20 m (65ft) rope tied to a ball to train her.

I reward her for dropping it within a few metres of me.
I'm envious of dogs that can do this, especially considering my dog is a border collie - so her being able to return the ball is crucial for exercise.

She's 18 months old and has always played fetch by someone having a stick and a ball (or frisbee) and throwing one - she runs to that one and then we throw another in a different direction to distract her from the one she chased.

Very rarely will she bring it back - most often she'll chase it - catch it and lie-down near it or leave it where it lies and run back and wait for the stick.

Is she capable of learning to bring the ball back after us catering to this style of play?
 

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So, she retrieves a stick just fine? Attach the ball to the stick, gradually shorten the stick until it's finally just the ball. She just needs to understand that a ball works like a stick.
 

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She has trained you. I bet when she lays down with the ball you go an get the stick, so you have reinforced what you don't want (quite inadvertently).

I assume you are just playing with her and have no competition goals etc. with this.

Have two balls. No stick. When she gets the ball, run the other way and see if she keeps the ball in her mouth and follows you. If she does when she gets close, bring out the second ball. Tell her to out the first ball and when she does IMMEDIATELY throw the second ball in the opposite direction. When she picks up the second ball, run away from her and repeat the exercise. Throwing the ball a long way is not your friend.. keep it shorter so if you have to go get it yourself it isn't far. Also, never throw the ball unless she is close to you. If she goes and lays by it, go get the ball and go back to where you started so she has to come back to that place. This breaks up the self reward system she has created by laying down over yonder, you walking there and then rewarding her by throwing something else.

Most dogs will drop the first ball when they see you have another ball (the one you have is always better than the one they have.. it's a dog thing). The reward for dropping it next to you is they GET the ball you have but they need to run for it.

Eventually, as you build this, you can start playing "two ball" where you throw a ball, as the dog runs toward you and gets close you say "Out!" and they drop the ball and you throw the second ball without missing a beat.. the dog should never stop, but keep running past you for ball #2. Rinse and repeat with ball #1.
 
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