Help! Scottie dog has tennis ball OCD

Throwing a ball to scottie
Throwing a ball to Scottie by Algernon the Labrat on Flickr

A reader writes:

First of all, I’d like to thank you for your blog. My fiance calls it my “scottie porn”, but the truth is that your blog has been quite helpful and inspiring over the last few years.

We’re hoping that some of your readers will be able to help us out. We have a 1 year old brindle boy named Dougan. He’s quite obedient (for a Scottie), does well on walks, and loves playing soccer in our fenced yard. We’ve tried very hard to socialize him properly; he has doggie playmates in the neighborhood that he loves to chase and wrestle. And even when we meet new dogs on neighborhood walks, he’ll wrestle and play with them. Sounds great, right?

Here’s the problem: tennis ball. Dougan loves fetch like no other Scottie loves fetch. It’s especially a problem at dog parks, where Dougan ignores other dogs attempts to wrestle and play and focuses on owners with tennis balls (who will gladly throw a ball for such a cute boy to retrieve). We’ve tried leaving the tennis ball at home, but then he steals balls from other (bigger) dogs and, in turn, protects “his” ball from them.

How can I go about training this obsession with tennis balls out of him? We can play fetch at home; at the dog park I’d like to convince him to play with others. But there will always be tennis balls around to distract him.

The Scottie News can sympathize. Bridget is also ball obsessed and, to put it nicely, protective of any ball that’s her own or she feels should be her own. But what she goes most crazy for are those ball launchers. She will grab on to them and not let go. She’s been lifted several feet off the ground in the ensuing launcher tug of wars and has to be leashed up any time there’s a launcher in sight.

If anyone’s successfully dealt with ball and/or launcher OCD, the Scottie News would love to hear how you did it.

6 thoughts on “Help! Scottie dog has tennis ball OCD

  1. Kirk has the same problem, but it’s more-or-less any ball with her, tennis being a favourite. She just grabs, steals and runs. I didn’t find a cure and still find myself red-face and apologetic while returning the confiscated balls to the rightful owners. Most of the local regulars know us both well and you see people pick up balls and hide them as we enter the park…. and that’s just the local kids, the other dog owners are a whole new story 🙂

  2. My Angus could care less about balls, tennis or otherwise. Once in a great while he will chase the ball and keep it for a minute. Ozzie, on the other hand, is ball-crazy. He rolls it into whatever room I’m in (usually when I am in the kitchen) and just waits for you to kick it to him so he can tear off chasing it. He will do this as long as he has someone to do it with.

  3. (Great photo!!!) I will be interested to hear any advice as well. Teagan is like Kirk in that regard but she loves to chew rather than fetch. We got 2 of those giant tennis balls, supposed to be “industrial strength”, indestructible, and by the second session with them they were already crunched in. But squeaky balls – complete mania! One reason we don’t usually go to PetSmart type places!

  4. Cambria has the same addiction and I can’t imagine she’d ever give it up. We eventually quit going to the dog park, because she could care less about playing with other dogs. She only wants to play ball, which can happen in the grass outside our apartment building 🙂

  5. one of my scotties loves balls and the other doesn’t, go fig.

    My older scottie that does love balls shares some traits that were described, but since it hasn’t become a problem and is usually hasn’t resulted in aggression to keep others away from his ball I’ve just entertained him, but ball time only really happens at home or at the dog park. The biggest asset I’d say is to develop the ability to end the play and start it up again on your own terms. I don’t think you’ll get him to lose his love for balls, but at least it’ll be at an appropriate time.

    If your dog is food motivated, what I would do is start at home and “play ball” like you normally do, keeping a bag of treats in your pocket, sporadically ending the fun by walking away from the situation, showing the treat, and calling your scottie to come with you (leaving the ball behind). Offer them a treat and praise when you’ve reached an area decently away from the ball (30 feet let’s say or more appropriately out of sight if possible). Once that’s done, you can go back and resume playing ball, wait a few minutes before going back, or don’t go back at all. If your scottie doesn’t come with you away from the ball, then I’d say “no, come” leash them and then walk them away from the ball. Eventually just walking away from the fun should be enough to let them know that ball time is over.

    You can try to do the same thing at the dog park although most parks around me frown upon bringing treats bc it sometimes causes the dogs to get amped up and scuffles result, so I’d just use your common sense. Certainly it would help if you can go when you have the whole park to yourself or there are only a couple dogs in there. The dog park is also harder bc even if you’re not throwing the ball, someone else may, even if it’s not to your dog, the distraction is there. Needless to say, you’ll have a lot more work on your hands.

    Also if you have a younger dog, i’ve found it’s only natural that they grow out of the wrestling/play stage and will move onto other things. I can sympathize that it’s a little disappointing not to see your scottie rolling on the ground with their normal friends, but male scotties (maybe also female) tend to get more serious as they get older and the self deprecation of such horseplay might reach a limit. It’s happened with my first scottie (around 3.5 years) and it’s slowly happening to my younger scottie (1.5 years). The good thing is as they get older, they don’t have the overflowing energy levels they used to so playing ball with them for about 15 minutes or so usually tires them out and they need to rest. May not be the case with your scottie right now, but it probably will at some point

    In all training, if you make sure your methods are always clear, consistent, and continual (practice often!) your scottie will catch on, just be ready to fight the good fight bc they’ll also test your patience and don’t give up! They certainly won’t, the little diehards. =) Good luck!

    oh and btw great pic

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