With Wally more and more interested in catching things, and getting a bit better at it, I took part of the day to have Wally like the ball even more.
I want him to do anything he can to get the ball in his mouth. To do this, I turned to shaping-type activity.
The behavior I want is him getting the ball in his mouth. Once he did this, he got a reward for it. Nothing happens with any other behavior. Nothing else is good enough, no pawing, poking, pushing the ball, just picking it up.
I went through about a dozen of these and then switched to a more active scenario. I rolled the ball, and he had to go get it, but without me saying so. I want it to be the default behavior. See ball moving...get ball in mouth.
Our prior working on retrieve training interferes with this as he is used to waiting for the cue to go after whatever it is. I want to frame this differently, so he can understand the difference between the two activities. That is something for me to think on.
After doing this, I held the ball in my hand and moved it around. He had to try to grab the ball. Again, all of this in an effort to get him to go into "Must. Get. Ball. In. Mouth." mode. Each time he succeeded, he got a click and a reward. I also kept getting him and keeping him excited the whole time, which had him increasing his efforts.
However, it didn't stop with just the ball. Also on the agenda was developing his "pick up and carry" desire. Since we had been working with getting the ball in his mouth, this would be a good follow up since it's also involving getting objects in his mouth.
This is a little more difficult since he's not as apt to carry a lot of things, but I used the ball again. Instead of catching the ball, he had to pick it up and carry it to me. Success netted him a game with the ball. That would be the reward I used for this set of exercises.
After getting him warmed up with the ball, I used other light household items, like a duster, balled up napkins, stirring spoons, and so on. Hopefully, this could be the precursor to other actions like putting the object in a box and moving him further along in becoming something of a "housework dog".