Using drive to your advantage

Elsa loves balls, that much most of you know.  But do you know that when you have a dog with such drive and focus on one object or activity; that you can use it to your advantage?  Control, it is all about control.  Having a ball in my hand when I am out and about with Elsa gives me amazing control.  Why?  Because she considers it to far more important than many other things.  I have worked with her in regards to always retrieving once we start.  I do not allow her to stop the game; (not like she ever would) or allow anything to interfere, it is always me who ends it.  There are many rules that go along with the whole game of retrieving.  One is that if I say "that's it," then it means that's it.  If she does not stop dropping the ball at me then the ball goes away; she is learning this.   You must be steadfast in your ending of the game; you cannot randomly toss the ball once you've said "that's it.". 

I have used a toss of the ball as a reward many times.  Although she is a state of heighten excitement she can control herself enough to function; this is a very important part of it all.  Dogs are all different and there are many different degrees of ball obsession; that being said there is much that can be done to heighten or lessen the effects.  A dog who become unable to function in the presence of a ball can be danger to themselves.  If they cannot even think in the presence of a ball then you need to teach them to think.  The ball needs to be used as a reward system and allotted appropriately and sparingly. 

Some dogs will become more obsessed if a ball is out of sight while other cannot have them lying around without ignoring them.  Each is an individual.  Elsa has a favorite ball but her drive to catch and retrieve outweighs the object requirements.  I found a small fabric Frisbee that use to be Tilley's the other day and gave it a toss.  Elsa ducked out of the way a couple of times before I saw her pupils start to dilate.  With only a couple of tosses she was hooked.  So very much like Tilley, it is not the material item as much as the act of catching and retrieving. 

When I am doing some retrieving with Elsa; I make sure that she follows instructions.  At such a heightened state of excitement, it can be difficult for a dog.  This is why training is so very important; it teaches a dog to listen even in that state.  She will often offer me things that I am not asking for; which is very common to get the reward.  But I remain very calm; another very important factor when dealing with a very driven dog, the zen factor.  If I get myself all wound up like Elsa over the game of retrieving; we are going to end up in quite a mess. 

Take that object of desire and use it.  Control it with structure and training and then put it away.  All dogs need to learn about their off switch.