Monday, May 23, 2011

teaching roxy to play

Roxy has never been too interested in playing with toys. In the beginning, it was as if she was afraid to touch anything for fear it wasn't "hers" to play with.  Over time, I discovered she enjoys de-stuffing stuffed toys, chewing sticks to bits, and chasing the flirt pole in the yard.  But that's really it.  Unless it was stuffed with food, the toy had minimal value, or it was only valued for a short amount of time.  Her signature move is to grab a toy and lay down with it, mouth it for a few moments, then lay her head down on it with a big sigh.... "Well, now what?"


Since we've gotten Buster, the ball-obsessed, 3-legged fetch machine, Roxy's been attempting to play with toys more.  She'll get excited when I get home some days and grab a tennis ball.  She'll toss it to herself, or nose it off the bed, watching intently, before pouncing on it.  During this time, she'll chase a ball I throw, but doesn't quite bring it back.  I can grab it and toss it and she'll chase it again, but still not bring it back, no matter how much fun she has chasing it.  This typically only lasts a few throws, and then it's back to laying down with the toy or looking for snuggles.

So I've also been working on clicker-training her to tug and fetch.  She's expressing some interest in chasing toys, and she seems to want to play tug sometimes, but she doesn't have the confidence to tug back for any longer than a few seconds.  I am really eager to see if I can get her to tug and fetch so that her and I have another game we can play together.  I'll take either tug or fetch, but will pretty much go with whatever she seems to enjoy.  And even if she doesn't enjoy the two games after she understands them, she enjoys the training and learning piece of it now.

Now, her repertoire of behaviors involving toys is pretty small.  She chews nylabones, destroys soft or stuffed toys, and she chases the flirt pole.  Anything else is of interest for a very short amount of time and usually ends up in her crate graveyard until Buster or Sonny discover it.  So, I started out with a lot of waiting:  waiting for her to throw out new behaviors involving the toy I placed in front of her.  Once she started interacting with the toys a bit, I began rewarding her for mouthing the toy.  Now we're up to grabbing the toys with her mouth (video below).  I had tried doing all of this with the toy on the ground, but she kept pawing at it and wouldn't go beyond targeting it with her muzzle.  She never took the next step to mouth it while it was on the ground, so I tried working with the toy in the air and making it "dance" a little to get her interested, and we had a lot more success.

The behavior we are working on is going to be the basis for both tug and fetch.  She's got the idea of grabbing the toy, but she's letting it go fairly quickly so I want to work on holding the toy for a longer period of time.  I'll post more updates and videos as we are making more progress!

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