Monday, August 30, 2010

It's a dog's life when it comes to playing fetch

When you read a book like Marley and Me, watch At The End Of My Leash or an episode of The Dog Whisperer, you feel pretty good as a dog owner.  My dog would never snarl like that.  My dog would never relieve himself in the house like that.  My dog would never treat me like a sled and drag me off of my feet like that!

When a game of fetch with your dog consists of throwing the ball, having the dog run the ball down, run back to you, walk with you back to the ball and wait for you to throw it again, you do feel like a failure in dog training.  Glacier's sheer energy and apparent enjoyment for chasing the ball would seem to indicate that he enjoys this game a lot.  We used to work at playing fetch in the backyard but the space is somewhat constrained and he is a big boy (80 lbs, but quite lean and tall).  We actually had it going but the balls often ended up in the plants that I have spent a lot of time planting and taking care of, and his frame was not really conducive to the health of the plants.  I gave up playing fetch in the backyard because it was starting to look like an elephant had trampled all of the blossoming flowers.

We have gone to the dog park and tried it there. No dice.  Throw a toy in the house and he goes and gets it no problem and brings it back.  Why in the house and not outside despite the fact that he seems to enjoy chasing the ball?  It is just like when we took him to obedience classes and he was the star of the class (granted in 2/3 classes there were only 2 dogs and in the other there were only 3 dogs).  He learned every trick very quickly and aced his evaluations.  Sit, down, stay, come, roll over, bang, leave it, take it, boundary, through, over...  No problem in the class, outside where squirrels roam, leaves fly, dogs sniff and flies fly, no dice.  I have no answer why everything works in the house but not outside.  It might have something to do with the fact that when he is off leash you can almost picture him saying "See you sucker!"

The lake is the other place we pretend to play fetch.  This game is much more interesting.  I throw his Kong into the water which he happily swims out to get. That is unless another dog happens to be swimming in that general direction.  When this happens he just turns around and wanders off.  If the other dog does not go and get it then usually he is back in the water in a few minutes and goes and gets it.  Part of this adventure gets interesting should anything happen in the water while he is in it.  Should a duck swim nearby he will let go of the Kong and go and chase the duck, eventually give up, and go and retrieve the Kong.  Should he see a stick, it is roughly 50/50 whether or not he will release the Kong and grab the stick instead and bring that back, or even better, grab the stick and see if he can grab Kong and stick in his mouth at the same time. This can also happen if another object is thrown in the water.
When he brings it out of the water he will sometimes drop it at my feet but more often than not we start a new game of fetch, he runs off and drops it somewhere and then expects me to go and get it.  I am sure that people out there are saying "Don't go and get it!", but in a dog park if I don't then another dog picks it up and then I have to try and get it back.  See how the game of fetch works.  I have decided that I need to go and see Cesar Milan when he comes to Vancouver.  He might not be drastic TV show worthy but we are both a project in the works.

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