I'm a newbie, a golf newbie that is. I've just recently taken up golf with the gift of a great bag of clubs. This is something I never thought that I would enjoy but I have a very competitive spirit; I love nothing more than a challenge to improve at new activities. I've yet to play a round, but visit the driving range a couple of times a week. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed with people even bringing their dogs sometimes.
While observing others with their dogs, sitting quietly watching; I wondered if I could bring Elsa to the range. Although Elsa is amazingly well behaved; she is a ball dog beyond all else. She has a very difficult time not interacting when a ball is involved. Even when my Grandbabies hit foam pucks around the house with their little hockey sticks (hey, we're Canadian) Elsa can barely contain herself. She's driven to say the least.
Stalking, chasing and acquisition is her game. She is excellent at sharing her prize and has never guarded any ball. She prefers to share and invites her friends to join in the game of chase and tussle over a ball. She loves balls, all balls. Small, big, weird shaped and everything in between. Knowing this I decided to try.
I knew it would be tough. Just getting to my spot on the range would be a challenge being so new to the sport. My golf bag is almost as big as I am. Carrying the bag, holding onto Elsa, getting my basket of balls and bringing water for both of us. I had more than my hands full.
The first shock for Elsa was the ball delivery machine. Without doubt, Elsa would love one of these at her house filled with large tennis balls. :) The golf balls shot out at high speed as Elsa took a step back and watched. It is loud when the balls come out but by the third fill she was fine and just observed. Next was the task of getting to our spot. I must have looked like a someone in a comedy movie. But I managed and we found our spot.
It took me a while to get settled and place Elsa in her spot. She was already amped. So many people to talk to; Elsa adores people and is very cat like in her greetings, wrapping herself around people. She draws people in and they come in droves. This alone is an issue to deal with while I am trying to get her to settle and stay in her spot. Of course it is a good problem, having a dog who loves people so much.
I grabbed a club and walked onto the green. Elsa's pupils dilated and I prepared to drive. Elsa came unglued. There were balls flying everywhere but it was my ball that hit hardest. Mom was hitting balls and she could not go get them. This is horrifically difficult for a ball dog. Elsa whined and stomped her little chase feet. I returned to her mat and placed her back. Back to the green to try again. Elsa barked in complaint but she stayed on her mat. I quickly brought her a treat.
This went on for a half hour. She had bouts of jaw trembling and whining with the occasional defiant high pitch bark. She spotted a flag flapping in the wind behind her and sounded off with her howl barking. Something typically saved for when she sees horses. What a girl.
I was determined to get some balls driven with Elsa under control. This was far more a dog training session vs. a golf training session. Getting in some positive reinforcement was a quick step dance. One ball, back to reward her for settling on her spot. Back and forth, back and forth with continual interruptions of people greeting. People can't not come visit and talk to Elsa, everyone loves her.
As Elsa and I worked through it, the man beside us was smitten. I smiled watching him talk to Elsa. His golf game had taken a back seat as he watched us work. As I walked to the green again I could hear him saying "just stay there Elsa" to her. He wanted her to get her treat. It made me smile again, this was regular life.
Nearing half my basket of balls, Elsa was getting it but needed more help. I decided to place the basket of balls right in front of her; giving her something to focus on other than my flying balls. Then I uped the game placing a line of golf balls on her mat in front of her. Getting back to the green I checked in on her and she was checking out all of her balls. Then I told her to leave them, she had a job to do now. This was the help she needed. Lots of treats for Elsa for remaining in her spot. I didn't care if she stood, sat or lay down, as long as she stayed in her place.
"Quit while you're ahead" one of my steadfast quotes about life. I was about to leave at the success we had achieved and then decided to push it. I shouldn't have, I should have left but I didn't listen to myself so we went past the "ahead" stage. A man walked down the isle headed straight for Elsa. Something about this guy made her lose it. She started her hinged in the middle routine and pulled to get to him. She had been tied to the ball wash stand (something I thought had been concreted into the ground) when it started to move. I ran to grab her, the leash and the stand but missed it by a millisecond. Down came the stand full of water, the basket of balls and my clubs.
Elsa was only slightly phased by the event and continued her greeting to the man who had unglued her. For some reason she really, really had to meet him. He was a super nice guy as he helped me gather Elsa, the balls, her now soaked mat and clubs. We laughed for a bit at the mess and craziness before he went off; leaving me in my "I knew I should have quit" moment.
Will I bring Elsa back to the range, darn right I will. I like a challenge. Control is everything regarding drive and dogs. I clearly remember trying to teach Tilley to wait off leash while I threw her frisbee for Luke. She was a bundle of tension but managed to control herself. Elsa will get it but it will not be easy. Balls are her thing and being surrounded by flying, rolling and sitting balls everywhere is no easy task. But we're up for it.
Next time I will bring one club, not my whole bag when dog training at the range. ;)