How to Train Your Dog to Find Golf Balls

Hard
1-3 Months
Work

Introduction

A dog who can gather golf balls from the greens is a great dog to have on the course. Small local courses might have a golf ball fetching dog to help collect all the lost balls. Golfers know just how expensive golf balls are. And though they might not want to admit to just how many they lose in a year, or even in one game, golfers will tell you how happy they are when they can find their ball or get replacements for cheap. Some golf clubs use golf dogs to gather all the lost balls and then resell them to golfers for less than a new ball. This is especially useful for those golfers who lose their balls frequently. And to top it all off, teaching your dog to gather balls from the course, could save the course owner time, help the keep the course clean, and add some cash to your pocket. Some course owners and managers will use golf dogs to gather balls and then sell them, giving proceeds to charity.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to be a great golf course dog will be fairly simple if he is a curious pup with all the basic and some advanced commands in his arsenal. You will want him to be able to roam freely along the course, have manners to interact with players or employees, and show the ability to search, find, and retrieve.

Getting Started

Have some patience with your dog while training him to find golf balls. To help him succeed, have a place for him to put the balls once he has found them. Provide lots of yummy treats to reward him for a job well done. Before you set your dog free on a golf course, be sure to spend time with him finding golf balls together. And it shouldn’t need to be said, but always get permission from the course owner before you and your dog visit. If you live near a golf course and often find balls near your home but off the course, you could start by gathering in these areas first. You will want a curious dog who is eager to learn and please.

You will need:

  • Golf balls to introduce to your dog.
  • Treats for good behavior.
  • If your dog is not a well-mannered, free-roaming dog, you may want to start on a leash.
  • If you clicker train, be sure to have to clicker for each training session.
  • Be patient and have fun.  

The Clicker Method

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Step
1
Introduce ball
Give your dog a golf ball to hold in his mouth and say the keyword ‘golf ball’ as he takes it. Once he takes the golf ball, click and offer him a treat. He should drop the golf ball when he hears the click because he knows he’s getting a treat.
Step
2
Play
Play with the golf ball together and continue practicing recognition and mouth holding about 10 to 15 minutes a day for about a week so your dog understands what a golf ball is. Click and treat each time he recognizes the ball and has a positive interaction with it.
Step
3
Toss it
Toss the golf ball away from your dog and use the keywords ‘golf ball’ to get him to fetch the ball. Click and treat each time he fetches the golf ball.
Step
4
Practice
Keep practicing these steps with your dog and a golf ball, only extend the distance between you and the golf ball. Be sure to click and treat to reward your dog.
Step
5
Many golf balls
Add more golf balls to the mix and increase the challenge for your dog. Each time your dog successfully has a new distance down, click and treat.
Step
6
Find
Take your dog out either one a course or an area around a course where golf balls can often be found and use the command ‘golf ball’ to get him to search and find. The first time you show your dog the area, you may need to help him find a golf ball first so he can make the connection with the outdoor space and the item you would like him to find.
Recommend training method?

The Chase Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Play
Ultimately, your dog wants to play so throwing a golf ball will cause him to chase. Play chase with your dog using a golf ball for several minutes to get him used to finding the ball, grabbing it, and putting it in his mouth.
Step
2
Hide
Scatter golf balls around your yard, hiding some and keeping some in obvious places.
Step
3
Retrieve
Walk with your dog and ask him to get the golf balls as you two find them together.
Step
4
Encourage
Once your dog begins to find the golf balls on his own, begin to encourage by offering rewards and verbal praise.
Step
5
Practice
Repeat these steps near or on the golf course, asking your dog to find the golf balls each time. Be sure to reward good behavior and positive interactions with the golf balls.
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The Take It Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Command
Starting with a golf ball on the floor or grass, ask your dog to ‘take it.’ If your dog does not know the ‘take it’ command, you can place the golf ball in his mouth. Offer him a treat once he takes the ball.
Step
2
Drop it
Show your dog where you’d like him to place the golf ball and use the ‘drop it’ command. Offer him a treat right away if he drops the golf ball. If he does not, entice him with a treat.
Step
3
Practice
Continue to use the ‘take it’ and ‘drop it’ commands with the golf ball until your dog can do both on command with the ball.
Step
4
Onsite
Take your dog to the golf course or an area where golf balls are found and walk with him, finding golf balls. For each one you two find, use the command ‘take it’.
Step
5
Reward
After your dog finds each golf ball, offer him a treat and give him verbal praise with excitement.
Step
6
Repeat
Repeat these steps several times using the ‘take it’ and ‘drop it’ commands.
Step
7
Gradual challenge
Over time, let your dog explore the course without you too close, so he can find golf balls on his own.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
No dog yet
Mixed breed
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
No dog yet
Mixed breed
1 Year

I’m losing my sight gradually and have a difficult time seeing my golf ball. Can a dog be trained to see and locate a ball that i hit on the course?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mark, Whether or not your dog can be trained to watch and locate your ball on the course will depend a lot on your dog. Locating a golf ball on a course is a lot like regular fetch and duck hunting combined, but harder because of the size of the ball and the distance. Duck hunting dogs have to be able to mark where a bird falls, often even in water, and then use their nose to locate the bird when they get close to the general area that they remember seeing the bird fall in. Sometimes those birds even drift in the water, a lot like a ball rolling further on a course after landing. Because golf balls are much smaller than a duck and go much further than a regular tennis ball during a fetch game, your dog will need exceptional vision, focus, and memory. Many of these natural skills can be improved upon with practice though, and in fact will have to be improved for your dog to succeed. Duck hunting dogs learn how to mark where a bird falls by practicing. If I were you, I would start by adding scent to your balls, something that is very strong to your dog. It does not have to be something that bothers you, but it will need to be something that your dog can use to locate your ball when he gets close. It will also need to be something that he will not smell on the golf course somewhere else, so that he will not be confused. Teach him to locate items with this smell around your home first. When he can locate something by that scent, then teach him how to alert you when he finds it, but not to pick it up. You can teach him to alert you by commanding him to do something like "Speak", "Sit", "Down", "Stand", or another similar responds, whenever he finds the the golf ball during practice. When he alerts you by doing something like sitting, then praise him and rewarding him. To teach your dog to find something by scent check out these articles: https://wagwalking.com/training/search-and-rescue-1 https://wagwalking.com/training/detect-drugs https://wagwalking.com/training/find-by-scent After you have taught him how to locate the ball by scent, and you have taught him to alert you when he finds it, then work on teaching him how to mark the ball's location, similar to the way you would train a hunting dog to mark a falling bird's location. You will need to start with small distances first, and gradually work up to larger distances. Expect this to take a lot of time. Bird hunting dogs do not learn how to hunt overnight. Depending on what type of dog you get, your dog might naturally be good at this, but it will be a difficult skill for some dog's to learn. More visual breeds, such as Sight Hounds, Retrievers, and Herding breeds will be able to learn this more easily than certain breeds. At the same time your dog will also need a decent nose, so something like a Retriever, mix of these breeds, or herding breed may have an easier time than some dogs. To teach him how to mark, go somewhere with lots of open space, and practice throwing the scented ball into the air. Start by throwing the ball only a couple of feet away, and as soon as your dog goes over to it, praise him and reward him. Once he learns that he will be rewarded every time that he goes to the ball, then begin to tell him "Find ball" as he walks toward the ball. The will later become his command to communicate to him what he should do on the golf course. As he improves, gradually throw the ball further and further, practicing at each distance until he has mastered finding the ball at that distance. Do this until your dog can find the ball when you drive the ball. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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