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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I hope this hasn't been posted before, I did a quick search and found another thread related to ball obsession but this is a little different.

Since I've had Mia (who almost 11 months) she's always enjoyed a good rubber ball or tennis ball. Once she gained the concept of fetch, she was hooked, I would say border line (ball) obsessed.

I have been going home at lunch hour to let her out and play with her for a bit, and during the summer since the weather was really good I would take her to the dog park or a school field and play some fetch for 20 mins. I didn't realize at the time that I was setting myself up for problems later.

When she has playdates and we go to the dog park or field, she will automatically look at me very intently, sometimes jump up on me and wait for me to magically pull out a tennis ball and throw it. She will COMPLETELY ignore the dog(s) around her. When we are at the beach it's even worse. If I ignore her (because I usually don't bring a ball if we came with a friend with their dog) she will just stick to me like glue, eyes fixated on me just waiting...waiting...waiting for that ball. If her dog friend tries to play with her she will snap and growl him away.

If we are at the dog park or grassy field, if I ignore her she will eventually just forget about the ball and go play with the other dog. It might take about 10-15 mins, and the other dog has to keep trying to get Mia's attention. But at the beach, she starts whining, gets more snappy with other dogs and she won't let up. In the end we just have to leave the beach and go find a grassy area so that the dogs can play with each other.

She doesn't have any balls at home anymore. They kept getting stuck under the couch or behind some kind of furniture so she only gets to play with a ball if we are outside.

What I have been doing lately is going to the park with her, letting her off leash to run around and not bringing any ball with me. We'll just walk around and she will expect me to throw a ball but I don't. Is there anything else I can do that can break that association? park/field/beach = ball/fetch

Today I was really concerned because she had a playdate with a lab/poodle puppy (5 months old) and I had a ball with me (the last time they played we also had a ball and the puppy would just chase Mia as Mia went after the ball so they both got some good exercise). We thought to do the same thing today. However, Molly (the other puppy) was at a distance, lying in the grass waiting for Mia to come by. I threw the ball, Mia bolted to chase after it but Molly also dashed out to try and catch Mia I guess? and Mia ended up t-boning her REALLY hard. I mean, REALLLLLY hard. Poor Molly let out this horrific squeal, Mia just kept running until she caught her ball. Molly was so shook up she avoided Mia for a good 10 minutes. I wouldn't want to get hit like that by Mia, she's basically built like a sack of concrete. I don't even think Mia saw Molly, I think she was just so fixated on getting that ball. I felt so terrible but my friend understood that it was just an accident.

Lesson learned: only bring out the ball when Mia is alone with me. No other dogs...but is there any way to curb that intensity? am I just dreaming? haha

Additional note: she is good at leaving other dogs' balls alone. She might try to go after it, but if I tell her to leave it she will run back to me. If she happens to pick the other dog's the ball, she will drop it if I ask her to. If it's her own ball, sometimes she's more reluctant to drop it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Have you ever used the tennis ball during impulse control exercises/training?
Hmmm not really...that actually never crossed my mind and I don't know why because that makes a lot of sense!

I've only recently started to have her lie down and wait before I throw the ball. I became more diligent with it because sometimes she would get too excited and try to jump up and grab the ball while it was still in the chuck it stick (right before I was going to throw it). Also, if I tried to grab the ball from directly from the ground with the chuck it stick, she would attack it! (If I picked up the ball with my hand and put it in the chuck it stick she would be fine).

So now the process is...she goes into a down position, I said "wait" and make her wait for 2 seconds, I'll throw the ball, she retrieves and drops it. Goes back into a down position, I say "wait" while I slowly reach for the ball using the chuck it stick. As soon as the ball "locks" into the stick I praise her because normally that "locking" motion triggers her to attack the stick. Sometimes the praise releases her from her down position but she quickly goes back down before I throw the ball. Her down is pretty automatic now, it's working on her "wait" while I pick up the ball with the chuck it stick. If I reach too quickly for the ball, she will attack it so I have to do it really slowly and say "wait" a couple of times. My motions have to be very slow.

If she gets too excited and runs ahead before I throw the ball, I make her come back and go "down". If she attacks the stick before I can lift it, I will take the ball back out, put it in front of her and make her "wait" while I pick it up with the stick.

What kind of impulse control exercises do you recommend? I'm definitely open to anything!
 

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Hmmm not really...that actually never crossed my mind and I don't know why because that makes a lot of sense!

I've only recently started to have her lie down and wait before I throw the ball. I became more diligent with it because sometimes she would get too excited and try to jump up and grab the ball while it was still in the chuck it stick (right before I was going to throw it). Also, if I tried to grab the ball from directly from the ground with the chuck it stick, she would attack it! (If I picked up the ball with my hand and put it in the chuck it stick she would be fine).

So now the process is...she goes into a down position, I said "wait" and make her wait for 2 seconds, I'll throw the ball, she retrieves and drops it. Goes back into a down position, I say "wait" while I slowly reach for the ball using the chuck it stick. As soon as the ball "locks" into the stick I praise her because normally that "locking" motion triggers her to attack the stick. Sometimes the praise releases her from her down position but she quickly goes back down before I throw the ball. Her down is pretty automatic now, it's working on her "wait" while I pick up the ball with the chuck it stick. If I reach too quickly for the ball, she will attack it so I have to do it really slowly and say "wait" a couple of times. My motions have to be very slow.

If she gets too excited and runs ahead before I throw the ball, I make her come back and go "down". If she attacks the stick before I can lift it, I will take the ball back out, put it in front of her and make her "wait" while I pick it up with the stick.

What kind of impulse control exercises do you recommend? I'm definitely open to anything!
Sounds like you have already started the process and using the power of a simple game of fetch with a ball to train obedience skills coupled with all the engagement you get is great. More than the process of using her addiction to the ball as a tool for training and engagement, make sure every session has a distinct beginning and maybe even more important a definitive ending as this is what you are really trying to accomplish. It is an off switch of sorts and when you give your command ( whatever the verbal cue is ) the dog learns the ball is no longer in play. Developing an association with your verbal cues for the beginning of a session and the ending of a session will teach your dog the proper behaviors. Obviously, one should never issue the cue to initiate the game without following through and once again, never give the ending cue without following through. End of game cue means exactly that, always.

" If I reach too quickly for the ball, she will attack it so I have to do it really slowly and say "wait" a couple of times. My motions have to be very slow." Okay, this made me laugh because I appreciate exactly what you are describing. I enjoy having all my fingers. I used a tennis ball with a short length of rope in the beginning to keep an accidental hit from happening. It does sound like your dog respects your flesh based on your "(If I picked up the ball with my hand and put it in the chuck it stick she would be fine)" This is good.

Where would I start with impulse control training using the ball? It sounds to me, your dog is like mine and is triggered by erratic/quick motions and might make some mistakes because of the allure of these motions, maybe a prey drive thing most likely. With that in mind, I would continue with the process you already started " I said "wait" and make her wait for 2 seconds,", turn 2 seconds into 5 into 10 and then start to move the loaded chuck it stick, tempting her to break. She breaks, reset and repeat, it might take numerous repetitions, if she breaks give her your negative verbal marker and reset. The first time she holds and resists the temptation to latch on to the ball in the chuck it, she instantly gets your heartiest positive verbal marker followed by instantly chucking the ball. You have to start somewhere and it sounds like your dog has a boatload of ball drive, so try your best to set her up for success and be consistent. Eventually, I would put my dog in a commanded position/wait and be able to dangle the ball on a rope in front of her nose or flip it around quickly and tempt her as I chose. This led to being able to have the dog hold a commanded position and I would drop the ball in front of her, within easy reach but she still has to maintain her hold until released. Ultimately, I could have her in a standing wait, ball dropped in front of her and I could walk over the dog or pick up her hind legs or whatever I chose and the dog holds. When the dog is released, it is lightning quick as you probably already know how quick they can be.

This is similar to how I patterned some my of impulse control exercises.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
@DriveDog, wow, thank you for this information. This is really helpful. It actually gets more motivated to keep at it because it would be amazing that one day I'd be able to dangle the ball in front of her and she keep her position!

What kind of cue do I use to indicate that playtime is over? Like an actual word? or a hand motion? Usually we end the fetch session if she returns the ball but doesn't immediately let it go. I can tell when she's panting hard and holding onto the ball, she gives me this look and I know she's done. Or...I know fetch is over when she doesn't come back and just starts to chew on the ball. As soon as she sees me walking away she runs after me and gives me the ball and we go home. I think that's a mistake I have been doing. I have not ended the game when I say it's time to end it. I've left it up to her.
 

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Just stop, the dog will adjust. Not everything needs to be trained.

No offence, but ball obsessed dogs don't belong in a park with other people or dogs. I watched today as an owner was using a ball stick to throw to his GSD - this dog was completely engrossed in the ball. All the dog could see was the ball, nothing else around it. This dog took a fellow clean off his feet, guy limped back to his car - the dog didn't stop, just a bump in the road, total blinders chasing the ball. Think the owner did an oops and wasn't looking where he was throwing.

Small dogs get run over.
 

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What kind of cue do I use to indicate that playtime is over? Like an actual word? or a hand motion?


As soon as she sees me walking away she runs after me and gives me the ball and we go home.
The verbal cues are up to you, whatever you choose. I play numerous games with my dog and they learn the difference. If I say " wanna play tug" she knows where the tug toy is and goes to where I stash it. If I say " wanna play golf" she knows where the tennis ball and golf club are, same goes for "wanna play hit it" she knows where the PVC pole, length of rope and deflated ball attached to it are. I initiate each game with the specific cue granted the "wanna play" on its own captures her attention immediately. I end all games on a successful note and say" we're done, good girl"

Your dog has already learned that when you are walking away it means the game is over, so it seems she reads you properly in that instance. The problem based on your posts is that the dog needs to learn that you initiate the game rather than her pushing you into it. Once again, the clear beginning associating a verbal cue before a session will help her understand it is you who decides not your dog.

I appreciate what jagger is trying to suggest but a dog with lots of drive needs to be taught an off switch which is very beneficial in numerous situations. High drive dogs don't always just adjust on their own because of their wiring. It is the reason too many of these spirited dogs end up in shelters due to the lacking of the human or the required training involved.

Here is a wonderful example of ending a session. Watch how this dog heeds Ellis's end of session "we're done" at 4:04 into the video. It's not magical words but just consistent association of a verbal cue with an ending point which he has trained his dog to understand.
 

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@jagger The dog owners around here are generally pretty good, if there are more than one person at the park with their dogs playing fetch, they will move away so that everyone has their own space. I should clarify that when I play fetch with Mia, we are always in an area where there are no dogs OR...at the dog beach where owners are throwing the ball into the water so I've never run into any negative encounters. It's hard to explain but it just seems to work at the dog beach. The issues are when the owners who are sitting and chatting with their friends aren't paying attention to their dogs that are stealing other dogs' balls in the water but that's a whole other matter.

The mistake I made was bringing a ball to a playdate with another dog. I normally don't because I know how Mia will behave. It was a lapse in judgement and I brought it out anyway since the last time they played it seemed to work okay. I always tell the other owner not to bring any balls with them.

Dog parks in general where there a lot of dogs...I actually avoid. Mia is the type of dog that needs to play with the same dog a few times in order for her to get a feel of their play style and then she will get along really well with them. She will instantly connect with some random dogs and others she just doesn't seem interested and avoids. Because of her breed, I just avoid it when I can. Daycare and scheduled play dates work best for her.


@DriveDog, thank you for the video, wow that guy just walked away and bam! it was over! haha

Could you help me with how I can start the cue? Usually this is how it works. We'll get ready (put leash/collar on), get in the car and drive to the park. As soon as we park, she's excited because she knows we are going to play. I will make her sit and wait before she can jump out of the car, just to try and control her level of excitement. (It takes A LOT for her to sit there) Once she jumps out I'll make her sit/down, I'll take her leash off and she'll wait until I'm ready to throw the ball.


I appreciate what jagger is trying to suggest but a dog with lots of drive needs to be taught an off switch which is very beneficial in numerous situations. High drive dogs don't always just adjust on their own because of their wiring. It is the reason too many of these spirited dogs end up in shelters due to the lacking of the human or the required training involved.
Thank you for saying this. I agree 100%. Mia definitely needs to learn an off switch when it comes to her ball. She literally could go on for hours. When we are home she is good, she knows that once I start ignoring her (if she still wants to play) she will just go and find a bone/chew and occupy herself.

An update today on our fetch session: she has no problem holding her position for 10-15 seconds. I was even able to wave the ball in front of her (slowly) and she didn't move. I could see her body twitching a bit and one thing I noticed was that she was looking at me the whole time. Direct eye contact with me. If the ball happened to cross her line of sight, she would glance at it but right away look back at me.

I praised her while we walked away from the park, and maybe because she was tired she didn't try and jump up to grab the ball.
 

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@DriveDog, thank you for the video, wow that guy just walked away and bam! it was over! haha



Could you help me with how I can start the cue? Usually this is how it works. We'll get ready (put leash/collar on), get in the car and drive to the park. As soon as we park, she's excited because she knows we are going to play. I will make her sit and wait before she can jump out of the car, just to try and control her level of excitement. (It takes A LOT for her to sit there) Once she jumps out I'll make her sit/down, I'll take her leash off and she'll wait until I'm ready to throw the ball.





I was even able to wave the ball in front of her (slowly) and she didn't move. I could see her body twitching a bit and one thing I noticed was that she was looking at me the whole time. Direct eye contact with me.
Just as he is walking away, he does say " we're done" so I'm assuming that is his verbal cue.

Sounds like you already have the start cue but more of an associated process and your dog has it figured out wonderfully. Leash/collar go on, get in car, end up at park. Your dog probably knows the difference between a drive to the dog park or somewhere else, along with the presence of the chuckit and ball onboard ( scent or visual ). I would just start giving a consistent verbal cue before the entire process begins before you leash her up, like a " wanna play chuckit/fetch/the violin/cards etc" it doesn't matter what your verbal cue is as long as it is consistently given before the ensuing activity. You have a very smart dog and so willing to learn based on what you have said. The fact she sits there per your command waiting instead of bolting out of the car is great, wonderful impulse control on her behalf as hard as it might be. You have harnessed her anticipation.

The last sentences in your words above, I'm curious, do you release her from her position after waving the ball in front of her with a verbal release or just let the ball fly and she is free to chase it down? Also, do give her a "wait" or other command before you make her stay in place? The eye contact you receive is awesome especially with the motion of the ball and she is focusing on you and not the ball.

Once again, you have a really great dog that is giving you great behavior, run with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
@DriveDog, Thank you!! Mia impresses me everyday. She's a very quick learner and I'm lucky to have such an eager to please dog.

Today I didn't really say it. I might have said it once or twice but not every time. As soon as I stopped waiving the ball, I just said "good girl!!" and threw the ball. She immediately chased after it.

I use the wait command when I'm reaching for the ball with the chuck it stick (when she's already in a down position). When I'm holding up the stick for 5-10-15 seconds I don't say anything until I'm ready to throw the ball I'll praise her and throw it. For the most part today, when I praised her, she didn't break from her down position. It's usually when she sees me wind my arm back to throw that she'll take off.

When we are ready to go out (walk, playdate, fetch) I usually say "Are you ready to go out?" or "Lets go find (name of her doggy friend)". I guess it's the tone of my voice that she knows that we are going to do something fun. She stops whatever she is doing and runs to the door, sits and waits for me to put on her leash/collar lol. Her eagerness is so cute. I guess that's the cue I've been giving her? I can start using specific words then, rather than just "go out".
 

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How did she learn that inside play is over when it's over? Do you do anything to indicate the end of it? If so, you can probably transfer that over to outside play as well, but it will take more time because the ball is a powerful motivator and there has never before been a "rule" about the end of play, so she'll be reluctant to accept that change and try to push it if you give in even 1% of the time. When I'm done playing with my ball crazy dog, I tell him, "that's it" (usually, sometimes it's "it's done", or "no more"- he always seems to get my drift), and usually put the ball in my pocket (if we're outside), then show him my empty hands. Sometimes I'll just carry it in my hand, or put it somewhere else- in a flower pot or on one of the trailers- anywhere above ground level. I can leave it down, but it stays on his radar, and if he gets excited later, he'll try to sneak in and grab it. He knows he shouldn't, but he's an impulsive dog and sometimes can't help himself :)

I do sometimes leave the toy on the ground (in this case, I wouldn't give the "all done" marker), then work obedience around it, recalls and heeling past/over it, sitting near it, etc, releasing him to it, or picking it up and throwing it for him as a reward. I do it offleash, and just call him off and restart or replace him if he breaks and tries to grab it. Initially, you may need to stay between her and it to catch her before she can get it (I just cover the toy with my foot, get his attention, and walk him back). You could use a leash, but IME it's easy to begin using the leash to keep them off, rather than their own self control.

For what it's worth, I don't let him play ball around other dogs that might try to mess with his ball, or him while he has it, because he's hyper focused on fetching the ball and gets aggravated if they impede him, and he's not above RGing if they try to take his stuff. He's also mowed down other animals (poor Annie :( ), and also ran into peoples legs when they move into his path while hes watching me throw. He's not much for playing with other dogs anyway (doesn't mind other dogs, but gets offended when they start mugging all over him), so no loss for him.

Theoretically, if you just stop playing ball with her in that location, she should eventually stop expecting it, but that could take a while. I used to play ball with Bus at the school field near our house, but not for well over a year. A month or so ago, I let him off leash there while biking, thinking he might like to take a turn or two out in the grass, and he darted out a few feet and whipped around, looking at me expectantly! I didn't actually have a toy, but brought one the next time, guess he's got me well trained :)
 

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Also- I thought about starting a new thread about this, but it sort of goes along the teaching impulse control vein- I have mixed feelings about the first video Drivedog linked, with the GSD. I watched it the other day and felt like the dog didn't look to be having much fun, and that there seems to be some tension over the giving up of the ball and handler touching while he has the ball. Today I felt more inclined to give it a fair shake, and have considered that maybe the dog is either a reformed(?) resource guarder, or likes to play the "hover over the toy and try to snatch it when the human reaches for it" game (had a dog who liked that, but she goaded me into playing it each time by shoving the ball at me), but he still doesn't seem to have a ton of interest in continuing the game. I've recently noticed some displacement/conflict behaviors in my dog sometimes while playing ball/training with a toy reward, so it's something that caught my attention. My toy crazy dogs have always been verging on manic when the toy is in play, so maybe I'm just not used to seeing a more "flat" toy driven dog. The video with the Malinois is more what I'm familiar with, the dog likes the toy, but he likes the game of playing with the handler and toy more, as evidenced by his continual re-engagement with the handler, though he could try to take it and just take the toy off and covet it by himself.
 

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Marking to catch up later. @yoshiposhi enjoy too much of a good thing. I envy those with 'toy crazy' dogs, it's better (or seems better) than constantly competing with the environment. @DriveDog love the instructions on toy play, oddly applicable even when dealing with the opposite of toy crazy.
 

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Yoshi,

How does your dog do if you have her in a down with your "wait" and then chuck the ball but don't release her for a few seconds?
 

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@busannie To be honest, after trying to think back at different times...I'm all over the place when it comes to cues! It's something I definitely need to work on. Generally, when I feel like we're done playing fetch I will just start walking away towards the car. She'll follow me and as soon as I take her leash out she'll sit and wait for me to leash her. Sometimes I'll say "ok no more" or "time to go home". In these situations it's usually when we have a limited amount of time for me to tire her out. If it's in the evenings or weekends when there's no time limit, I've made the mistake of letting her decide when we're done (when she's tired and keeps the ball in her mouth instead of dropping it to let me throw it again. That's usually how she tells me she doesn't want to play anymore).


@Artdog haha yes, I do appreciate that she is 'toy crazy' because it makes it so much easier to find activities that can tire her out and it's a great way for me to bond with her. What do you mean by "constantly competing with the environment"?


@DriveDog I tried to play that in my head and I couldn't help but laugh because there is NO WAY she would be able to hold the down position. I mean, gradually with a lot of training I think she might be able to do it but it would take every once of her being to hold it.
 

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@DriveDog I tried to play that in my head and I couldn't help but laugh because there is NO WAY she would be able to hold the down position.
5 bucks says it would be easier than you think. Your dog is already giving you great behavior ( waiting in the car before you release her) and you've got her eyes when you wave the chuckit in front of her back and forth. Sounds like the dog is holding the wait and obviously keying on the throwing motion as her release command. If you should care, maybe try giving her a verbal release command before you throw it, so she can disassociate the actual throwing motion as the release. She understands your "wait" so develop a verbal release command. It might not hurt to practice it inside or in the backyard without the chuckit and just the ball. Once she understands your verbal release command, introduce the chuckit. Start her off super easy, she's in her down after your wait command, move the chuckit back and forth as you have done while she is staring you down and then gently place the loaded chuckit on the ground while she is maintaining eye contact and see if she still stares you down. If she does, great, if she doesn't and focuses on the ball but still holds, that's good as well. Issue your release and let her grab the ball and give her praise. No need to make the duration of the hold very long in the beginning, just the fact that she holds before you release her is huge. Building the duration as well as being able to drop the chuckit or ball will eventually turn into being able to throw the ball a short distance while the dog awaits your release. The exercise is basically incorporating impulse control and obedience training while the dog is giving you engagement and all the while you are playing and exercising your dog in wonderful way. I don't know that I would do this all the time as I think it is rewarding to the dog to just go out and play the game with no training at all, just a good game of fetch while the dog runs and returns to her heart's content. Even though your dog's ball drive might seem a bit over the top at times to you, it's a wonderful training tool and beats the heck out of shoveling treats into their mouths mainly because it takes two to play chuckit.

busannie's comment " I do sometimes leave the toy on the ground (in this case, I wouldn't give the "all done" marker), then work obedience around it, recalls and heeling past/over it, sitting near it, etc, releasing him to it, or picking it up and throwing it for him as a reward. I do it offleash, and just call him off and restart or replace him if he breaks and tries to grab it. Initially, you may need to stay between her and it to catch her before she can get it (I just cover the toy with my foot, get his attention, and walk him back)." is a good example of incorporating training with the ball as a distraction and when the dog executes, the dog gets the ball as the reward for leaving it until allowed.
 

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- I have mixed feelings about the first video Drivedog linked, with the GSD. I watched it the other day and felt like the dog didn't look to be having much fun,
I've always appreciated reading your posts and wonder if you might expand a bit on this thought above. I guess I never viewed impulse control training as much "fun" for the dog especially in the beginning because the dog is being required to do something it rather wouldn't. Eventually, the dog figures it out and it becomes easier. Are there methods you use which you believe are more "fun" for the dog while teaching the dog to control its urges?

Thanks
 

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Generally, when I feel like we're done playing fetch I will just start walking away towards the car. She'll follow me and as soon as I take her leash out she'll sit and wait for me to leash her. Sometimes I'll say "ok no more" or "time to go home".
If you were to let her back off the leash after this, will she go back into ball obsessed mode? If leashing her helps to "switch off" her mind, that may be helpful in putting it to a cue. You could use that, and consistently use a verbal cue, and she would probably pick up on that quickly. Bus also usually takes being leashed as a cue that play is done, but I sometimes let him carry the toy for a bit (not throwing it, but occasionally I will play a bit of tug) as a reward for coming and getting leashed. For a while he we looking pretty down when I leashed him, as it meant the end of the game, so this has helped with that. What about if you put the ball in your pocket (or elsewhere out of sight)? Does she still act like a spaz, or accept it as "gone"? I admit part of the reason I usually get rid of the ball is that Bus can be obnoxious trying to jump up and snatch it if I'm not paying attention (the other part is that it's slimy and gross), particularly when we first go out and he's brimming with anticipation. I frequently attention heel him down to the ball playing area of the yard, as it keeps his dirty feet off me :) . I taught it by tucking the ball under my arm, then fading that out to ball in my pocket/hand/whatever, but there are plenty of other ways to teach, or if she knows heel already, try it and see if it helps.

DriveDog said:
I've always appreciated reading your posts and wonder if you might expand a bit on this thought above. I guess I never viewed impulse control training as much "fun" for the dog especially in the beginning because the dog is being required to do something it rather wouldn't. Eventually, the dog figures it out and it becomes easier. Are there methods you use which you believe are more "fun" for the dog while teaching the dog to control its urges?
I think it's 2 things, and keep in mind I'm a novice, "for fun" dog trainer, looking at just a few minutes of video.

First, that the dog doesn't show a whole lot of desire to interact with the handler once he(? the dog) has the ball. My dog takes his toy off by himself to "defuse" when he's feeling stressed from too much pressure or getting tired- when he's "up" and really on his game, he's prompting ME to play- we tug, he wins, he sometimes does a little "victory lap" and is back shoving the toy into my hand for more. This dog obviously has toy drive, as when his handler is playing with him, he lights up. I was told by a "balanced" trainer who I respect (though I don't necessarily agree with every thing he does when training) that when you are using aversives, you also have to use an equal or greater motivator- balancing the two, as the aversive will "squelch" drive, while the motivator will bring the drive level back up. Aversives aren't necessarily only corrections- the dog in the video looks at least vaguely stressed/tense when the handler is physically manipulating him (ears back, body low and stiff), and I feel like he might benefit from more motivation to counter that, interspersed between briefer periods of handling. Maybe it would be harder for him to control himself if he were more "up" though?

Second, when I out my dog off his ball, I really want his attention on me, not lost in the beauty of the tennis ball before him. I usually won't even take the ball if he's hovering over it like that, because he's (my dog) clearly not mentally "outed", just physically. I'm not sure which would actually be the more impressive act of self control, obsessing over the ball while not actually touching it, or giving up on it even though it's RIGHT. THERE! My dog usually cheats (tries to snatch the ball back) when I reach for the ball if he's too close, so when I see the signs I wave him back.

I don't know that I so much use a different method, so much as that I work hard to keep my dog "up" and motivated. He's got a soft temperament, and when I got him he had moderate toy drive (which improved with weight loss and "normal" drive building stuff), and wouldn't even consider playing tug, I think it was too adversarial for him. I started out rewarding him for even a second of holding the toy when he brought it back to me, and worked up to longer periods of tugging for the win, then more firm tugging, etc. It took a good while, and involved lots of practice :) . At some point once he was tugging fairly well for short periods of time, I realized that though he was really liking the game, he didn't like being touched while playing it (he's fine with any physical handling normally, and was never aggressive, just unhappy)- tail stopped wagging, and he'd either shake the tug desperately hard because he NEEDED to win and get away, or let go and back off (followed by frustrated barking, because he's a dachshund and I ruined the game). To fix it, I started incorporating more contact into the game, pulling him up onto my leg, reaching down and touching his side, then his head, then patting/pushing him, leaning over him, always rewarding instantly for any increase in tolerance for contact. He knows now that it's just a rough and tumble game, and I think sometimes he gives as good as he gets! It was a lot of time and effort, but if I had pushed too hard, I think he would have given up on the game. Small challenges and frequent rewards helped keep him motivated.

Same when we do impulse control "games", if he's repeatedly failing and trying to go for the toy, I either increase distance from it, or do something else, and drill the problem behavior with a less tempting distraction until he's got it down. I also never really have "impulse control" training sessions, it's always just something that I throw into our play sessions, or day to day activities (I also use it at the beach :) ). He knows how the game works, and that if the toy is "in play", but off limits, he just needs to push the right button (perform the right behavior) to get it. He learned this by lots of easy wins, then increasing the difficulty level.

I took these (first two) videos a while back to show a coworker whose dog was obsessing over mice/moles in their back yard and refused to call off them. I'm sure there are better ones on youtube, but I know what was going on in these ones, so I figured I'd share :)

Their dog was not very toy motivated, so I suggested using food to reward, then letting her return to the mouse hunt as a jackpot reward sometimes. I demonstrated with Bus, and one of his rings (high value toy) as a "mouse". I don't use food often for training, so I was wielding it out of my pocket, and not doing too good a job of it. He was pretty confused at the beginning, as I normally discourage him from trying to get to toys on the ground when on leash, but I just wanted to show her that he did want it. Towards the end, as we approach the toy, he fails to come to me once when I call him (around 1:18)- I suspect because A. our feral cat was playing with his leash, B. He's been taught to back off from the toy a bit if he wants it thrown, and C. He just got a verbal correction, doesn't want another, but also can't muster the self control to pass by the toy, so he goes to the default behavior for "toy throw" (B). I moved to him instead because of A, and rewarded him for good eye contact. He tries one more time for the toy, but then does get by it, and does a good enough job sitting near it. I waited to release him because he was focused only on my treat hand by then, and before I could call him away again, he started backing up, so I settled for just rewarding for eye contact and not diving for the toy. In hindsight, I kept him going for a bit too long, and with it being hardest at the end, that was not ideal. IME, sometimes it's better to drop your expectations when something isn't going well and take even a little "win".
https://youtu.be/0PHsaWc37uw

In this one, if I had called him to me, he may have headed for the ball instead, as coming to heel position is not his strong point, and it would have been heading toward the toy, which is a weak point for him. This was a "win" for him in that he didn't try to dart forward when we about turned back toward the toy- he may hold the patent on that move!
https://youtu.be/BCq2UP5Mc3w

Downing for a kick of the ball, this was just during a random play session. We do this a lot, and he'll offer it as one of his default ball throw request behaviors.
https://youtu.be/06oM-zoJfj8

Two ring fetch- he could do this all day. About midway through this we switched to 1 ring fetch (no idea why?) which is much more tedious, because before throwing I like him 1. Quiet and 2. Not in my face
https://youtu.be/IjC-3658zOY

"You will take it." He likes to hook these rings onto my fingers himself to start a tug game, and gets a little perturbed if I don't cooperate :) This is what I mean by desire to interact with the handler, though sometimes I feel like Bus is a little too desperate.
https://youtu.be/BCq2UP5Mc3w
 

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I read your post, let it roll around in the old noggin for a bit. Spent some time at the park today, it's a quiet day workwise, the dog had a couple of hours of running around and interacting, he's tired and laid down beside me.

Why does everything have to be trained? Trained to start, trained to stop - cue for this and a cue for that.

Have you ever actually sat and watch a ball obsessed dog in action - and think, hey, that's really healthy? There was a fellow there with 2 ball obsessed Boston Terriers, it's the first time I actually sat and watched them in action. Nothing else mattered around them, 2 dogs with blinders on - even the owner didn't matter. I don't think they even realized where they were - or it just didn't matter to them. 2 dogs focused on one ball - not focused on the owner. They would have run over anything, would have run head long into a brick wall to get that ball, and the owner just kept ramping them up.

Don't look for a cue Yoshi, just stop and let the dog get used to it, you're creating an addict. Go to the park, let the dog be a dog - not a junkie. Interact with your dog in different ways - your dog has a problem. Engage her in other ways, there's more to life than balls. Once my dog meets all dogs and people, it he gets bored I'll chase him around, act the fool, growl at him, gets him running and he gets all silly. It's comical to watch.
 

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As I said, in Bus' case, I train for impulse control around toys because I don't want my dog mugging a little kid with a baseball, running out into the street after an errant throw of the ball, or barking incessantly and repeatedly trying to snatch the toy out of my hand when I play with him. My cousin (child) and the neighbor kids play with him also, and even though he won't put his mouth on them, they don't like it when he dives in for the ball if they reach for it. Making him back up and wait eliminates that problem. As to the idea that obsessive playing with a tennis ball is a problem, my dog is not only a tennis ball addict, but also a therapy dog, so is required to be a well behaved, sensible member of both dog and human society. He does lots of other things than playing ball, and his obsessed, over the top toy behavior does not carry over to them, perhaps because he has an appropriate outlet for it. In addition, I expect him to generally be able to "turn off" the ball drive out in public (unless I invite him to play)- you wouldn't know he's a tennis ball fiend if you met him at the park or pet store. I let him have periods where he can go totally nuts because his intense desire to play fetch or tug with me is a more powerful motivator than anything else I know of, and as a "soft" dog, sometimes he needs a powerful motivator to help him be brave. Having a dog with intense toy (or any type of) drive is like having a fast car- it takes off when you push the gas, but it also needs good brakes or things can get a little hairy. I don't know if the Bostons you saw had "good brakes" or not, but am curious, would you have felt better if they were obsessing over chasing a squirrel, or perhaps a cat? Playing with toys/tennis balls for many dogs is an extension of prey drive (why they recommend "running" the toy if dog is minimally interested, you are trying to make it more prey like), but most people would rather see a dog chase a tennis ball than a duck or cat.

I'm not sure where I gave the impression that everything my dog does is on cue. If it was, I wouldn't have to admonish him when he gets in the water before we go out in the boat and gets my seat all wet, or eats cat poop (foul :( ) out of the garden. He knows only a handful of formal obedience commands, but we spend a lot of time together, and he knows much more than those based on body language and behaviors I don't even intend as a signal to him. He IS well trained, I can take him almost anywhere, leave him with anyone, and know that he's not going to get into trouble because he knows what's expected of him, but rarely does formal obedience come into play. Training isn't ONLY teaching sit, stay, etc, but anything you do that teaches a dog a given behavior, whether you do so intentionally (like hiding after calling your dog so they are punished by initially not being able to find you, then rewarded by the find- nothing against it, it's a fun way of training a dog to come when called if they care about your whereabouts) or unintentionally (when I put my shoes on, my dog will head to the door because it's time to go, and if I pick up the keys, he'll beeline for the car because we've repeated this activity literally thousands of times since I've had him).

I will agree that it's easier to teach a dog an on/off switch if you use environment as a qualifier in the sense that (for example) you ONLY play ball at the beach, NEVER at the park where she meets her dog buddies. Of course, that may not matter to her if someone else pulls out a tennis ball while you are there, and she'll get right into the thick of things, but she won't be expecting it from you if it doesn't ever happen. Also, good point about the throw being the signal to go for most dogs who play ball- I usually direct my dog to leave it before throwing it if I don't want him on it, otherwise he's gone. I guess alternatively you could teach to only go if directed, but I let him go exponentially more often than I make him wait, and the kids (who I blame quite a bit for his obnoxious behavior, as they love it when he gets crazy!) would never remember to release him at each throw.

Funny incident with Bus regarding playing ball: I took him to a lure coursing practice a few years ago, as I thought for sure he'd be all about it because he has a pretty good amount of prey drive. We spent a good amount of time watching other dogs go so he could get excited, and the consensus among everyone was that he was raring to go, straining at the leash to get to the start area, whining, super eager. I let him go and he bounded out after the bag, then broke off and began casting around the field, searching as if I'd thrown a ball :confused: I was vaguely ashamed by my naughty dog and we haven't returned :)
 
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