This week’s challenge was to “Play with Your Balls” (get yer head outta the gutter, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout). Basically, just get your dog and yourself outside, and play games with your balls (that`s what she said). One of the games that was suggested was to throw the ball and then run and try to get it before your dog, and stuff like that. Now, Mufaasa’s a well known ball hound. It’s actually what I use to train him, so getting him to chase one didn’t seem like much of a challenge, so I decided to work on getting him to bring back a Frisbee. Seems Shiva and her mom had a similar idea, and for the same reason, we want to get into disc dogs! If you’ve ever seen it, it’s pretty cool, and I figure if I can get Mufaasa to retrieve a Frisbee as well as he retrieves his ball, we’ll be laughing. The problem is that it he is COMPLETELY UNINTERESTED IN NEW TOYS. They are entertaining for about five seconds, and then he’d rather eat grass. Motivating my little moo-face has always been difficult, so I knew this would definitely be a challenge.
It started out ok. We went to the park, one were there aren’t usually a lot of other dogs since I knew if anyone showed up with a ball there was no way he’d look twice at the Frisbee. I threw it, he caught it out of the air like a champ, and then….dropped it on the ground and started snarfing down grass. I would grab the Frisbee, jump around and hold it in the air as a keep away game, he’d get excited, chase and….snarf grass. Well, I exaggerate. Maybe twice he brought it back perfect, and we had a big party, but he just wasn’t that in to it. And then, just to add insult to injury, while jumping around trying to get him excited (and while Mufaasa looked at me like I had two heads as I practically did jumping jacks with a frisbee in my hand) he spotted a dog and decided to completely ignore me to go greet it, which would have just been annoying except the dog was ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD.
After shoving my heart out of my throat I grabbed my dog and marched him straight home (no yelling or jerking, but he didn’t get to stop or sniff or do anything fun, just immediate loss of freedom). I spent about an hour after we got home giving him the silent treatment (advantageous side-effect of my crankiness: I tend to clean everything in sight, which is a good thing, since I’m kind of a slob, but I get cranky all the time so it balances out). Eventually the only thing left to clean was my closet, and I just wasn’t mad enough to tackle that particular task, so I decided to try and fix my problem in a way that actually might succeed.
I took his supper, placed the Frisbee on the floor, and waited. At first he got a reward for going near it. Then for interacting with it in anyway. Unfortunately the next thing he tried was nose-touching it, which is his favourite thing in the world. But I didn’t want him to nose-touch it, he can’t pick it up that way, so I had to only reward any interact that wasn’t a nose-touch. TWENTY MINUTES LATER he finally growled a little as he poked it, so I treated that, and eventually that turned into gnawing at it a little. I got him to the point where he would pick it up and throw it in my direction before I called it quits. That was Monday.
Tuesday we went to the park to give it another go, and it pretty much went EXACTLY LIKE MONDAY. So, again, we were barely there before he ran out of the park to go see a dog (this type of behaviour is unusual for him, but then, I usually have a ball with me, which is his fav). So, we went right home and worked on retrieving it with his dinner again, and he caught on much quicker, though was still just picking it up, throwing it a bit, and doing that repeatedly until he reached me instead of just picking it up and bringing it to me. But still, progress.
Wednesday it was raining so we didn`t go to the park at all, just came home and worked some more, and he started to actually take a few steps towards me. It occurred to me at this point that he had barely gotten any outside time for three days, and was being seriously lazy about it. I expected him to start crawling up the walls any second, but he didn’t. He just slept and hung out, didn’t get into the garbage at work, or the recycling bin. Didn’t steal any co-worker’s lunch. It was seriously weird. Was he having a fit just because he hadn’t seen his ball in a few days? Was it because it was cloudy? Or is he just getting old (at 2 years of age)?
Today we went about it a bit different. I brought treats to the park in the morning, and had a tiny bit more success, but then someone showed up with a ball and chuck-it, and I knew I wouldn’t get any more out of him so we headed to work. I then just started throwing it at work and low and behold, he was bringing it back AWESOME. I stopped giving him treats at one point and he kept doing it! God, that made me feel better. I’m sure he’ll be lack-lusted at the park next time I try, but at least I can say we got somewhere. Later when I got his dinner out and started throwing the Frisbee, he was chasing after it like it was his favourite thing in the whole wide world. I figure if I can get him to permanently associate Frisbees with dinner, I’ll have a pretty awesome disc dog on my hands.
But, after all that, we did wind up doing some stuff with balls (like your mom). We headed to the park to do some agility training (I finally got a tunnel and I wanted to see how well it would work. It’s a bit of a cheapish tunnel, but it does the trick) and the ball is still the best way to motivate him. And just so I could feel like I did something akin to this week’s challenge, I decided to steel a page from my riding book and do some ground work/circle work exercises. Did the ol’ start with a big circle, make it smaller and smaller, then grow it out again. We did some “three loop serpentines” (except it was more like eight, it’s a big park) and figure eights. I of course threw in lots of front crosses just to make it interesting. And I’m happy to report Mufaasa was enthused and running the whole time.
So, I did more physical exercise this week (leaping around like an angry leprechaun trying to get your dog interesting in something he’s not is surprisingly good cardio!), but Mufaasa did more mental exercise, which may be the real reason he was so lazy at work. Either way, both our brains are melted, and hopefully for our next challenge I’ll try not to make it something hard enough that I want to put my head through a wall.