If you're like many other dog owners, you may have experienced when you want to play fetch with your dog, but they refuse to give you the ball or frisbee back. Well, today we are going to talk about why dog's refuse to give you their toys and also how you can get your dog to gladly release whatever fetch toy you are using!
Playing fetch in the yard with your dog is an excellent way for your dog to get some exercise! But, it can become rather difficult if you find yourself struggling to get your dog to bring the ball or frisbee all of the way to you, or if you dog runs off with the toy as soon as you try to take it from their mouth.
But my dog loves playing fetch, so why doesn't he let me throw the toy again?!
The simple answer is that everytime he brings the toy to you, you take it away from him. I know you're thinking, "but that's the point, and I am going to throw it right away anyways." However, some dogs don't quite understand that from the beginning, but it can be taught!
To begin, when you start playing with your dog and they bring a toy to you, do not immediately reach for the toy that they are holding. If they bring a toy to you, first try to pet and praise them. If while you are petting them, you can get ahold of the toy and they give it up freely, you can then continue to use this method to play with them. If they don't let go of the toy freely, don't continue to pull on it or rip it out of their mouth. This would be the same as someone taking you most valued item right out of your hands without your permission. You can try one of the following methods:
The Two-Ball Method
If you have one dog and you want your dog to drop the ball but they refuse, using the two ball method can be an extremely elegant and simple solution to an otherwise frustrating problem.
What you'll need: 2 of your dog's favorite fetch items (balls, frisbees, etc.) Try to have two of the same toy. You want your dog to value each of the toys relatively equally. My dogs love frisbees more than balls, so if I try to to use this method with a frisbee and a ball, it probably won't work.
Step 1: Throw the first ball and let your dog go get it.
Step 2: As your dog returns towards you, show them the second ball to lure them close to you.
Step 3: Wind up like you're about to throw the second ball and wait. At this point your dog should drop the first ball in anticipation of fetching the ball you are about to throw.
Step 4: The moment your dog drops the first ball, throw the second ball. With enough repetition your dog will begin to realize that the act of dropping the ball actually causes the other ball to be thrown.
Some dogs may graduate to understanding that dropping the ball is what allows the ball to be thrown again, but some you may just need to keep using the Two-Ball Method indefinitely. Its simple and easy to use and can make playing fetch much easier with any toy driven dog.
If your dog loves toys and treats equally, this is another method that you can use for a dog that doesn't want to give up its toys. Now, if your dog greatly prefers either treats or toys over the other, this method may not work.
What you'll need: Treats and a fetch toy (ball, frisbee, etc.)
Step 1: Throw the fetch toy
Step 2: When your dog brings the toy back to you give the dog a treat in exchange for the toy
In simple terms, you're basically rewarding your dog for releasing the toy. If you're dog is way more motivated by toys than the treats, your dog may not care about the treat that you are offering becaues to him its not a fair exchange. If your dog is far more motivated by food than toys, your dog may lose interest in the toy when they realize you have treats.
The "Out" or "Drop it" Method
You can also teach a release command. I like to use "out" because the simpler the better, but you can use whatever command you are comfortable with. For teaching this command I really like using clicker training. (See Clicker Training) Check out our previous post about how to condition your dog to the clicker. For a more in-depth guide on how to use the clicker to train anything, our clients receive full access to our Online Learning Center with step by step instructions and instructional videos on how to train using the clicker.
This method is also similar to "The Trade" but we are just using the clicker to really capture the act of dropping the fetch toy as well as giving it a name. You can start this process by following the steps in "The Trade". Once your dog is consistently trading their toy for the treat every single time, you can move onto the following steps:
What you'll need: Training Clicker, Treats, and a fetch toy
Step 1: When the dog approaches you with the toy, say "Out" as they are about to drop the toy.
Step 2: As soon as they drop the toy, Click and Reward. This will only work if your dog is "clicker conditioned"(see our clicker training guides for more information).
Step 3: Repeat 5-10 times per session. After about 3-5 sessions your dog should be starting to understand the "Out" command.
We hope that this helps make your outdoor play times with your dogs more enjoyable and we will definitely be coming out with more helpful information soon! If you have questions or issues that you'd like for us to address in a future blog post and instructional video (for our member's only section) send us a message or leave us a comment!