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My eight-month-old springer spaniel has been retrieving really well, but recently he won’t let the tennis ball go. Howard Kirby replies...
My eight-month-old springer spaniel has been retrieving really well, but recently he won’t let the tennis ball go. The more I try to take it from him the worse he gets. It’s been happening for about three weeks now and it is definitely getting worse. I have been told to squeeze his lips but I’m not sure how to do it, and when I did try this he just seemed to close his mouth tighter. I’m starting to worry as his delivery was really nice and I don’t want to spoil it. I’ve decided to stop doing any retrieving until I get some advice that makes sense. I wondered if you could help me?
HOWARD KIRBY replies: This may be easier to solve than you might think. Firstly, well done for stopping the retrieving until you had some new ideas; if things go ‘wonky’ and you’re stuck for what to do next, I always recommend that you stop repeating the unwanted behaviour. One of our Mullenscote youngsters started to do just this, so hopefully the solution we used will work for you too. In the case of Troy, our six-month-old puppy, we have done a lot of his early training using a tennis ball. Tennis balls are one of my favourite training aids – they’re small, cheap, easy for young dogs to carry, and of course they roll along the floor, which creates interest and drive in a youngster. Unfortunately, though, in Troy’s case it was the tennis ball that encouraged the problem, but don’t worry, it’s an easy one to fix. The combination of his mouth simply getting bigger, and his self-confidence and youthfulness rearing its head, meant that he too put the tennis ball into his mouth and clamped up on it. Quite simply, we stopped using a ball, and instead used a standard one or two pound dummy. These bigger dummies meant he couldn’t control the dummy. Its extra length sticks out either side of his mouth so it’s easy to take the dummy from both sides. The great news is that he has stopped being possessive with these dummies and the problem has just gone away. Give this a try; I’m confident it will sort things out for you. Any further problems give us a shout and we’ll do our best to work through any further issues with you.
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