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Cooper may be little, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have seemingly endless energy. From the moment you walk through the door, your little dog is leaping up and down in anticipation. You take him out for a walk and you’re the one that tires first. A family barbecue in the sun usually ends up in most of the family napping by the afternoon. But Cooper is still happy to charge around, hoovering up leftover food and in search of fun. It’s quickly becoming apparent that you need an effective way to meet his energetic needs.
Training your small dog to play baseball may do just that. You’ll find that instead of causing havoc in the evenings, he's curled up asleep. Baseball happens to be a favorite sport in your household too. So this could give you a great way for your dog to get involved and bond with the family. Finally, this sort of exercise will help his muscles and joints grow lean and strong!
Training your small dog to play baseball is actually more straightforward than many owners realize. The trick is to keep it fun and light-hearted so it feels like a game. To do that, you’ll need to use an array of positive reinforcements. You’ll also need to gradually ease him into his new sport and use verbal commands to teach him the rules.
If your little dog is just a puppy, then you have the perfect student. He should be eager to please and highly responsive. As a result, he could be playing baseball in just a week. However, if Cooper is older, stubborn, and more interested in napping, then it could be several weeks before you see results. If you can master training, you’ll soon have a fun game to play with your dog and an important additional member of your baseball team. Lastly, if his energy is spent playing baseball, he's less likely to be chewing your new rug to pieces!
Before you get to work, you’ll need to gather a few items. Some baseball equipment will be needed from bats to balls and any safety gear. You’ll also need a tennis ball for one of the methods.
A large space to train will be essential. A local park or fields may do the trick, as you don’t want to risk breaking a window or worse. Set aside around half an hour several times a week for training. Bear in mind that if Cooper is just a puppy, you should keep training sessions short, allowing him time to rest and preventing him from losing interest.
Once you’ve got all of the above, just bring patience and a can-do attitude, then work can begin!
The Fetch Method
Take your small dog out into a local field or park. Make sure you have a tennis ball and some treats in tow too. Hold the ball up to get his attention. You can also call his name in a high pitched voice to get him excited. Once he's looking at you, launch the ball low so it’s within his line of sight.
If he doesn’t automatically run after it, charge towards it. This will motivate him to go and get it. You’ll then need to make sure he brings the ball back too. Hold up a treat and call his name.
Once they do return it to you, quickly hand over a treat and give him some verbal praise. Now simply practice regularly until fetch is his favorite game and he's in the habit of returning the ball each time. This straightforward game will teach him the basic skills he'll need for baseball.
Now you need to take fetch to the next level. Throw the ball to a friend and have the friend hit it. You can then encourage Cooper to chase after the ball and return it again. Keep it up-beat and light-hearted.
Build up stamina
Over the next few training sessions, you can add more people and use a larger space. You can also begin to play for longer. The trick is to build up your dog's stamina gradually.
The Full Service Method
Take your little dog out to practice with. Make sure you have a friend with you. Start throwing the ball to each other with Cooper in the middle. Talk to him in a high-pitched voice and point to the ball as you throw it. You want to get him worked up and itching to get his mouth around the ball.
After a little while, let the ball drop and allow your little dog to catch it. Then rush over and shower him in verbal praise. Note that the happier he feels when he gets the ball, the more desperate he will be to play again.
Secure Cooper to a leash and lead him around the pitch he will play at. Go when there is nobody there to begin with. Your dog is small and may be easily intimidated, so you want to ease him into the new environment and build up his confidence steadily.
You can now start using verbal cues to keep Cooper in position. Use ‘wait’ and ‘down’ and begin pointing to instruct him where to return the ball. Do this consistently and you will drill the important rules into his head.
Keep it short
It’s key that you don’t train too hard to start with, especially if your little dog is a puppy. This will only tire him out and he may lose interest. Keep it to just a few minutes to begin with and then gradually build up the time over a few weeks.
The Temptation Method
Head out into a local field or park with your friend and your small dog. You’ll also need a ball. This method works on the principle that even dogs want what they can’t have. It’s quick, easy, and totally safe.
Now kneel down and hold Cooper by the collar gently. Then have the other friend dangle the ball in front of his face and talk in a high-pitched voice to capture his interest. Once he has it, throw the ball so your dog can see. Then shout words of encouragement while pointing at the ball.
Your little dog will probably automatically start trying to charge towards it. If he doesn’t, have the other person run after the ball too. After a couple of seconds, release his collar so he can sprint after it. Shout in a high-pitched voice to encourage him too.
Practice this a few times each day. As he starts getting more interested in the ball, begin hitting it with a bat rather than just throwing it. You can also stop holding him back for a couple of seconds. By now, he'll probably automatically want to run after it.
Introduce more people
Each training session you can add another player. You can also steadily start playing in bigger spaces and increase the speed of play. This will gradually build up your pup's confidence and soon he'll be an effective canine baseball player.
By James Barra
Published: 06/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021