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So, my 3yr old English lab LOVES playing fetch. From when he was a pup I taught him "drop it" and he's very good at it! Until.....the ball gets slobbery. It's hilariously maddening haha, he will always drop it until the ball is so slobbery that you have to physically remove it from his mouth with your hand, which my wife and I are NOT fond of. Any suggestions on correcting this? I've tried offering treats, other balls or toys for an exchange, but he would rather chew onto a slobbery ball.

How do I get him to drop even this???
 

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Your dog has you well trained!

Have your dog at your side.
The game is "sit", " stay (if you use a stay command)", toss the ball, send the dog with " fetch" or what ever command you use, the dog returns with the ball, have him sit either in front of you or beside you, say " drop it" or " out". You take the ball. Lots of praise, whatever you use. I'd use a high value food treat.

At this point to break the chewing to sloppy, I'd just have a bucket of clean water and a towel.

Rinse the ball and wipe it. Have the dog calmly sitting by you.

Then start the game over.

Play for a time limit. Stop playing before the dog wants to stop. You are going to have to watch for some loss of interest or just slowing down. You control the game.
If the dog decides he wants to run around and chew the ball, stop the game and move on to something else or just go back in the house and watch TV. He just learned the hard way that you control this game.

What we are doing is adding some mental stimulation for the dog. He has to think about additional operations when he is playing ball. This has to be fun and exciting for him. He wants to play ball and now he has to do these othe things. It will increase his drive to play the game. Anticipate the end of the game and toss another ball for him to go fetch and make this a release from the game. Just " ok that's enough " or something and head for home. Let him carry the ball home. When you get there lots of praise.

Inside our appartment,
When we " play with toys" , my signal that we are going to play, my dog is absolutely nuts to play. We do a number of obedience exercises first, sit, down,stand, twirl around, recalls using voice, hand, whistle, and flashlight, sit and down on a chair and others. Then we do retrieves with 12-13 toys. Sometimes she must go over a 30" jump each way, sometimes a maize then we go thru me tossing each toy up about 3-4 feet for her to catch and retrieve. When we are done she gets huge praise and a double high value treat. It's about a half hour of non stop intense exercise 3-4 times a day. Sometimes I hide all the toys and have her find them before we start. She gets pretty excited when it's down to the last toy. She will search the whole appt looking for it. Great mental exercise.
 

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I would say it's one of three things:
- it's the time that's making him lose interest in playing with you (ie, he's tired of chasing the ball and so chooses to chew on it; it just happens to be really slobbery at that point)
- the slobbery ball is something he would rather chew on than chase
- he'd rather chew on a slobbery ball than chase a non-slobbery ball.

It could be a little bit of all three.

If it's the first, I would just figure out how much game he has in him (30min? 45min? 10min?) and end the game yourself before then by giving some kind of cue (for my dogs, I use "all done") and then putting the ball away if you don't want him to chew on it or just leaving him to chew on it if you don't mind (keep in mind tennis balls can be a blockage risk if the dog tears them and ingests any of the pieces).

If it's the second or third one, I'd play fetch with a few balls (3 or 4) on hand. When one starts getting slobbery, switch. When the next starts, switch. Don't let it get to the point where it's slobbery enough he wants to just sit and chew.

At the same time, work on his drop command. A strong "drop" can be life saving, and makes playing tug and fetch a heck of a lot more fun. What I do with my dogs is just solidify the idea that dropping an item means either they get something as good or better in return (ie, a food treat) or they get the item right back (based on the "premack" principle- that you can reinforce/encourage a less desirable behavior with a more desirable behavior). In this case, I would either trade for something really high value (say the command- "drop", "drop it", "give", "out", whatever, and then produce the treat. If the dog doesn't drop the item right away, try placing the treat right in front of the nose; make sure the treat is a stinky one a dog who doesn't want to drop things). Treat ideas: pepperoni pieces, chicken pieces, hot dog pieces, cheese pieces. Size should be no more than pinkie finger nail size for very small dogs or thumbnail sized for larger breeds. What I do is work on "trade for treats" for a certain amount of time, until the dog is eargerly dropping the item without seeing the treat. Usually I do a week of saying the word and then immediately producing the treat, then move to saying the word and waiting for them to drop it and then going for the treat if they don't after a second or two/on the first ask, and then move to trying to say just the word and wait it out and then giving 2 or 3 separate rewards for dropping when asked. Then I'll move to asking for the dog to drop the toy (I teach with toys exclusively), and then waiting for the drop, picking the item up, and then giving it right back. Remember to mark correct drops with some kind of marker- "yes" is a good one, some use a click, I've heard of some using "bingo" or "good".
 
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