- 2009 -
We've had several questions about dogs dropping the ball before crossing the line in racing. Do you have any suggestions on how to correct this?
Teach the dog to play tug of war with the ball in your hand. Basically take a ball and tease him, get him to grab and tug on it, but donít let it go. Once he is consistently holding onto the ball and grabbing it on cue, then start releasing the ball from your hand and run away. If your dog spits it, then stop and donít move. When he picks it back up, run away again and try to take a hold of the ball with your hand from his mouth to initiate tug of war. Basically, itís a start and stop game. If your dog has ball in his mouth, then the fun begins. If he spits the ball before you tell him to, then the fun stops. Once he can do this, then start incorporating it into the game of flyball. When he successfully starts bringing the ball back consistently, then reintroduce a tug toy. Another option is, if he spits the ball, stop, pull the tug toy away, and send him back for the ball and hold out your toy again. Say "ok" or "yes" at the point you want him to release the ball. Teach him that he can't spit the ball until you give and "ok" or "yes" cue.
You may want to put your tug away at practice for a time and go back to the good ole game of playing with the tennis ball. For now, put the tug in the ball bucket in the run back area. Play ball with Fido - you are warming up his eye-to-mouth coordination so to speak. If he is tug crazy, then tug the ball while it's in his mouth, but be careful. From a short distance, send the dog to the box and wait for him to return to you and play ball. Use a fun but lighter version of tug of war with the retrieved ball. Work your way back to a full run and when he is returning all the way back to you with ball, you can start rewarding him by pulling out his tug from the ball bucket. Before long he will be holding his ball to the bucket and exchanging it for his tug. In time you will be able to run your dog while holding his tug. If he were to drop his ball too soon, then the tug goes back into the bucket and Fido gets the message.
Sometimes dogs drop the ball before the line when they see the motivator (tug, stuffed toy, etc...) as they are running back. One simple trick is to keep the motivator hidden until the dog crosses the line and then present it as the dog approaches the handler.
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