How to Train a Puppy to Like a Ball

Easy
1-2 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

One of the most fun games to play with dogs is fetch, and it can be disheartening to find that when you toss the ball for your new puppy, she stares at you with a befuddled look in her eyes. Don’t despair. Although some dogs do seem to have a higher “ball drive” than others, it is possible to train almost any puppy to like a ball.

In this guide, we will show you three fun games to play with your puppy that will give her a reason to look forward to ball time. With some practice and patience, she will start to love her ball. No puppy can resist these enjoyable games!

In addition, we will give you some tips to find the right ball before getting your training started. Sometimes disinterest in the ball may boil down to the size or texture of the ball you are using. Let’s take a closer look.

Defining Tasks

Before you get started with any of the fun training methods in this guide, it is important to diagnose a few potential issues that may get in the way of your puppy getting the fullest enjoyment out of his ball time. Texture, size, and material can all impact the tactile sensation of the ball, and you may just have a picky pup on your hands.

Here are some tips:

1. Different sized ball. Ideally, it is large enough not to be a chokeing hazard but small enough to fit comfortably in her mouth. Small dogs can have a hard time with regular sized tennis balls, for example. Luckily, there is no shortage of different sized balls on the market!
2. Softer ball. Some dogs balk at hard balls, such as tennis balls, but love the soft and squishy texture of the foam or fabric balls now available. If your puppy tries to chew the ball apart, you may need to keep it out of reach between training sessions.
3. Squeaky ball. Sometimes all it takes is that squeaky sound to get your puppy more interested in his ball. 

Getting Started

Puppies younger than six months are rarely interested, or even capable of, work. Think about your last time trying to play with the ball…

Did you get frustrated and yell at your puppy? He may have come to associate the ball with getting in trouble.

Was the game boring? Puppies really want to be where the action is. If the ball was not more exciting than the other activities going on, that could explain her disinterest.

The following three methods all focus on games you can play with your puppy that will turn the tables in your favor. By associating the ball with positive attention and challenging games that he always seems to win, your puppy will come to love the ball in no time.

Make sure that you bring a positive and playful attitude to the following games. The more exciting and positive you are, the better the odds that your puppy will have a good time, and come to know that ball as her favorite interactive toy. 

The Tug of War Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Why play tug
It is an old myth that playing Tug of War with your puppy will make him aggressive. In fact, it is perfectly normal for a dog to play a little tug. And, it gives you a chance to get him more interested in the ball by activating a natural drive to tug for fun.
Step
2
Tug rules
Before getting started with tug, make sure you enforce these rules to the game: 1. No teeth on skin. 2. Only you can start a game of tug, not the other way around. 3. 'Drop it' needs to be respected. From the start, if any of those rules are violated, immediately end the game and put the toy away. Wait at least 5 minutes before trying again.
Step
3
Convert your ball
To make Tug of War a game that can help your puppy like a ball, simply convert a ball into a tug toy. If you are using a tennis ball, for example, poke a hole on opposite sides and thread some thick rope through it. Tie a knot on either side to keep the rope from slipping through and Voila! Tug ball!
Step
4
Tug it!
To get started with this game, start by making the ball enticing. Excitedly alternate showing her the ball, then putting it behind your back. Then offer her the ball on a rope, tugging very gently at first. Encourage her with words of praise when she goes for the tug. A little practice and she will know it is okay to tug on the ball.
Step
5
Raise intensity
Over time, make the game more exciting by adding resistance as she is ready. Start to say “Tug it!” as your way of initiating the game once she is reliably going in for the tug. Most importantly, let her win the tug when she really tries for it! Nobody wants to play a game they never win.
Step
6
Drop it!
Practice 'drop it' by saying this command followed by going slack and bribing her to drop it with a treat. After plenty of practice with this game, you can start to enforce it by ending the game if she refuses to drop the tug.
Step
7
Practice
With practice, you will find your puppy starts to look forward to tugging the ball at the end of your makeshift tug toy, getting her used to holding the ball in her mouth with some force. Now try adding a toss to your tug game. You will find that she goes to get the ball and brings it back to you for more fun playing the tug game with you!
Recommend training method?

The Fetch Method

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Step
1
Set up
In a quiet room indoors, sit on the floor with your puppy, a bag of small treats, and a ball. Get your puppy interested by offering the ball then taking it a way a few times, (few puppies can resist Keep Away!) then roll it on the floor in close range.
Step
2
Praise and reward
The instant he goes to investigate the ball, say “Yesssss!” and then give her a treat. Wait for a moment to see if he goes to sniff it again, and if so, repeat the reward. If not, start over with the short toss. Repeat several times until she is going for the ball with gusto.
Step
3
Pick up the ball
Once she has practiced several times and been rewarded for her efforts, your puppy is likely to take it to the next step: picking up the ball. Instead of praising and rewarding for investigating the ball, raise the bar to expecting her to touch it with her nose. Reward that a few times, then raise the bar again until she is picking up the ball, even for a second. Praise and reward each success, and ignore failure.
Step
4
Raise the bar
Continue to raise the bar until she starts to pick up the ball and bring it towards you. Once you have trained a reliable fetch (and it will take several sessions) she will already be more excited to see the ball come out for a game.
Step
5
Decrease reward
Once your puppy enjoys the game of fetch, you can start to decrease the rate of reward since over time, the next throw becomes the reward for this fun game.
Recommend training method?

The Find it! Method

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Step
1
Set up
Start the training for this fun game in a quiet room in the house. You want the environment to be boring so this game will get and hold your puppy’s attention. Have a bag of treats (very small, pea-sized pieces) ready. Another great tool for this game is a large towel that you don’t mind your puppy playing with.
Step
2
Keep away
Start by getting him interested in the ball by moving it around and playing a little quick game of “You can’t have it!” This will get his focus on the ball. Then place it on the floor in plain sight and say “Find it!” in an excited tone. As soon as he puts his nose down to investigate, praise him followed by a reward. Repeat 5-10 times until he starts to seem confident that going to nose the ball gets him a reward.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat the above step, only this time partially hide the ball. Don’t make it too challenging, and let him watch you tuck it away so he will be successful. Again, praise and reward when he goes for it. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
4
Hide it
This time, have him watch you while you tuck the ball under a corner of the towel so it is just out of sight, but still easy to get to. Say “Find it!” and again praise and reward success. Don’t worry about failure. If you need to, give him a hint.
Step
5
Up the ante
Progressively make this game a bit harder by finding better spots, and eventually using the entire room to make good hiding spots. Make sure to keep your attitude positive and playful. Punishment during this kind of training is counterproductive.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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