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Old 07-07-2010, 07:19 PM
DobeLove DobeLove is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Washington
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Default Dog Obsessed with tennis ball?

Avril is OBSESSED with tennis balls. As I am typing this she is begging me to throw it.

A little info:

She is a maniac. A ton of energy, I think more then most border collies. She's LOVES to run. She would honestly chase after a tennis ball until she couldn't anymore. When I take her to the park, she will be panting super duper heavy but will refuse to leave because she wants to keep playing, it's impossible to get her to stop, and if she knows we have a ball she won't drink water, won't take treats. She goes into a world where she is totally focused on the ball. I know that sounds weird but that is honestly what it is like lol.

In the house, she will constantly bring me a ball, I will take it away and hide it. She goes and gets another, and another. And will pester me. If I take away all of the balls she just paces away back and forth around where they are hidden.

How do I get her to stop being obsessed? I don't want her to never play with one again, but I don't want her only thinking about tennis balls all day long.
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Old 07-07-2010, 08:54 PM
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Adrienne Adrienne is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Minnesota
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How much exercise is she getting outside of ball play? Sounds like you have a bit of a nervous nelly on your hands who is directing her anxiety/pent up energy onto her tennis ball.

On the flip side a play motivated dog makes for easy training.

Layla my boxer is obsessed with laser pointers so those are brought out only when it's been pouring rain, freezing, etc. and we can't get out.

Gunnar my GSD is obsessed with tennis balls so they are only an outdoor activity, we use recreational bones for in-house entertainment.

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Old 07-07-2010, 09:20 PM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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I trained a dog like that a few months ago. Mostly, I think, I got lucky with how he turned out (he's now a working service dog, and a darn good one too), but I can probably give you a few suggestions.

First of all, I did a lot of training with him in places where he knew there would be no balls. We worked a lot on stationary behaviors - sit, down, stay - and leave it with treats. In the beginning I never used the ball as a reward for a good training session, otherwise he'd be so excited about the prospect of getting the ball that he wouldn't focus; I'd only use them for the occasional play/exercise session. Later, as he figured out the training game and got better at focusing, I would occasionally use the ball as a reward. But the most important thing is that he didn't know I had a ball, he'd just do the behavior, get a click, and then I'd run over to wherever I hid the ball and play with him.

A very well-known trainer consulted with me about this behavior, and the trainer suggested I work more on leave-its and getting eye contact in the presence of a ball. I do believe that's a good suggestion, so you can try it... but this particular dog had a particularly difficult time making eye contact with me, even after months of practice he was still uncomfortable with eye contact.

So I think where we made the most progress was when I'd play this game where I'd click the dog for anything other than looking at the ball. So I'd put a ball down where he could see it but not reach it, and click for him looking anywhere besides the ball. That's the only criteria for a click - just look at something else. He caught on to this game suprisingly quickly, and incidently I was able to use it to shape him to make eye contact.
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:50 PM
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Laurelin Laurelin is offline
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Location: Oklahoma
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Okay so you practically described Mia. She has literally played fetch till she puked and would play for hours. One night I threw the ball for her for two hours straight and she still wanted it. She just TEARS after them too. She will slam herself into things and walls to get to them... I've just never had or seen a dog like tennis balls so much.

The biggest thing for me was teaching her to stop and not harass me. She can play tennis ball as much as she wants BY HERSELF but screaming at me and throwing the ball in my face isn't going to get her anywhere.

Honestly, I had to ignore her most the time and it was (still is) hard. Her little face just lights up when I pick up a tennis ball and it guilts me. If I moved the ball away from her, she'd scream at it or climb up and get it (or chew through something and get it). She would place the ball up next to me then would run and crouch in a corner and scream at me to throw it. It's obnoxious, I understand, but giving in isn't going to help at all. There were times when I'd have a dozen or so tennis balls around my feet.

She still has these moments where she REALLY wants to play ball with me. Sometimes I'll throw it for her. But she's become a lot more respectful about games being over when I say they're over. I put in a lot of rules in the game (like dropping it on cue). And I would tell her when the game was over with the cue 'all done'. After the game was over I would ignore her totally. Sometimes she'll roll the ball around herself for a while after but most the time she'll go do something else. But she seems to have learned that 'all done' means I won't be throwing the ball anymore.

I've also kind of scheduled 'tennis ball time' daily. We have a schedule. Go out, potty, eat, short fetch game. I stop and play ball with her twice a day when I get up in the morning and once right after I get back home. I really think that helps some too because she knows when to expect it.

On the flip side, the tennis ball works AMAZINGLY as a reward for her. Nothing is better and it has been a great motivator. You just have to harness it, lol. I would work on focus separately then bring the ball into the picture rather slowly.
Mia and Summer
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:18 PM
release the hounds release the hounds is offline
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sounds like a normal dog to me seriously, when a dog is obsessed, use baby steps to show them how to get their obsession, and training them to do anything is easy.
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Old 07-08-2010, 12:08 AM
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How about giving your pup other stuff to play with for a few days and see how he reacts with them...a few mind stimulation toys might just calm that hyper pup of yours
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Old 07-08-2010, 12:10 AM
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Laurelin Laurelin is offline
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Location: Oklahoma
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Originally Posted by drdamian View Post
How about giving your pup other stuff to play with for a few days and see how he reacts with them...a few mind stimulation toys might just calm that hyper pup of yours
Or you have a dog like mine that can work those all out in under 2 minutes...
Mia and Summer
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Old 07-08-2010, 01:19 PM
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Lizmo Lizmo is offline
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Location: AL
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Blaze is very ball obsessed, too. I really don't have a problem with this as long as he's nice about it. Don't drag me to get to a ball, don't jump on people to get a ball, come off a ball when I tell you, etc.

It's made alot of things easy to train, actually, because he is SO ball motivated. He wants that ball so bad he listens VERY well. The things I've taught Blaze are to come off when I tell you or no ball. When I get the ball out don't jump on me or anyone else - wait for it to be thrown. Give me eye contact when I ask for it when a ball is out. Leave it when I ask.

Teaching these things has been easy using a ball and it's helped us a ton.

l ~Jennifer~ l
l Handler for Team Blazin' l Photographer at Joy Photography l Nikon D40X with 35mm 1.8 Nikkor Lens l
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Old 07-08-2010, 07:34 PM
Maura Maura is offline
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Border collies are well known for their obsessions. My border collie will play fetch 24/7. But I don't. He would also herd the sheep 24/7, but he's not allowed in the pasture unless I invite him. He would herd the ducks in the pond 24/7, they humor him.

I would give the tennis balls away. Play something else. You can work on herding with him with chickens, ducks, even basketballs. And work on ring obedience with him. And teach him agility. You don't have to bring this all the way to having sheep in your condo, or ducks in the yard, or travel the country competing in agility. The idea is to give your very smart dog some mental and physical stimulation. Once he learns basic herding skills, move to agility course things. Once he learns an agility course, work him on tight heel work. Then tracking. Once he knows these things you can switch from one field of work to another either every couple of days or every couple of weeks. At some point in time you will be able to bring in the tennis balls again, but only after he has become interested/obsessed with some other games.
Forever Home: A Guide to ReHoming the Rescued Dog, from Wild Rose Press
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Old 07-08-2010, 08:00 PM
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ihartgonzo ihartgonzo is offline
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I don't like to feed obsessions... I want my dog to play ball because I'm playing with him and he wants to work for me, not because he is fixated on a ball. I would put all of the tennis balls away, where she can't get them and without her seeing you. Spend more time on obedience work and getting her focus back on you, not a toy. Try more interactive games, like tugging, spring/teaserpole, hide and seek, agility, etc.

Wean her back into fetching with a frisbee or a jolly ball or whatev, and re-teach her how to play fetch. She never starts or ends a game of fetch - never! She has to sit/down/something and watch you before you throw it. Teach her that looking away from the toy and leaving the toy alone gets her the toy! Teach her advanced self control by throwing it and making her wait, downing her when she's almost to the toy, etc. Using a clicker would help you communicate what you want from her MUCH faster and clearer.

Well, that's what I would do, anyway. I applied this to my friend's ball obsesseddddd Border Collie, and it helped her immensely... but of course, she's a ball worshiper again since my friend completely stopped trying and gives her nothing else to work on.

<3 Erica, Gonzo & Fozzie
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