| When I had a Toy Poodle, I used a small beanie baby toy tied to a twenty foot long cord to exercise him for at least ten minutes at a time, twice a day. I'd throw it across the room and he'd run after it to snatch it up, fueled by canine fantasies of ripping it apart.|
But he knew he wouldn't be able to act out his warrior instincts if he brought it back to me — which is why I had it tied to a cord. As once he got hold of it, that was the only way I could get it back, unless I wanted to chase him around under tables.
Most of the time I'd start yanking on the cord as soon as the toy landed, and he'd have to pounce on it to keep it still long enough to grab it in his mouth. But frequently, I'd be too quick for him — and I was able to get it past his lightening fast paws. Then I would pull the toy across the floor as fast as I could reel the cord in, while he ran after it like a cat chasing a mouse.
He'd usually lose those races, and would have to wait for me to throw it again. But this way he knew the game wasn't fixed, and that it required genuine skill on his part in order for him to 'win the prize' — which made it all the more exciting for him.
When he was successful in keeping me from getting the toy past him after it landed, he'd clamp down on it with as much force as his Toy Poodle jaws would allow. Then he'd continually shake it while I pulled the toy, and him, back to me.
He even 'applied his brakes' frequently during the process, and played tug of war with me — quickly scooting backwards about three feet whenever I allowed a little slack in the cord. This was like reeling in an eight pound dogfish that was on steroids. But after slowly dragging him across the floor to within arms reach of me, he would suddenly release his alligator grip on the toy and let me have it.
Then he immediately tensed up and assumed a position to spring after it when I threw it again. But he watched it very intently until he actually saw it fly past him, because he had been fooled too many times in the past when I just pretended to throw it.
During those occasions, he ran to the area where he was expecting it to land, and would then look back at me with a puzzled expression — wondering what had gone wrong. When he saw me laughing and dangling the toy in front of me, he'd instantly get a big grin on his face. Then he'd come charging back at me full speed in order to do a Toy Poodle version of a drop kick on my knee.
But I'd usually throw the toy before he reached me — which resulted in him slamming on his brakes, and then running back to where he had just been. So he soon learned to wait by my side until he was sure that I had really thrown it.
He never got tired of this game, and would have done it for hours at a time if he had been able to coax me into playing with him for that long. This daily tug of war was so entertaining for me — I never got tired of it either. As it was a lot like going fishing every day, without any of the hassles or expense. Plus, I was guaranteed to catch 'a big one' every time I 'cast my line out'. Another benefit was that I could reuse the same bait over and over. :)
Whenever I walked towards the file cabinet that I initially kept the toy on, he thought it was playtime and would start prancing around and barking. To avoid disappointing him several times a day with false alarms, I had to keep the toy stored inside an out of the way cabinet when it wasn't 'in use'.
Needless to say, this is excellent exercise for indoor dogs, as well as being great for their mental health. As it gives them a fun activity to look forward to each day, etc. Thus it can only serve to extend their life to a ripe old age if done on a daily basis. It would also be a lot of fun for you!
So if your dog's exercise routine consists of nothing more than slow-paced back yard sniff patrols, you may want to give this technique a try. To save wear and tear on your arm, simply swing the toy by the cord in a loop and release it — allowing the momentum to carry it across the room.
If you have a lazy dog, you may need to tease him with the toy first, to get him riled up enough to want doggy revenge. Simply place it on top of his head, and 'walk' it across his back, etc. Then when you finally throw it, he'll be more motivated to run after it so he can give it a good shaking. :)
Once he experiences the 'thrill of the chase' a few times, it will likely become habit forming, and he'll want to keep doing it. Unless he's just not into chasing stuffed animals. Ironically, as much fun as my dog had with this game, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with ANY type of ball. Whenever I rolled one past him, he would just glance at it for a second and then ignore it. So whether your dog takes to this dogfishing sport will undoubtedly depend on his personality.
Obviously, this exercise method wouldn't be practical to use with all dogs, since large dogs would probably win a tug of war with most people. The problem with the dog winning is that it could create a top dog power struggle over who should roll onto their back as "a sign of submission". Meaning that your dog may get the idea that he's the new pack leader in your family.
It would also be a bad idea to play this game with an aggressive breed of dog. Because if he gets loose, his canine brain may kick into 'game mode' if he sees a jogger running by — which could result in serious injuries for the jogger, as well as criminal charges for you.
If your dog has a loose tooth, then the game is over before it starts, due to excessive pressure from the toy causing him pain. This would be a good cue for you to take your dog in for a thorough teeth cleaning — as your veterinarian will be able to pull any loose teeth that he finds during the procedure.
In fact, annual teeth cleanings/dental checkups are crucial for the overall health of your dog. As a single loose tooth can result in serious health problems due to bacteria getting into the bloodstream — and can wind up costing you a lot more than preventative teeth cleanings would have cost. (Check out article #35 on my Web site for some good information on canine periodontal disease.)
Also, I never tried this dogfishing game on a carpeted floor, so I have no idea what the results would be. It's conceivable that a thick carpet would give even a small dog a big advantage in a tug of war. Which might allow an excessive amount of pressure to be exerted on fragile bones, teeth, etc. So before pulling too hard, you should consult your veterinarian to determine if this activity would involve any risk for your particular dog.
About the Author
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Copyright © 2005 G. Metcalf. All rights reserved.
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