He's an American Bulldog btw.

The thing is, he won't give you the ball back. He will chase it, get it and come back but he will just stand there with it in his teeth. I tried food (he's normally VERY food oriented but it doesn't work at all), tried trowing other balls (the other ball even if it looks the same, doesn't interest him at all). He shakes his head and tries to get it out of my reach when I try to get the ball.

I tried giving corrections (won't budge), waiting doesn't work (he will gnaw at it for a looong time), and when I don't budge - say leave it for 15 mins and when he tries to lay down to gnaw at it I make him sit he will whine with the ball in his teeth.

The only thing that works is when I poke his tongue with my finger and even then I have to keep him upright by the collar or he will dive after the dropped ball. He's concentrated 100% on it (doesn't notice other dogs etc) and I don't know how to let him know it's okay, we will play if he gives it back. He's really hyper about it too so stopping the play in the middle and picking it up later doesn't work (he's too zoned in on the ball to remember why we stopped in the first place).

  • I wish I had an answer. My old GSD could hold 5 tennis balls in his mouth, and was completely deaf to the word "drop". His litter-brother was utterly obedient, however. Chalk and cheese. The irony is, we named the obedient one "Rebel". Couldn't have been more wrong.
    – Mick
    May 21, 2017 at 11:16

2 Answers 2


Some dogs are perceived to be "ball obsessed" and to some extent this is true, but all dogs are different and demonstrate a wide range of characters and behaviours even within breeds. You should keep this in mind when reading about the experiences of other people.

My old cattle kelpie x was, in his younger days, ball obsessed. Nothing else mattered when it came time to play with the ball. Not even food, which - similarly with your dog - was always a top priority.

After time I began to understand that his keeping the ball from me was a part of the game, literally a part of playing with a ball.

After even more time I worked my attempts to recover the ball into our ball playing game activities. So this became a part of our play / game.

For my dog to drop the ball, I had to make it clear to him that the game was over. This must be done with consistency. If for example, you try to recover the ball a number of times every play session, you'll negate the importance of your ending the game, because your dog will learn the game will continue anyway.

If you want to train your dog to drop the ball, you must have extreme patience because success in this depends on so many different factors, including the age of the dog and their level of obsession with retaining the ball. For example, beyond basic puppy school training, my dog was unresponsive to further training until around 2 years old.

So how do you train your dog to drop the ball.

  1. Patience.

  2. Issue the command to drop the ball in a firm commanding voice and most importantly do it only once.

  3. If your dog does not obey, then ignore your dog, turn and walk away, thereby ending the game.

  4. As soon as your dog drops the ball, even minutes later, heap generous praise on your dog.

  5. Repeat the process as necessary.

Eventually your dog will learn to understand that the game is over unless the ball is dropped.


The only thing that could solve this is training. I'd suggest never tricking your dog while you are trying to teach it to give the ball back, always throw the ball as soon as you get it off the dog, and make sure to give it a treat/scratch its belly (please it) when it returns the ball to you.

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