27 May 2008

Molly's Custom Fetch

This custom fetch was actually designed by my DH. He and Molly got bored quickly with just throwing the ball and her bringing it back. So he decided to take some of the things he saw herding dogs do and make fetch a little more exciting. Whether inside or out, home or away, fetch is rarely just fetch for Molly the Border Collie.

No matter how much a working dog wants to move stock, the dog has to be able to down on command from the handler and stay there, no matter what the stock does or what else happens, until the handler says otherwise. In this game, Molly's "stock" is the ball or other toy. Sometimes there are even multiple balls in play to make it really challenging.

Additionally, the dog has to be able to move slowly--not just at breakneck speed. So Molly has learned a "walk" command (this one is only in Danish right now) that tells her to get up from her down and move very slowly towards her stock.

The dog also must have great self-control. Even when it thinks it is allowed to move around, it needs to keep listening to the handler and be ready to drop into a down again on command. No matter how exciting that stock (ball) is, the dog must always keep and ear on the handler and be alert for commands.

So a basic throw and retrieve sequence goes like this.

Molly starts in a down. I throw the ball. She watches the ball intently until released to retrieve it. She retrieves it and delivers it to my hand, eager for a repeat.

A more complicated one might go like this.

Molly starts in a down. I throw the ball. She watches the ball. I release her into a slow walk. I command another down. She drops immediately back into a down and continues watching the ball. I release her. She retrieves the ball and delivers it to my hand, eager for a repeat.

The variations are extensive. Sometimes I just throw the ball and let her chase it. Sometimes I pretend to throw the ball but don't. The goal is to keep it interesting and keep things changing so it doesn't get routine for anyone.

It is also essential to require her to take breaks and to remind her to drink water. Molly gets focused on the game and can forget everything else. Because she is a border collie and BCs do have tendencies towards obsessive disorders, it is also important that we watch out for signs that she is developing one and make sure that she is always able to keep her brain and think about other things when balls are around. There is more to life than the next B-A-L-L.

What are we going to do when she learns what we're talking about when we spell it?

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