Your dog can be taught how to return the ball by using different techniques depending on the animal’s reaction when we throw the object to recover.
One of the most common exercises in dog training is returning an object to us: it consists of throwing an object at our four-legged friend, who will have to pick it up, return it, and put it down again. The obstacles that can be found when teaching this trick depend on the pet with which we are working. Let’s find out how to teach a dog to return the ball.
First of all, we must bear in mind that it is not natural for the dog to retrieve an object that arouses its interest and even more so to choose to return it to us; instinct pushes our four-legged friends to keep it and bite at it, if it is a toy, or at least abandon it when it is not fun any more.
Also in this type of training, a “game” is used to teach the dog, since education should never be coercive, but stimulating and pleasant for our pet.
Before it begins, it is good that a certain bond be established between the owner and the dog; even better if the latter has already learned the “wait” command, which allows greater control over the animal, whatever training we want to provide.
How to Teach the Dog to Return the Ball
Firstly, you should do it with a toy the dog really likes, such as a ball, a frisbee or a stick, with the pet at our side in a resting position. Then throw the toy away.
As soon as we give the dog the command “go” or “grab it“, it will run towards the object we have thrown. At this point you will see different behaviors depending on the dog:
- The dog will grab the object and play with it, but will walk away and not return it to us;
- The dog, once it has reached the object, will smell it, but will not take it in its mouth.
How to Teach a Dog to Return a Ball If It Catches it but does not Return it to us
If the dog grabs the object and plays with it, but moves away and does not return it to us, we will have to get closer by attracting it with another game, waving it in the air or bouncing it if it is a ball, accompanied by a cheerful and emphatic voice and tone, to make it even more attractive in the eyes of the pet; or we will show it its favorite snack.
In this way, the dog will come back to us with the first object in its mouth and, when it is close, it will release it to take the new game. At the precise moment in which the dog opens its mouth to leave the object or take the treat that we are offering as a reward, we must pronounce the command that we want to associate with that gesture, which can be “drop the ball“, “down” or whatever we want as long as we keep using the same word.
An alternative that does not include the use of rewards can be to let the dog sit and wait by its side until it spontaneously leaves the object, which we will take immediately, always pronouncing the chosen command.
Finally, another solution includes the use of a long leash and the use of rewards.
- Throw the object a few meters away from you so that your dog can go and get it;
- When it has taken the object, call him to come to you and if it does not come, use the leash;
- If or when it does come, congratulate it;
- Once your dog has returned with the object in its mouth, you should exchange it for a treat (snack).
- The instant it drops the item, say the command “drop” and reward it.
How to Teach a Dog to Return a Ball If It does not Pick it Up
On the other hand, if the dog smells the object after having reached it, but does not take it in its mouth, showing no interest, we will have to try to use another object that is more attractive. Alternatively, an effective trick to teach the dog to return an object can be using a kong, one of those hollow games to put some snacks in it. In this way, the dog will be attracted to the smell of the food and will grab the object; then we will proceed as described in the previous point.
If we are lucky that our dog, in addition to grabbing the object immediately, also returns it to us, we must fill the pet with praise and pampering. At this point we have nothing left but to teach him to quit the game.
How to Teach an Adult Dog to Return an Object
If we want to teach the game of returning an object to an adult dog that no longer wants to play, we can replace the object directly with food, throwing, for example, a piece of sausage and saying the command “grab“.
The dog will obviously reach for the food, but it will eat it instantly, which we absolutely must not prevent. After having repeated this exercise several times, we can throw an object that we have impregnated with the smell of sausage.
Teach a Dog to Return a Ball: Video
If you have more questions, you can consult a professional near your home, who will give you the best assistance and answer all your questions.
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