Mike came home a while back with a tennis ball he’d found.
Now, Spriggan already has tennis balls: two that belonged to her sisters and are regularly-sized and two toy-dog-sized balls I bought just for her. But this new one is a present. From Daddy. And it means a lot to her already:
But retrieving is not the strong suit of a hound bred for hunting underground, built to dispatch prey without the input of the human, designed for decision-making. Spriggan does not play against type in this regard. She is TERRIBLE at fetch.
Instead of going and getting the ball and bringing it back to me, she does something I’ve just dubbed ‘Reverse Fetch’. She’ll run to the ball — good so far… I praise her, “Good GIRL go get it!” — and she picks up the HUGE ball in her relatively tiny jaws. “Good girl get the ball!”
And then she runs AWAY from me.
It’s not necessarily because she wants to play with it alone… or that she particularly wants me to chase her. She just decides, “This is where THIS goes!” and drops it off somewhere I can’t get it. If I step toward it, she moves it further away. Maybe it’s the old joke, “But Mom, if I let you have it, you’re just going to throw it away again!”
Selkie does not normally care much for fetch, but she has been known to participate when the fancy strikes her. About a week ago, I had the tennis ball in the house, and I thought I’d try to train Spriggan to bring it back. Spriggan was not interested in learning that particular skill, but Selkie was suddenly in the mood to play. I tossed the ball; she brought it back. Over and over and over. With Spriggan leaping at her face and lunging for her tail and biting her ankles and generally being a nuisance.
I had an epiphany: some dogs are social learners, and Spriggan has certainly shown she’s willing to mimic the big dogs’ behaviors… maybe I can train Spriggan THROUGH Selkie. Every time Selkie took off after the ball, I’d say, “GO GET IT!” When she’d pick it up, I’d say, “Good GIRL go get it! Selkie, BRING it!” When she brought it back: “Good GIRL bring it! Selkie, DROP it!” When she’d let me have it, “Oh, what a good GIRL drop it!”
We repeated this over and over, and I could only hope Spriggan was learning something tangentially. Let’s see how she’s doing. These videos were taken today: (You’ll have to excuse the terrible quality.)
Pretty cute Selkie cameo in this one:
In Which She Gives Her Mother False Hope:
Why does she keep stopping? She’s eating grass. Every time the ball lands in grass, she noses it to see that she’s found it… and then starts cropping the grass around it. It’s as if she can’t pick it up unless she’s choking on vegetation. Or maybe she’s got a philosophy akin to ‘Where the arrow lands, there shall we bury him’? ‘Where the ball lands, there shall I eat grass’?
I try to get her interested in the ball again, but until she sees it bounce, she is totally consumed with the activity of… consuming. Pixie eats grass fairly regularly, so this may be an example of social learning, but it wasn’t the one I’d hoped she’d pick up. Selkie, today, was totally uninterested in fetch:
So Spriggan just kept Reverse Fetching in between bouts of gagging on greenery.