Dr Chris Brown answers your pet questions
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"Our 18-month-old Kelpie x Golden Retriever would have to be the most faithful dog you'll ever meet. But it can go too far. When we finish playing with a ball, we put it away, only for her to then go and find rocks and bring them back instead. This can go on all day, even when we ignore her. What can we do?"
To me it's easy to see why your dog is doing this. After all, just look at her genetics. With one parent a working dog and the other a 'retriever', you can see why finishing this game when you want wasn't ever really an option. The tricky part however, is convincing her when it is time to call it quits.
The problem you have is that this isn't just a play session for your dog. It's an obsession. She doesn't just want to fetch, she feels she 'has' to. So how do you stop this obsessive compulsive disorder?
Well, you don't let it start in the first place. You see, her mind is so focussed on performing at least some sort of task that if she doesn't have anything to do, she creates one hence the rocks.
So, now when its time to finish playing ball, leave the ball there so she doesn't sense the game is over and transfer her attention over to something appealing that doesn't involve retrieving such as a bone or a pig's ear. My feeling is that the enjoyment of food will override the need to retrieve.
Then when she is over her fetching fetish, you can pick up the ball and bone and head for home, knowing that the future no longer looks so rocky.