I really need to take up golf because I would never need to purchase a golf ball ever. In my garage I have a huge drawer full of golf balls courtesy of Riley. One of our favourite walks is a trail that goes around the perimeter of a nearby golf course. There is a forest buffer between the course and our trail and apparently there are a lot of bad golfers because Riley always finds stray golf balls. His nose is incredible and if there is a golf ball, tennis ball etc or even a very teeny, tiny part of a ball he will come bounding out of the bushes with it in his mouth.
So, what's the big deal? The thing is he hates to part with his found treasures. Golf balls are a dangerous size and also not the best thing for his teeth. Balls win over any other possible reward. He will turn up his nose at pretty much every food option with the exception of chicken necks that worked one day but those are messy to carry. I used to carry a regular ball and he would trade for that but the lure of those forbidden golf balls now trumps the regular ball. Yesterday he found three golf balls. His record was seven one day :o). The first out took forever, I basically have to stand with his collar and wait until he gives up. Stella was bouncing all over us both with wasn't very helpful. The next two thankfully went faster but sometimes it makes me very weary to have this issue.
I have tried many methods over the years to work on a good out. He happily gives up most objects but the ball seems to short circuit his brain although he is much better than a few years ago. I rarely throw the ball for him these days as it puts a lot of stress on his structure. He runs full tilt and usually over reaches the ball and scrambles to stop and turn. I occasionally throw the ball easily for him to catch directly or will hold him in a stay until the ball stops rolling. I will also play with the ball when he swims and then I use two balls and the rule is I have posession of both before one gets thrown otherwise he stuffs both of them in his mouth.
Susan Garrett (famous agility person) advises against using a ball as a toy or reward for dogs because the ball is very self rewarding. Dogs can make it move, bounce, drop etc. all without any help from us. That is certainly true with Riley! I think the use of a ball can be evaluated on an individual dog basis. Lucy certainly liked the ball but was never as obsessed like Riley is so in her case it would be a good reward.
Stella is shaping up to have a nice out both with her toys and with the tug toy. This is a priority for me and something I am determined to never let become a bad habit. It is way easier to fix something before it is an issue than to fix it after the fact. I'm sure I will make a whole new set of mistakes with her instead, lol. I'm looking forward to the winter when there is a lot less golfers on the course!