Experiment #16 – The Retriever That is Retrieving Challenged

When you spend all your time at the dog park searching for the balls your dog has lost, you need to take that as a sign your dog may have retrieving issues.  At least that’s what I should do.

The concept of retrieving is quite simple.  It’s composed of three steps:

  1. Throw ball, stick, pinecone, anything that appeals to your dog
  2. Said dog chases the ball, stick, pinecone
  3. Dog brings back ball, stick, pinecone
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until desired outcome of exhausted dog is achieved

With our Jessie it goes a little more something like this:

  1. Throw ball, stick, pinecone, anything that appeals to Jessie
  2. Jessie chases the ball, stick, pinecone
  3. Jessie runs around with the item in her mouth
  4. Mum or dad try to retrieve the item from Jessie
  5. Jessie escapes her parents clutches with a big smile on her face
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until mum and dad give up on playing fetch with their beloved dog

The end result of playing fetch Jessie’s way looks something like this.

Jessie retrieving her way.

Jessie retrieving her way.

The experiment of teaching Jessie to retrieve started 9 months ago when we welcomed her as a 11 month old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, into our home.  The first experiment wasn’t actually experiment, it was more of an assumption.  We assumed that because Jessie is from a retriever breed she would retrieve anything, like a duck takes to water.  Well, that was a wrong assumption.  Then we tried teaching her to retrieve with a long lead on, so that we lured her back to us after she got the ball.  It still wasn’t clicking for her and the risk of us getting our arm pulled out of its socket with the long lead approach didn’t bode well for us.  We read the dog training books, we watched YouTube videos on retrieving tips and tricks, but nothing worked.  Eventually, we stopped bringing a ball to park because  after only one throw it stayed with Jessie.  Instead we let her run around to make her own fun, which is just as good but doesn’t allow us to engage with her at the park.

Retrieving is in Jessie’s blood, which means this innate ability must be teachable.  The running after or pouncing on her prey, whether animate or inanimate comes naturally to her, but the idea of bringing it back to us didn’t appeal to her . . . that is until recently.

The answer – – two balls.  That’s right!  Such a simple solution for a simple challenge.  Take two balls with you when you go to the park and follow these steps to effectively teach your dog to retrieve:

  1. Have your dog stand by your side and have them wait while you throw the ball, this will minimise your dog overrunning the ball and damaging their legs.
  2. When the ball has stopped let your dog go after it by saying a word such as “go.”
  3. With the second ball in your hand, lure your dog back by calling their name and showing them the second ball.
  4. If all goes well, they will come running back to you and drop the first ball or at least allow you take it from them.
  5. Throw the second ball.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 until desired outcome of exhausted dog is achieved.

If your dog doesn’t take to step 4 initially, then get them to engage with you by throwing the second ball near you, while they still have the first ball in their mouth.  When they get to the second ball they will inevitably have to choose one ball, unless they have a big mouth and can fit two balls, which Jessie can do sometimes.  that is your time to grab one of the balls and continue with the game.

Now, Jessie has not perfected this technique yet, but she is well on her way to being a star retriever.  Soon, we won’t have to pick up lost balls of other poor retrieving dogs or spend our time at the park searching for her lost ones.  This is an ongoing experiment.


2 thoughts on “Experiment #16 – The Retriever That is Retrieving Challenged

  1. Good story! With Lucy, we had to make sure we had something on us that she liked more than the cone… which was food. When she brought the ball back, she got a nibble. Eventually we stopped the food, and she usually still brings the cone back. Unless she decides to sit down and have a good chew on it.

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