05-17-2018, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: The beautiful Pacific Northwest!
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Train him to pick up something that isn’t the ball first! I actually accidentally taught Cosmo this behavior because I taught him to pick up items and bring them to me (he’s a Service Dog and this is one of his tasks) and since then he either puts it in my hand or I’ll just say “bring it here” and he will get it and put it in my hand. I trained him using a little pack of tissues but you can use anything.
Your dog seems to find the ball more rewarding than the treats, so Id put the balls away since the game of fetch might distract from the training session in my experience with dogs that are so intensely focused on balls.
The way I trained him is I put the tissue pack in front of his face and made it kind of interesting so he would put his mouth on it. The second he put his mouth on it I’d click and treat. You can use anything, I’d suggest something light and easy to carry like a sock. Practice him getting used to putting his mouth on it for a while and then start letting go of the item. He’ll probably drop it immediately but try to click and take it back before he has time to drop it and see how long you can get him to hold it without dropping it. After he’s taking the sock and holding it a second or two, pair it with the command “pick it up!”. Eventually you can start giving it to him, taking a step back, and the goal is to have him walk toward you with the item in his mouth. Then you can experiment with different items. Cosmo will now bring me everything from his leash, to my bag, to even my credit card and keys if I drop them and point to them (and sometimes he does it automatically which is nice).
Eventually you should be able to say “pick it up!” and point to it and he will bring you the ball and put it in your hand even if he does drop it a few feet away. Kind of a long way around the issue, but it works great and then you have the added bonus of him able to bring you whatever you want!