Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ball obsession - my challenge

I enjoy taking dogs for training. I find that I have the most success when I can do 2-3 sessions everyday, especially when working on big problems. Right now we have Jitter, a ball obsessed border collie. He pretty much has no off switch unless he is in his crate and is very antsy. He came to me with not a lot of self control, but is well socialized and willing to work. He is actually fun to train and training him became more enjoyable when he realized that he can't get away with cheap shots! He has started to trust me and is way more focused than when we started. It's fun to watch his border collie mind work!

 This arrangement works out well for both his owners and me, as I needed to test some of the new ball obsession games on him. We are making progress, but it's slow. Very slow. And we have setbacks. He is extremely ball obsessed. The worst I've ever seen. I've had him for about a week and a half and I've been focusing on the following:

-  impulse control with everything in life including balls
- recall, my ultimate goal is to recall him past tennis balls on the ground
- ball to hand. I'm working on the "hand" command.
- I will throw a ball while he stays, if he gets up during my throw I go and pick up the ball and start over. He isn't allowed to get his ball until I say "get your ball". Before I release him to get his ball, he has to tug and then when he gets the ball he has to put it in my hand immediately.
- I made up another game, which I really like. First I play some tug with him. Then I have him stay and put a ball and a tug about equal distance from him on the ground. Then I say "go get your tug!" He obviously has two choices at this point. If he picks the ball, I pick up both toys and the whole game starts over. If he does immediately go for the tug, I pick it up and play with him and then sometimes I'll while we are tugging I'll say "get your ball", which then immediately HAS to be put in my hand for a click/treat.
- Premack!!!  I'll put a ball on the ground and then offer him either the ball or the cheese in my hand. If he does well with that, I'll wait longer and longer before giving him the cheese (lower the rate of reinforcement). This game has been advanced to choosing to wait for a cheese reward while being released to go chase a rolling ball. I've also done this with a tug instead of cheese. I'll put a ball on the ground nearby and then play really exciting tug and while we are tugging I'll say "OK go get your ball". If he doesn't go for his ball, the tug game gets even more exciting.

The challenges are when he steals the ball because I trusted him too much and then chomps on it. When this happens, I feel like we take a few steps backward. Also I can't get him to immediately come to me with the ball without relying on a leash about 1/2 the time. I STILL cannot get him to spit the ball for a tug, regardless of how crazy rabid pony I am. He just stands there chomping on the ball, which is extremely frustrating. I only have him for a few more days before I take my next dog for board/train and my focus will be RECALL, ball to hand, and hopefully get some ball tug exchange. 

I also have realized that Jitter would really benefit from some mat work. When left loose in the house he paces, looking for tennis balls. I think he would be a lot less obsessive if he learned how to relax.



  1. OMG, it's Vapor 10 years ago!! It must be in the genes!!!

  2. Belinda...what did you do for Vapor? I would love any ideas!