What To Do When Your Puppy Won’t Bring the Ball Back

To get your puppy to bring the ball back when it won’t do so:

  • Change the game if it has become repetitive and boring.
  • Give them more attention for their efforts.
  • Teach them to give it back.
  • Make sure they are sleeping enough.
  • They have a short attention span.
  • Don’t overdo the game.
  • Give them a reason to cooperate.
  • They are not a retriever.

Encourage Your Puppy to Bring the Ball Back!

Let’s start with the Solution.

When you start to play any games with your puppy, you should only play for short sessions and try rewarding the pup with a yummy treat or a good ear rub for being such a good pet and retrieving the ball!

Make a fuss of them when they get it right as most puppies love getting attention.

You need to show them the benefits of bringing the ball back so they see the advantage of doing as you ask them; there are rewards in store for them when they cooperate.


Don’t Overdo the Game and Let Them Rest

Owners often overestimate a young puppy and overdo the game.

  • Fetching the ball is quite strenuous, especially if you are the one doing all the running and fetching. It can be exhausting and it can become boring!
  • Then imagine your puppy’s surprise when they bring the ball back and what do you do … you immediately throw it away again and expect the puppy to go get it again.
  • Huh? What? You want me to get it again, but you just threw it away again! This is what your puppy will be thinking in confusion.
  • So off they go and the whole cycle is repeated, and repeated again and again ….
  • And then they don’t want to give it back to you cause you are just going to throw it away again and they are getting tired, it’s not fun anymore.

So the reason they will not bring the ball back to you is that they have learned that you will just throw it away again.

To a youngster,  it’s hard work and it has become boring! There is nothing in the game for them, nothing to motivate them to continue.

A puppy has a short attention span, normally from around 5 -10 minutes, so if what they are doing is not interesting enough, they will wander away looking for other fun stuff to do.

You have to ensure the puppy is having fun, and the game is not too tough for them.


Some Breeds Are Not Interested in Retrieving

Not all puppies will feel excited about retrieving a ball – they may do it to please you but will soon tire of the game.

Certain puppy/dog breeds are known for their retrieving skills.

  • Labradors, spaniels, golden retrievers, pointers, and curly-coated retrievers all love retrieving. They could play the game from morning to night without getting bored.
  • They will bark at you to throw the ball again, and it will be you who tires of the game first.
  • Retrieving is bred into them, and they love the game and excel at it. Although giving the ball back can become an issue unless they benefit from a treat or affection.

But other puppy breeds are bred to be protective and they tend to make decisions for themselves.

  • Anatolian Shepherds, Rottweilers, and the Bull Mastiff are challenging to get them to fetch. They would rather be on watch!
  • The Belgian Malinois is a worker – they love protecting and guarding, but they are not so keen to retrieve. You threw it away, go get it yourself while I sit here and guard you they seem to say.
  • They may fetch the ball to please you … but they will soon find a distraction that is more important than returning the ball.

Other hunting breeds prefer to ‘kill’ the ball rather than bring it back.

  • If your puppy exhibits strong shaking of the ball when they retrieve it, that means their hunting instincts are high while the notion of retrieving is weak.
  • The Bluetick Coonhound, American Foxhound, English Springer Spaniel, and the Pointer are all excellent hunters.
  • They love tracking down prey for either the master to kill, or they will happily do it themselves.
  • Throwing a ball to these breeds may see your balled ‘killed and retrieved’ in a very sorry state. Be prepared to invest in a lot of balls if you are determined to play the fetch and return game!

Your puppy may just feel that the ball is not worthy of retrieving. Just as people have many different interests so too does your puppy.

The breed of your young puppy may influence how well they retrieve. It is what it is.


Puppies Like to Be the Centre of Attention.

The game of expecting a young puppy to chase the ball is all well and good, but you should be careful not to get into a game of ‘playing keep away’, which is where you end up chasing your pup to try and get the ball back.

  • Puppies love to be chased, it’s a challenge, and they are the center of attention. They will typically respond by keeping out of your reach while you try to get that ball that you seem to desperately want.
  • Rather than teaching them to run away by chasing them,  you should first teach your young dog to retrieve the ball, bring it back and drop it for you. This must be fun and rewarding for your puppy, and the game shouldn’t go on for too long.
  • When they get the ball and run away from you for a game of playing keep away or catch me if you can,  ignore them and go and do something else.
  • When your puppy realizes that you are not interested, they will lose interest as well.

But when they do bring the ball and drop it for you on request, reward them to keep their interest going.

Make a big fuss, “Who’s a good boy “ and dish out a tasty small reward to your puppy. Suddenly they understand – they can see an advantage for them to bring you your ball back.

You must give your little dog something to work for, whether that is a cuddle, a treat, or just some kind words. Puppies love rewards, attention, and food, and not necessarily in that order!


Teach Them to Give the Ball Back to You

By nature, dogs are prone to guard their food and toys or things that are of value to them.

That ball that you threw for your puppy, well they retrieved it and now they feel it is theirs. They don’t want to give it back.

  • To avoid this sort of behavior, your new puppy needs to learn not to guard their toys or food, and to willingly give up an item such as the ball.
  • A puppy is never too young to learn new tricks, so start to teach your young pup words like ‘drop it’ or ‘give’ as a release cue when you want your dog to give up whatever they have such as the ball, and use a happy, but firm voice when instructing them.
  • They need to learn that humans are not a threat, and you can teach them this by approaching your puppy when they are feeding and casually dropping a piece of beef or chicken in their bowl.
  • Offering them treats from your hand allows them to know that humans are the provider of good things.
  • Be aware that leaning over or walking directly toward a young dog can often be a trigger for resource guarding. When you throw the ball and they bring it back, kneel or sit at their height, so they are not protective of the ball.
  • If you are having problems getting the ball back off your young puppy, remember to trade for an item of greater value (usually a food treat wins the ball).
  • Resource guarding can be cute – that tiny puppy standing guarding and growling, defying you to take the item is so funny.
  • But remember that this is an issue that needs to be overcome immediately, as small dogs grow into big dogs, and you don’t want the behavior to become aggressive.
  • When you start teaching your puppy to ‘drop it’ or ‘give’, start with a boring item of little value to them, and gradually work your way up to more valuable things such as the ball.
  • It has to be fun for your puppy. They have to have a reason to chase the ball, and they need an even bigger reason to bring it back and give it up.


 Make Sure They Sleep More

Dogs were born to please, they love to help out, they love to be with you, and they are full of endless energy … or so it seems.

We tend to forget that a puppy is a very young dog. Life is exciting to them, they want to know EVERYTHING, and they seem unstoppable!

But those little legs get tired. Running here, running there, before you know it, you will find them snoring on their backs, trying to catch some sleep.

So how much time for sleeping do these youngsters need?

  • 0-8 weeks old, your puppy needs to sleep most of the time, and when they are awake, they are feeding!
  • After 8 weeks old, your puppy will require between 18 -22 hours of sleep per day although not all at once!
  • When your puppy settles to rest, let them relax and snooze. 
  • The rest time is when your puppy is undergoing important brain development and also physical growth, which takes a lot of energy.
  • Create a safe space for sleeping. A crate is ideal for them as it can be filled with cuddly blankets, toys, and a special bed so that they welcome crawling into their special place where they can nap undisturbed and safely.

The quote ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’ was meant for puppies too. They need lots of rest, and while they will try and please you by chasing the ball, when they start refusing to bring it back, they are trying to tell you they are over the game.

Don’t push it – let them rest as a tired cranky youngster is no fun.


Change the Ball Game If Your Puppy Gets Bored.

It is not the end of the world if retrieving a ball is not your puppy’s favorite game. It might be that they are too young for such a strenuous game. No problem, there are plenty of other games you can share.

Here are some ideas to keep them exercised, wear off a bit of that puppy energy, and just some fun to have together.

  • A ball in a  paddling pool is fun. Puppies are intrigued when the ball pops back up when they try to drown the ball.
  • Play ping pong with a larger ball, this may make the ball suddenly become a valuable fun thing for your puppy.
  • Puppies usually adore popping bubbles. You can sit and just blow bubbles which will keep your puppy amused for ages. Try to get some pet-friendly detergent rather than the household variety.
  • Your puppy might like the challenge of an agility course. You can devise your own at home using boxes, tunnels, ramps,  and sticks to weave through. If you make it big enough to fit you both, you will give your little pup the confidence to learn this new game.
  • Introduce your pup to a game of frisbee with you which will teach them to chase. Get a soft edge frisbee so that those precious puppy teeth don’t get knocked out of their mouth in their keenness.
  • Water games can be fun. Either running through the sprinklers on a hot day, or bouncing in and out of a baby paddling pool – are guaranteed to entertain your puppy.
  • A game of tug of war will bring out the competitiveness in your puppy. They will fight like heck to win. Do let them win a few games as nothing is so disheartening than always being the loser. And remember – the game stops when they mouth your hand. This teaches them that they are not to bite you.


Play Time With Your Puppy Should Be Fun!

Puppies are curious, playful, and have the concentration span of a gnat! In other words, they are easily sidetracked when something else comes within their radar.

  • If you want your puppy to chase the ball, return it to you and drop it so you can pick it up, start slowly and increase the training once they get the idea.
  • Reward them when they try. Puppies love food and your attention, so use that to encourage them to play ball … pun intended.
  • Don’t get angry with them. They don’t have a great attention span when they are little; it will increase as your puppy grows.
  • Repetition is the keyword in training. Keep going over and over what you want them to do so  your puppy eventually remembers they have to chase the ball, carry it back to you, and drop it so you can pick it up.
  • Keep the distance and time of the game/training down to a minimum while teaching them to retrieve the ball. They have short little legs, little to no memory recall,  and they tire quickly.

The one thing a puppy does have is cuteness. There is nothing cuter than a small puppy waddling around trying to catch a ball.

Love them while they’re young, problems and all!

They will grow up to be your best friend, your guardian angel, and your life companion.


Writer: Jean Brewer

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