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Terrible trouble teaching 'fetch'

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I have a 6 month old kelpie/collie. She absolutely loves to chase a ball, but prefers to play keep away than retrieve and when she does bring it back, she drops it far away from us. I really want to teach her because it is a great way for the whole family to be involved in exercising and at the moment there is no point sending the kids out to play fetch with her as they haven't the patience to wait her out, or encourage her to come back.  

I have started trying to teach it with back chaining but it seems to be back firing.  I started by offering her a toy (one of many that she loves and will happily chase all over the house if thrown) and clicking her for holding it in her mouth for a second, thinking that once she could do that we could start cueing her to 'drop it',  then go on from there.  Despite doing this several times a day for a couple of weeks I have been unable to increase the duration that she holds the toy.   I *think* what then happened was that she decided that *not* having the toy in her mouth was what I wanted so she has stopped taking the toy altogether. No matter how exciting I make it or what toy I use, she just refuses to take any interest in it.  


So my next thought was to give up on the 'hold' and actually start clicking and rewarding for the 'drop'  and try and get her to drop it in a tub on the floor (with the plan to gradually wean her off needing the tub later on) .  I thought this might make it clearer to her that the aim was to drop it somewhere specific rather than just pick it up and drop it again wherever she was (which she was quite good at doing).  


At the moment I am back at the stage of basically clicking her for just showing the slightest bit of interest in a toy, as she really prefers to ignore them altogether.  I don't know that it is really going to work.  


Desperate for some help please.  Where have I gone wrong and how can I fix it?


Thank you 








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perhaps  interest her in the 'swap' /gimme game ? 
 I started doing this a few years ago - as I was/am not keen on chasing pups who had something they weren't supposed to .

have on hand some yummy bits of something ..
and a couple of toys ..not absolute favourites , but ones pup likes :) 
 call pup ..pat her .. give her a bit of yummy thing ...to get her attention ,then give her toy - make sure she takes it in her mouth .NO command ...NO click , No nothing, except patting and , if needed  open mouth gently and place around toy with much praise :)
I say 'gimme' , or 'wanna swap?'
show her yummy thing . as soon as she drops toy - she gets yummy thing . No matter if she sits/stands/or rolls over  LOL
repeat . 

This may be tricky as she has now learnt to avoid her toys :( 
someone else may have some ideas .
All I can say is just play!! .Send the kids out with 10 balls - throw them everywhere - let pup chase them /look for them ...pick them up /hide them /throw them . Play tug . Put treats under flowerpots and let pup sniff them out .... there are heaps of things  :)
Fetch is fun ..but is one game I've not played with my dogs , really . They pick things up for me ...

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Your pup sounds a bit confused.
Dogs that play keep away or chase me don't get the ball or toy thrown again for them that day. I just turn around and walk away.
Start afresh the next day. When they finally bring the toy or ball back, I go over the top with delight and praise so they are 100% sure this is the way to play.
It helps if you are tossing a toy a short distance (think indoors) which encourages them to bring it back to you for a repeat game. Also rewarding them with a game of tug is a very good way to get them used to bringing the toy to you. 

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Some dogs are torn about fetch. They love to chase, but they also want to possess the toy, so when you ask them to bring it back to you, you are putting them in an impossible state of conflict. They can't both possess the toy and also give it to you for another round of chase-the-toy. Some dogs will endlessly bring it and then drop it and then pounce on it as soon as you move to pick it up. You can help them out by making the decision easier. If you have several toys that are the same, then you can shape her to bring the toy she has closer and closer to you by throwing another toy as the reward. You will do a bit of leg work at first to keep yourself stocked with toys, and she may at first take her toy with her when she chases the second one and get all conflicted about which one to pick up. She should figure out that she can just focus on one toy, and she is not going to notice when you pick up the one she dropped, so she doesn't get the sense she is losing possession of a valued resource. She gave it up and got another one instead. Keep the toy tosses fast to keep her moving and pretty soon she will probably stop stressing so much about bringing it to you.

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I teach my puppies to retrieve from 8 weeks, using a soft toy or rolled sock and teaching it as a game. Some puppies will happily bring the toy to me, but most are disinclined to share, so I train in a corridor or corner where I can reach the puppy. Each puppy is different, so I pay attention to what the puppy likes. Some puppies like tug games after they retrieve, but others don’t. Some puppies like to be stroked on the head as a reward for retrieving, but others react as if you’re stealing the toy. If you rush to take the toy away, some puppies will think they’re not allowed to pick up the toy.


I’ve found that many puppies switch off from retrieving between four and eight months. I’m not sure whether this is a consequence of the adolescent “don’t-wanna-not-gonna” mindset, or because teething makes their mouths sensitive, but they do tend to become keen retrievers again as they mature. 


Food can be a tricky reward in retrieving training, because dogs will spit out the toy/ball/dumbbell to get the food, so I prefer to use play and harness the chasing instinct. However, my current dog switched off retrieving at around six months and she does not have a strong chasing instinct so I used a clicker and food to re-train her.


The never-say-never-greyhounds blogspot has a nice set of videos on teaching a reluctant dog to retrieve. 


Edited by DogsAndTheMob

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Play the two-toys game. Throw the toy for her, and when she's coming back in your direction, present another (preferably identical) toy. Entice her with it if she seems suspicious. She should kick it into high gear and head back towards you, at which point you throw it in the opposite direction, so she has to run past you to get it. 


She might drop the toy she has as soon as she sees the one you have, or she might hold onto it until she's caught the second one on the first few reps. But, after a while she should be grabbing the first toy and running headlong back to you to get the second. It takes a little bit of practice to get the timing right, but if you throw the second toy when she's almost to you on the way back, you can condition her to drop the first toy close to you. She'll become predictable, so you can then add a cue (drop, out etc) right before she lets go.  


She sounds possessive, so you just need to convince her that you are not trying to compete for the toy, but are instead the epicentre of all the fun and games and the provider of toys.  


I like to practice this with a chuck-it and a few balls, so it's not technically two-toys, it's five or six. The game just keeps going then.


I hope that all makes sense. I've got a bunch of other little tricks I could explain if that one doesn't do it. Let us know how you go with it!



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I see thing was posted a few months ago - how are you going with it? :)


We have a 5 month old border collie X who has seriously surprised us with her fetch ability. We did start training it as soon as we got her (8 weeks) so I'm not sure how many answers I have for someone who has an older dog who has "learnt" or "decided" to not play fetch properly. But this is what we did. 


We broke it down into 3 commands to begin with. 

Started with playing tug of war which allowed us a fun way to teach "take it" (grab the toy with mouth) and "let go" 

How we taught let go was to just make the toy super super boring (not moving, being quiet and just in general not doing much) until she got bored and ended up letting go on her own will (be patient!) then as soon as she does, go crazy, make the toy super super exciting and fun again while telling her to "take it" again 

The third command is "come" 

Once she was pretty comfortable with the above commands, we would throw the toy and tell her to "take it" once she had run and grabbed it, we would yell praise and call her to come. Then of course telling her to "let go" once she was back near us. Of course, praising heavily every time this is all a success. 

If you think about it, the "recipe" for fetch is, run and get it (take it), bring it back (come) and give it back (let go).

She eventually picked it up as this being the game, and we introduced the word fetch. 

We now just say "fetch" as we throw it and she (most of the time) does it perfectly! 

Some may think this is annoying and you might like to avoid having to say the command, but we like it. She is only ever expected to complete the whole "fetch" process if we give the command. We find this has also given us freedom to add to the game with telling her to wait, throwing it, then telling her to fetch, hiding the toy in different places and telling her "fetch" to go find it etc etc 


A few extra tips we've used;

Do some basic training before and during the fetch game. This gets her "in the zone" for listening and doing the right thing. 

Never move to get the toy. It doesn't get thrown again unless she brings it sort of within 1 metre of us. 

Get down low and hold hands out ready for the toy to be brought to you

Yell encouragement when she's running back and be very vocally excited when she does come back with the toy 

Have separate "fetch" toys. Ones that are never just laying around the house or yard. Only come out for play such as tug of war or fetch with us. This just keeps them special and more exciting.

2-3 failed attempts at a successful "fetch" (take it, come back, let go) results in the game ending, every time. Over time this has just happened less and less or these days only really happens after quite a while when she's tired and should be stopping anyway. 

We did have to endure a (super annoying!) phase where she wanted to run past us when bringing it back. We would just "catch" the toy before she could take it past us and as soon as we felt that she was sort of like "oh okay yeah I'm bringing it to you now" we would praise heavily and play more. 


Also, sometimes we still even just command her to "take it" and let her decide what she wants to do with it after a few successful fetches. We find our girl will bring it back for another fetch most times anyway haha but will sometimes enjoy a bit of a chew or aimless run around. Your girl might enjoy this though as a reward after a successful fetch has been learnt as she does like to keep the toy. 


Sorry for the long winded reply and I hope it makes sense??? 
I hope i can help in some way!! 

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