Obsessive fetch - how to deal with?

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by TWK, Nov 6, 2022.

  1. TWK

    TWK Registered Users

    Dec 17, 2020
    Our 27 month old female yellow english lab has always been high energy. She comes from long lines of labs bred for field and agility (breeder doesn't do "pet" dogs). She's a sweetie in the house, but has a very strong drive for being outside and lots of exercise. She needs a LOT of exercise, which we provide daily. Walks don't come even close to cutting it - a lot of running around is needed. We live in a city, but have access to lots of off-leash parks where she gets taken twice daily, plus a group outing daily with a walker to a local beach off-leash area. When she was wee (4-6 months), she had some issues with obsessively eating dirt, wood chips, sticks, etc (eating, not just chewing). We eventually licked the eating issues, largely by giving her a different focus - fetching.
    The problem is she now completely obsessed with fetching. She doesn't care about playing with other dogs at the park. She's not possessive of her ball - she'll patiently sit and wait if another dog steals it, but she won't chase another dog for it/play the game. Literally all she cares about is running at full speed after the ball, fetching and repeating until she is completely pooped. Multiple sessions daily. I've tried engaging her with other games at the park - nope. I've tried leaving the ball at home, but she'll not engage and instead hunt down a park ball and bark at me if I won't throw it, or shop it around to all the other humans around. I started bringing a tug rope (my last lab loved tug at the park), and she'll sometimes play tug for a bit with another dog, but always loses interest and goes to find a park ball. If she can't find a park ball, she gets antsy and starts digging and eating dirt and wood chips, etc. instead of engaging in play with other dogs (chasing, wrestling). I'm kind of at wits end of how to balance her activities. She just won't engage in a balanced set of activities, and she if doesn't get exercised hard, she isn't happy and starts in on the neurotic activities, both at the park and at home.
    Besides her mental health, I don't think that she can run/slide/chase at the level she currently does without eventually injuring joints and soft tissues.
    Any ideas short of medication (lol)?
  2. Edp

    Edp Registered Users

    Mar 16, 2014
    Hi, I have one like this. She has settled a with age but at 2 she was understandably full on. You have replaced one problem with another, which quite rightly you want to address. I have never played fetch on land with my dog, too much jarring young bones and high risk of injury. I also don't let her run /play with other dogs. Too unpredictable and injury risk and they don't need to play with others. What tired my dog more than endless running was using her brain. After weekly obedience classes she was shattered and bonus addressed lots of other behaviour issues. Could you try that ? Also, would you try agility classes or scent work ? Using brain and controlled exercise again is exhausting. I don't think medication is needed, as really she needs redirecting, not easy I know. Good luck.
  3. Katrin

    Katrin Registered Users

    Jul 21, 2022
    @Edp I read your reply and I thought it was excellent and true.

    I haven't been able to take my dog on offlead walks for about 6 months due to surgery.

    Interactive feeding, brain games, obedience games, sniffing, rehab exercises... he slept thru the night, wasn't antsy during the day. it really worked.

    like you I thought he needed a run, play with other dogs....nope....content and balanced with brain games.

    i found #100daysofenrichment by anied.ie a brilliant free resource for new ideas.

    If you get time, you could Google YouTube Canine Athritis Management and Ball games. It should get you a YouTube recording of a session with a vet and a behaviourist/ neuroscientist. It sheds light on how and why fetch is addictive, the re wiring of the canine brain and how to get a healthier balance without necessarily having to give up the ball throwing.

    best of luck.
  4. CeeCee

    CeeCee Registered Users

    Mar 29, 2022
    Queensland Australia
    Do you have access to water? Swimming is excellent low impact exercise and most Labs love it.
  5. Ski-Patroller

    Ski-Patroller Cooper, Terminally Cute

    Feb 8, 2016
    Portland, Oregon & Mt Hood Oregon
    You pretty much described Cooper. She will chase tennis balls all day until she drops. We do it on pavement to keep her nails down, because she won't tolerate clipping. We also do tennis balls into lakes, rivers, the ocean or even white water, and she loves it.

    Do be aware that a dog can drink too much fresh water and get water intoxication. It happened to Cooper once when she was retrieving two tennis balls for a number of hours at a lake. She probably swallowed a lot more water because she was coming back with two balls in her mouth. It took quite few hours but she just suddenly collapsed, and it was a hurried trip to the emergency vet. She recovered completely in a day, but it can be fatal.

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