I've been taking Bodhi to flyball classes for a few months and we've reached the problem that I had anticipated - he's dropping the ball, literally. We introduced the ball a couple of classes ago and I can't get him to keep it in his mouth for very long. Working with a clicker and the ball on the ground, I can get him to hold it long enough to go over a jump, but as soon as I try to get a little distance he drops the ball. I'm getting all sorts of variations on the theme - he's spitting out the ball then jumping, or spitting the ball out over the jump, or spitting the ball out, going around and nosing the ball at me - so I know he's confused and isn't getting that the goal is to keep the ball in his mouth.

He picked up everything else in class very quickly and has a nice swimmers turn on the box, and is starting to get some distance in sends over jumps to the box, so I'm very happy with his progress so far. But I really need him to hold the ball! I'm not interested in teaching him a force hold, either, where you open the dogs mouth and put the item in and hold it shut. He's just too soft for that method. My whole goal in trying flyball is to get him to really loosen up and enjoy a sport, and so far, he is really having a good time.

I don't want to use a harsh training technique because I feel it will shut him down and cause him to associate the sport with that harshness, plus, if I jam a ball in his mouth and hold it shut, I don't think he'd ever go near the ball again. So, I'd love some tips on how to teach him how to hold the ball until I give him a release, then I can go back and work it into the flyball.

Christy
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I've been taking Bodhi to flyball classes for a few months and we'vereached the problem that I had anticipated - ... - so I know he's confused and isn't getting that the goal is to keep the ball in his mouth.

try practicing with peanut butter flavored balls. yes, there is such a thing. and yes, the work way too well. my dogs have completely given up on fetch, they just want to run around with that ball in their mouth all day.

-kelly
So, I'd love some tips on how to teach him how to hold the ball until I give him a release, then I can go back and work it into the flyball. Christy

work without the flyball environment - i.e. - regular every day fetches. at short distances, gradually increasing them.
what is your run-back motivator? How old is he now?

Franklin is a slow to mature breed and an individual who can get very excited and lose his brain. We stayed in flyball classes for an extended period of time (he had an unexpected gap as well) until he started to focus better. I had been using a toy (duckworth or his honking goose) as a motivator, because he lost interest in some other tugs and I didn't want to go to food. Well, we use food. Because if he sees the slightest bit of the motivator toy, he drops the ball. We tried reintroducing it, but got the same result, so we're sticking with squeeze cheese for now.
He just ran his first full tournament 2 weeks ago, getting his FDCh and 915 more points - his team only lost 2 heats all weekend. He has another tournament this weekend. It's gonna be chilly here - all the better to cool dogs down a bit!
Janet Boss
Best Friends Dog Obedience
"Nice Manners for the Family Pet"
Voted "Best of Baltimore 2001" - Baltimore Magazine www.bestfriendsdogobedience.com
I'm not interested in teaching him a force hold, either, where you open the dogs mouth and put the item in and hold it shut. He's just too soft for that method.

Christy, I've been training dogs to hold things in their mouths for a long, long time. Maybe longer than you've been on this planet. And I've yet to run across the dog that was so soft that I couldn't GENTLY place (not "jam") an object into his mouth, hold it shut, etc. Yes, chihuahuas, shi-tzus, toy poodles, even a few stuffed animals, too. You name it.
Note: Use his favorite toy first, if you don't want him freezing on the ball.
My whole goal in trying flyball is to get him to really loosen up and enjoy a sport, and so ... training technique because I feel it will shut him down and cause him to associate the sport with that harshness

Now, you have every right to train your dog anyway you want, but equating the placing of an item in your dog's mouth and holding it shut for a few seconds to being a "harsh training" method, yada yada yada, just doesn't hold water.
No, you certainly don't need to formally FORCE FETCH your dog (if that's what you were really talking about), but merely opening your dog's mouth and placing an item in it to hold (just like you might do to get him to take his heartworm pill, remove an object he was choking on, etc.), and then GENTLY holding it closed for a few seconds, is NOT the same thing as force-training.
This can be done very gently, and very, very easily, and by just about anyone. Try it, you'll see.
Take the ball (or toy) and just GENTLY place it his mouth, and with your other hand, GENTLY hold his muzzle closed for a second or two, at the same time you command him to "Hold it!" Then lavishly reward/praise him for holding it, even for a microsecond. Very gradually, and with your best Happy Voice, increase the time you expect him to hold it (yes, GENTLY keeping your free hand around his muzzle), making sure that you lavishly reward/praise him each and every time he gets it right. If he spits it out, just pick it up and gently place it back in his mouth again, and repeat.

No muss, no fuss.
With your dog at "sit," and facing you (doing this on a table can sometimes help):
1. GENTLY place the toy in his mouth and say "Hold it!"
2. GENTLY, with your other hand, hold his muzzle closed for a secondor two (just long enough to prevent him from spitting it out immediately).

3. GENTLY let go (if you say "Give it!" when he lets go, you can alsoteach him to give it up on command, too) and lavish praise/reward on him for holding it, even for a fraction of a second.
4. GENTLY increase the time you hold his muzzle closed, until hefinally starts to associate the command "Hold it!" with holding it. Feel free to repeat the command "Hold it!" in a calm, reassuring voice. For example, "Hoold it, Bodhi...hoold it!"
5. GENTLY hold his muzzle a little high, which will help him hold it.
6. GENTLY raise his head back up if it starts to sag, which it will,as he starts holding it longer and longer, and praise/reward him.

GENTLY. GENTLY. GENTLY.
Your sessions should last just a few reps at first; don't make them boring. Your voice should be upbeat and reassuring. After you* know that *he knows what "Hold it!" means (say, he's holding it for 30 seconds or more), you can try getting him to heel at your side with it, too, frequently reminding him to "Hold it!" until you can heel him around for, say, a minute or two, while holding it.

And once he's doing this drill well, you can then introduce him to the course, using the command to periodically REMIND him to "Hold it!" at critical moments. If he does drop it on the course, immediately stop and give him another class in "Hold it!" yes, right there where he dropped it. Make it matter-of-factly, no big deal. Repeat as needed.

And don't forget to lavishly praise/reward.
Again, all of this can be done quite GENTLY.
But feel free to do it anyway you want; after all, he's your dog.

And good luck!

Handsome "Jack" Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply via e-mail
Q: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation. A: Why is top posting frowned upon?
Christy,
The link that follows basically describes what I do with pups before teething. Although I traditonally "force fetch" later, for most purposes they are reliable to fetch, hold and deliver to hand after this series of lessons. And it is anything BUT harsh - Boogie practically did backflips when he saw me getting the treats and dumbell/dowel out for a lesson.

http://www.shirleychong.com/keepers/retrieve.html
HTH!
Susan Fraser, owned and trained by
Boog and his Bitches, Shammie and SheBop
http://mypeoplepc.com/members/chinchuba/AuH2OK9s /
Christy, The link that follows basically describes what I do with pups beforeteething. Although I traditonally "force fetch" later, for ... harsh - Boogie practically did backflips when he saw me getting the treats and dumbell/dowel out for a lesson. http://www.shirleychong.com/keepers/retrieve.html

Thank you! This is perfect.
Christy
Christy, I've been training dogs to hold things in their mouths for a long, long time. Maybe longer than you've ... his mouth, hold it shut, etc. Yes, chihuahuas, shi-tzus, toy poodles, even a few stuffed animals, too. You name it.

Well, you are probably quite correct, and I may be overestimating his softness. Still, I would prefer to try whatever I can without force (even gentle, gentle force!) because if I do it wrong, which is very possible, I could cause problems that won't be easy to overcome. If this was something I had experience in, as you clearly do, I wouldn't be as concerned about making some sort of mistake or rushing something or just basically screwing it up.
But feel free to do it anyway you want; after all, he's your dog. And good luck!

Thanks. I've saved your post for future reference, even if I don't necessarily use it with this dog.
Christy
work without the flyball environment - i.e. - regular every day fetches.at short distances, gradually increasing them.

My teacher suggests not using the tennis ball at all in regular play. She has a seriously ball crazy BC who doesn't release (opposite of my problem!!) I think part of the problem is that in the past I've played fetch with multiple dogs, and Bodhi has always had the tendency to drop the ball before getting all the way back to me, allowing one of the other dogs to get it and return it to me (hence the reason I anticipated a problem!!) He does this with other toys as well and will pick them back up but not hold them, even without other dogs around.
what is your run-back motivator?

Right now, its food. I'm trying to get him tug motivated but he tends to not want to play when there is food around, even if its another handler who has it.
How old is he now?

He just turned 5.
Franklin is a slow to mature breed and an individual who can get veryexcited and lose his brain. We stayed ... hedrops the ball. We tried reintroducing it, but got the same result, so we're sticking with squeeze cheese for now.

Ah, interesting. The toy is TOO motivating!!
He just ran his first full tournament 2 weeks ago, getting his FDCh and915 more points - his team only lost 2 heats all weekend. He has another tournament this weekend. It's gonna be chilly here - all the better tocool dogs down a bit!

How cool. I'm still totally green to the flyball world and haven't even attended a tourney yet, but my teacher's team got a 1st and a 2nd last weekend, and they are in the fastest seed. I don't anticipate ever being at that level, and so far it isn't as interesting to me as agility but as long as Bodhi likes it we will keep at it. My younger dog, Wylie, is bored silly with the repetition and I'm having trouble finding a motivator. He loves toys but won't play in class, and no food is interesting enough. But he loves agility, so it may end up that we stick to that for a while!

Christy
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Well, you are probably quite correct, and I may be overestimating his softness. Still, I would prefer to try whatever ... because if I do it wrong, which is very possible, I could cause problems that won't be easy to overcome.

Christy, just to help me understand your reluctance a little better, could you please elaborate a little on what those things might be that you think you might do (or not do) that could "cause problems"? And what kinds of problems do you think they might be?

Handsome "Jack" Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply via e-mail
Q: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation. A: Why is top posting frowned upon?
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