There are many reasons why a dog will drop a retrieve article, or even refuse to pick up an article and retrieve it. Some of the most common reasons are listed below: –
The dog drops the ball as it wants to empty its mouth in anticipation of having the motivator in its mouth instead.
In this situation the timing of when the motivator is shown to the dog is critical. Do not be tempted to have the motivator in clear view. Either hide it behind your back until the dog has placed the retrieved article in your hand and then let the dog see and have the motivator, or keep the motivator in a pocket or bumbag and quickly produce it once the dog has given you the retrieve article. Some dogs get frustrated with the time it takes to take the motivator out of a pocket so be aware of this and adapt by hiding it in or under your clothing instead (eg up a sleeve, in a waistband).
The dog becomes distracted by something in the environment that causes it to loose its concentration, relax its mouth muscles, and drop the ball – or forget that it was supposed to retrieve something and instead go and investigate the distraction.
These distractions can be: -
SIZE or TEXTURE of the article- eg
The above examples are not a complete list of things that can distract a dog when it is retrieving – there are many more depending on the environment, the dog and its likes and dislikes. It is up to the Handler and Trainer to watch the dog carefully and try to manage the training situation so that the dog is able to succeed.
Some of these distractions can be added to the dog’s training schedule later on so that it learns to be able to cope with them while it is retrieving. However, dogs are not machines and are capable of being distracted – allow for this and learn from the experience so that you can either avoid the situation next time or gradually train the dog to cope with the distraction.
As you can see from the above, the choice of retrieve article, particularly those just learning to retrieve, is very important. Experiment to find a medium sized article that has the right texture, taste and smell that the dog enjoys carrying. Try to choose something that the dog has very strong happy associations with so that you get a good “start” to the training session.
Do not feel obliged to use a standard retrieve article (eg dumb bell, ball, gundog dummy) if your dog has built up bad association with it in the past when being taught to retrieve.
Some dogs like a new article each retrieve (eg the inner cardboard tube of a toilet roll, next a treat box, then a squeaky toy etc) while others enjoy using one or two articles over and over again. In the early stages of training, find out what suits your dog best by experimenting should the dog refuse to play the Game again.
By understanding and carefully watching your dog you will come to understand why your dog drops the "ball".
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