Raising A Creative Canine

The introduction of a new puppy into a reactive multi-dog household

Tennis Ball, Anyone?

Interactive Toys Add comments

Interactive toys are those toys, like tennis balls and Frisbees, that you play with your dog one-on-one.

I view these separately for two reasons: the first is that these games are wonderful relationship builders between you and your dog, if played under the right conditions, and second, being a veterinary technician, it is quite common to see dogs that have ingested things, like tennis balls, and other types of inedible items. Be sure that you puppy proof your home!

Below are the Rules of Play that I follow with all of my dogs. The only difference is that I will not start taking Austyn’s toys out of his mouth when he brings them to me until he is a couple of months older.

Tennis Ball - I thnk I LOVE you

I start the play.
The play does not start when my Golden Retriever starts scratching my arm demanding that his needs be met. Years ago my America Eskimo scratched my arm so hard that it ripped my shirt. This was before I knew anything about dog training. Back then I would allow this because I felt guilty that I had to work all day and could not play with him until the evening.

I reinforce the correct behavior.
Now I decide when I want to take the dog(s) outside to play and then I will wait for calm behavior and/or ask the dog to perform a behavior of some kind before the play begins.

So it looks like this: I go and get the tennis ball from the bucket and then call Lizzie-Taylor to me. Together we go outside. I ask her to sit and then upon completion, I throw the ball for her. She brings it back to me at which I will either give her a treat or will throw the ball for her again as the reinforcement. I will then ask for another behavior. I vary the behaviors I ask for so that she never knows what comes next. Sometimes I ask her to lie down, touch my hand, sit in heel position, and so on.

With Austyn, at this age I either ask for a sit or a hand touch. He knows both of these quite well.

Tennis Ball - the object of all affection

I end the play.
The play comes to an end when I decide that it does, not when my dog takes the tennis ball and hides it in the bushes! I try to estimate how many retrieves each dog is comfortable with before completely tiring out. For example, Lizzie-Taylor is good for about 6-7 long retrieves before she becomes “sluggish.” Because she is a competition dog, I want to interact with her only when she’s “on” and at the highest point of her energy level. So I tend to throw the ball for her about 5 times and then I say “All Done!” Together we go back into the house and the tennis ball goes back into the closet until the next play session.

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