My Dog Keeps Dropping the Ball During Fetch. How Do I Make Him Bring it to Me?

QUESTION:

My dog is doing great with your program! One problem: When I play fetch with him, he continues to drop the ball before I can get it. How do I get him to hand it to me?

 

ANSWER:

Awesome! Great to hear!

Regarding your question: Fetch/retrieve needs to be treated like a command. Without seeing first hand what’s going on with you and your dog, I’d make a strong guess that your dog knows exactly what he’s doing by dropping the ball before you can get at it. It’s his way of exercising some element of control in the situation – he’s not being fully submissive to your expectations.

The proper (i.e. obedient) “end” to each round of fetch/retrieve is where the dog drops the ball into your hand (or onto the tennis racket which is what I like to use). When you’re experiencing problems then you need to go back to using the Fun Fetch Ball (see the “Accessories” page on www.ThePerfectDog.com) and use that for a while before you “free fetch” again with a ball/toy. The Fun Fetch Ball makes the dog bring the ball right back to you as you reel him in with the line.

If he drops the Fun Fetch Ball before he gets all the way into you then you need to…

1) go to him calmly,

2) place the ball in his mouth (and hold it there yourself even if he resists),

3) walk with him – guiding him using the collar and line if need be – to where you expected him to come to in the first place, all the while saying in a firm – but not gruff – tone, “Bring it here!”,

4) stop when you’ve reached the original throw position and say “Drop!” as you hold your hand just under the dog’s snout. Even if you’re still actually holding the ball in his mouth at this point, still say “Drop!” as you release your hold on the ball and let it fall into the palm of your hand.

Don’t do long drills of this process in one session. Rather, do it for a short amount of time up to three times each day over the course of a few days, or longer if necessary, until your dog accepts the fact that you won’t back down on your expectations. Remember to reward your dog with lots of praise and fun play as he progresses.

Even though you must, as a strong leader, firmly stick to all the rules and boundaries you’ve set for your dog, always try to keep it light and fun – even through the “humps” when he’s resisting full compliance. Eventually, your dog will get the idea that what you’re asking of him is really not that hard (just hard on the ego), and life is truly awesome when he’s simply willing to be the follower in all situations – even during game time.

– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”

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