In this blog we’re going to show you what to do if your dog doesn’t bring the ball back.
In one of our previous blogs; ‘how to get your dog to bring the toy back’ we focused on bringing more of a tuggy style toy back whereas in this blog we are going to cover what to do if your dog doesn’t bring a ball back.
The steps we’re about to run through will also help if you’re really struggling to get your dog to bring the toy back in general and perhaps you’ve tried the techniques from our previous blogs and they haven’t quite worked out for you and your dog.
The first thing that we’ve got to consider is the environment that you’re going to do this in, if your dog’s got a strong learning history of running away with a ball or running away with any toy what we want to try to do is to make the environment as simple and as boring as possible to set them up for success with the simple steps that we’re going to put into place.
Ideally what you would want to do is to work in a corridor where there’s no furniture or no other items so it’s just a really boring area.
The next thing to consider is the type of ball you’re going to use, if your dog is really reinforced by a tennis ball and has a learning history with it then it’s probably best not to use it while you’re teaching them to bring it back. It’s best to go with another option like a cage ball, a harder ball, or even a KONG in these first steps on getting your dog to bring the ball back and transfer to the tennis ball later on in this process.
It’d be ideal if you use a marker word such as ‘yes’ or a clicker to mark the exact behaviour that we’re looking for. The only other thing you’re going to need is the ball you’ve chosen and some high-value treats.
Pick up and reward
The way that we’re going to teach this chain of behaviours is actually back to front and what we’re going to do is work on your dog picking up the toy to begin with. For the first step you’re going to place your ball on the floor and as your dog picks it up you’re going to click and reward.
Place the ball in my hand
Once your dog’s consistently picking the ball up when you place it on the floor we can then work towards your dog placing the ball in your hand by holding your hand out and marking small approximations of the dog bringing the ball back towards your hand. What you might find when you’re running through this process with your dog if you’ve not done it before, is that you need to mark and reward every small approximation of the dog bringing the ball just a little bit closer to your hand until you get to the point that they place it in your hand.
Add bring back cue
Once your dog’s consistently picking the ball up off of the floor and placing it into the palm of your hand then it’s time to add your vocal cue, so for example, when you place the ball on the floor you would give your dog the bring cue and your dog would place it back to your hand at which point you would mark and reward.
Add a small roll
Once your dog’s consistently picking the ball up and placing it in your hand and you’ve added your vocal it’s now time to add just a tiny little bit of distance.
Roll the ball a little bit further away and give your bring cue so that your dog comes back and places it in the palm of your hand.
Once your dog’s consistently bringing the ball back and placing it in your hand over a shorter distance we can then start to increase the distance little by little.
Change the environment
Once your dog is consistently bringing the ball back to you in one room of your house you can then start to change the environment slowly by going to a different room in your house, and if that is successful then you could try in your back garden and then after that go into an environment that they’re familiar with. When changing environments it’s really important to consider the distractions and make sure that you don’t introduce too many distractions too soon, everything needs to move just little by little to make sure that you’re setting your dog up for success right.
Change back to favourite ball
If you started with a ball that wasn’t your dog’s favourite because perhaps they had a learning history of running around with the ball, and you wanted to switch back over to this favourtie ball, it would be important that you went back to the first environment that you started these steps in to ensure you set them up for success and then progress through the harder environment slowly.
Fade the food reward out
It’s important that you don’t fade out your food reward too soon and that your dog is consistent in all environments before you fade it out. When you start to fade your food reward you can alternate between feeding by hand like we’ve been doing and other times using the ball as the reward. So when they bring the ball back and place in your hand you give your marker cue then throw the ball straight back out so that is the reward.