LOVES to play ball (too much)! & "Jobs?"

Posted by lisab
Dec 18, 2011
My family and I recently adopted a one-year-old pure-bred German Shepherd from our local humane society. Max is a great dog and is so smart! I have been working through the training manuals I received here and he's responding quite well. We have four small children and a very busy lifestyle, my husband and I both work full-time, so unfortunately Max spends quite a bit of time alone. For the most part, he's adjusting really well to our family and his new home. The problem I am looking for some help with is that he LOVES to fetch. He gets so excited when I take him out, but I can't get him to drop the ball for me so he wastes a lot of time that could be spent running and playing. I have tried trading him for a treat or another toy and it works some of the time, but honestly, he [B]loves the ball more [/B]than any food I could offer. I give him a lot of praise and pats when he does drop it, but he doesn't care . . . he just wants me to throw the ball. I would like to be able to maximize the time we have with exercising him and it's hard when he won't drop the ball. Any ideas?

Also, I have read and heard that certain breeds are "working dogs" and need jobs. What are some "jobs" we can have him do?

Posted by KOPCaroline
Dec 19, 2011
Hey lisab,

Congrats on the new addition! Sounds like Max is settling in fine.

As far as fetching goes, if he doesn't fall for the exchange maneuver () maybe try subsituting some other toy from the start. Instead of a ball, try a frisbee, or a plastic chew toy. Play with these toys for a while, and while you are, start training him to "drop it". Hopefully he'll respond better with something thats not an amazing ball! Everytime you are playing, have him bring it back to you and drop it on command. If he doesn't, walk away and ignore him for a while, or if you can get the toy from him, take it inside for a few minutes - ie, stop play time if he doesn't respond the way you want. Give him a couple minutes on his own, not having much fun, then try again. Chances are if you ignore him he'll drop the thing on his own and you can get it, give him a minute or two of no playing, then try again.

Definitely continue to give him praise and attention when he does drop it! Good work!

And you're right about working dogs liking having tasks to do - a "job" is just anything that gets your dogs mind going as well as his body. If there are agility classes in your area and you think thats something you'd enjoy, they are an amazing way to have a great time with Max and let him enjoy himself as well. You can set your own agility course up and work with Max in the backyard - cones to weave in and out of, poles or hoops to jump, a tunnel to go through, etc. Plastic baby pools with floaty toys are something some dog really enjoy - they can "herd" the toys around, as well as play in the water. Sandboxes are the same - they provide a place to dig, and you can hide toys and objects in them for your dog to find.

Interactive toys like Kongs you can stuff treats into (or a homemade version using a plastic bottle with holes punched in, and kibble or treats stuffed into it) encourage dogs to work for a reward - they have to figure out how to get the treats out. All this provides self entertainment.

You can even just teach Max a variety of "tricks" to keep him stimulated - popular tricks I've seen are "hide/take cover" where the dog gets on his belly and hides his face; "army crawling" where the dog crawls on his belly; "pretty" where the dog sits up on his hindlegs and puts his front paws up above his face...the list goes on. You can google them, or just make some of your own up!

Overall the goal is to keep intelligent dogs stimulated mentally, so it doesn't have to be anything full on - just constant interaction.

Hope this helps you, and I hope you keep having fun together! Let us know if you need anything else.
Posted by jillbck1
Feb 18, 2013
2 things helped me- working with two balls. i would not throw the second until he put the retrieved ball in my hand. So if he dropped it a distance away I would stand still and keep saying fetch it. Until he did. Their drive is so great, that they do this.
I would teach him to stay , wait, come and use ball as a reward.
When we were done with ball time i would allow him to keep the one with less value to him.
Your GS is still quite young.... it gets easier
Hope this helps-