Using drive to your advantage

Elsa loves balls, that much most of you know.  But do you know that when you have a dog with such drive and focus on one object or activity; that you can use it to your advantage?  Control, it is all about control.  Having a ball in my hand when I am out and about with Elsa gives me amazing control.  Why?  Because she considers it to far more important than many other things.  I have worked with her in regards to always retrieving once we start.  I do not allow her to stop the game; (not like she ever would) or allow anything to interfere, it is always me who ends it.  There are many rules that go along with the whole game of retrieving.  One is that if I say "that's it," then it means that's it.  If she does not stop dropping the ball at me then the ball goes away; she is learning this.   You must be steadfast in your ending of the game; you cannot randomly toss the ball once you've said "that's it.". 

I have used a toss of the ball as a reward many times.  Although she is a state of heighten excitement she can control herself enough to function; this is a very important part of it all.  Dogs are all different and there are many different degrees of ball obsession; that being said there is much that can be done to heighten or lessen the effects.  A dog who become unable to function in the presence of a ball can be danger to themselves.  If they cannot even think in the presence of a ball then you need to teach them to think.  The ball needs to be used as a reward system and allotted appropriately and sparingly. 

Some dogs will become more obsessed if a ball is out of sight while other cannot have them lying around without ignoring them.  Each is an individual.  Elsa has a favorite ball but her drive to catch and retrieve outweighs the object requirements.  I found a small fabric Frisbee that use to be Tilley's the other day and gave it a toss.  Elsa ducked out of the way a couple of times before I saw her pupils start to dilate.  With only a couple of tosses she was hooked.  So very much like Tilley, it is not the material item as much as the act of catching and retrieving. 

When I am doing some retrieving with Elsa; I make sure that she follows instructions.  At such a heightened state of excitement, it can be difficult for a dog.  This is why training is so very important; it teaches a dog to listen even in that state.  She will often offer me things that I am not asking for; which is very common to get the reward.  But I remain very calm; another very important factor when dealing with a very driven dog, the zen factor.  If I get myself all wound up like Elsa over the game of retrieving; we are going to end up in quite a mess. 

Take that object of desire and use it.  Control it with structure and training and then put it away.  All dogs need to learn about their off switch. 

The ball dog.

The moments between retrieving and catching for a ball dog.

Elsa and her ball,

are never very far apart.

An obsessive retriever must always know where her ball is.

Sometimes she plays with her ball by herself. 

She keeps it close.

Often feeling the need to touch.

A true ball dog is not concerned so much with acquisition as with the whereabouts of the ball in case a chance to catch or retrieve it should arise. 

It goes where she goes.

The ball is placed in optimum throwing positions.

Always within reach of the intended thrower.

If it doesn't quite make the mark, a little shove gets it there.

Strategic placement is optimal. 

One does not put the ball down willy nilly. 

Nonchalant attitude is often used to entice a throw. 

Or pretending that you don't even care.

But a ball dog is never far away from their ball.

As much as a ball dog wants to have their ball with them 24/7, it is important that a human be in control of the ball.  Allowing it to be played with in allotted time slots during the day is the structure that a ball dog needs.  Gotta love a ball dog. 

A retriever to the core.

                          A moment of rest but she is always ready with her prized possession. 

So how was your weekend?  We had a nice weekend, busy but nice.  Before the weekend on Friday morning Elsa had a play date with one of her best friends, Lucy.  I'll have pics tomorrow of that; Lucy is a beautiful Golden Retriever; Elsa loves her and was so excited to have her over.  Saturday Elsa and I headed over to a fenced field for some much needed chuck-it fun; then Luke and I did the "stop and smell the roses" walk. 

Chuck-it is probably one of Elsa's absolute favorite activities.  But as a high speed activity it is short lived; we don't chuck-it till she drops.  Instead we follow the "short and sweet" rule that I follow for my own work outs.  High intensity workout for a short amount of time.  It does not take Elsa long to get an amazing workout while doing her chuck it.  If you can throw that thing really well; it is truly amazing how far it goes.   Without it, I throw like a girl, pathetic really.  But armed with a chuck it and some muscle; that thing flies.  I love it and so does Elsa. 

But the retrieving doesn't stop there.  Miss Elsa is a retriever to the core.  Diehard retriever is what I'd have to describe her as.  No retriever we've met can keep up with her; nor do any have the drive that she does.  Of course Tilley would have given her a run for her money; more than likely out retrieving her with her ability to turn on a dime.  Tilley had a more compact body than Elsa does and was faster than her.  Most dogs who join us for fun soon learn to just stand and watch as Elsa does her stuff.

So the retrieving continues at home; albeit on a smaller scale.  Air tosses for catching and wall bouncing are a few other "ball" games that Elsa loves.  By far, the tennis ball is the absolute favorite object to retrieve and her new large sized Kong balls are prize possessions.   With Elsa's drive so high we limit access to the ball.  Plus if she is left with her balls for too long; she tends to strip them of their furry coat, if no one is tossing them for her.  Home retrieval is an allotted activity; the ball sits in a resting place until called upon.  I can often see Elsa sitting, staring at the lonely ball up on the shelf but it doesn't come off until I say that it comes off. 

The decision to play ball is always mine.  I know that once the ball comes down the retrieving will begin and not end until it is once again put up and away.  No matter where I am, Elsa will follow and she will continue to retrieve the ball.  It will be placed on my lap, in my weed bucket, Luke's head, someone else's lap or wherever it needs to be placed to be thrown.  She is amazing in her dedication.  She loves the chase but even more so, the catch.  It is all about the catch; preferably done on the first bounce. The power behind her back legs as she takes off is unbelievable and depending on the surface where she is taking off from, often sent flying. 

It mystifies me that the Standard Poodle is in the Non-sporting group.  Anyone who has ever lived with one knows that nothing could be further from the truth.  No doubt the only thing that landed them in this group is the "show hair" that they have to sport.  The Standard Poodle is a sporting dog in ever sense of the term, they are pretty much up for any activity.  Of course they are all different, even within the group, so some are more sporty than others.  I happen to have a very sporty girl who fits me to a tee.  Game on.