3 Tips for Ball Obsessed Dogs
Is your dog ball obsessed?
Ball obsessed dogs might hyperfocus on their toy, give frantic or frenetic behaviour like spinning or barking to try to get it, or go into almost a trance at the sight of their toys. They might struggle to listen, or eat treats when the toy is there, or move mountains to try to get it.
Toy obsession can be problematic for your dog, and it can also be really annoying and stressful.
Here are three tips to help you manage this frustrating behaviour problem
If your dog is toy obsessed, and you’d like to learn how to help them, and to use the toy as a powerful reinforcer for training, sign up for our newsletter and be the first to learn when our upcoming webinar Ball Obsessed is released!
Language is important!
We run into problems when we’re using the same words but meaning different things.
When I say “I don’t play fetch, I don’t think it’s the safest or best option”, I get a lot of comments like this:
“So you’re saying NEVER play with my dog?"
“But look, you threw a toy for your dog!”
“How is retrieving different from fetch?”
Because we’re using the same words to mean different things.
I grew up with retrievers. There had to be a functional difference between “retrieving” and “fetch”, because our dogs all competed in hunt tests and working certificate trials. They also played fetch a lot, with tennis balls and rackets.
To me, fetch is repetitive, back and forth throwing of a toy, often with a ball launcher. You throw, dog runs, dog catches, dog brings it back, you throw, rinse and repeat.
Retrieving has multiple points where the dog stops, performs trained behaviours and demonstrates they are still in a “thinking” brain. It often involves waiting for the toy to stop moving before releasing the dog, or not having the dog see the toy being thrown in the first place. Often the dog uses their nose to search for the toy. It involves mental work, and it generally has a lower impact on the knees, shoulders and spine.
Because of all of this, we usually have much fewer reps of retrieving than fetch.
I argue that we should move away from playing “fetch” and towards “retrieving” with our pet dogs.
And having that conversation starts with using language thoughtfully and defining our terms.