As many of you will already know, playing Fetch with Ray is a significant challenge.
I am convinced that he knows exactly what is expected of him… simply because he has done it, but, to quote from his soon to be published book:
“Ray continually surprised me with how fast he grasped a concept, especially when food was involved, but playing Fetch with him was an exercise in humility, frustration and (if anybody was watching) pure embarrassment!”
As much as I believe that he knows exactly how to play Fetch, I also believe that he has a mind of his own, and regularly reminds us of that fact. There certainly have been occasions when he has chased after a Frisbee and returned it. There have even been occasions when he has chased down a tennis ball and returned it. There have been so many more occasions when he has simply watched the “fetch object” travel across the garden, and his response consisted of two simple movements. His head moved as he watched it on its journey. His head moved again as he turned to look at us with that “You threw it. You go and get it!” expression on his face!
Just recently however, Ray has added an additional perspective on Fetch. Both Carol and I have spent a huge amount of time on Fetch. It has become more of a personal challenge (battle?) and having returned from a walk a few days ago, Carol stayed in the garden with him and continued with the Fetch saga. When they both came into the house, she mentioned that Ray had put a perspective on Fetch that neither of us had thought about. We have one very logical and creative dog living with us!
The next day, we both went into the garden and Carol threw the tennis ball “Fetch the ball Ray!” He went chasing after it and brought it back and dropped it at her feet (= treat). She threw it again and, once again, he chased after it and brought it back but, this time, he dropped it about 3 feet away from her (close enough = treat). The next time he dropped it about 6 feet away from her (=no treat). I am sure that you can see the obvious pattern developing which answers the question “What is the minimum I have to do to get the treat?”
Once he had established the necessary expectations, he played the game, but then he changed the rules completely! Carol threw his tennis ball and off he went to retrieve it. He brought it back and dropped it just close enough to get his treat! Once he had his treat, he picked up the ball and carried it to the bottom of the garden where he dropped it; picked it up again, brought it back and dropped it close enough to get another treat.
I picked up the ball and threw it and he did exactly the same routine. He brought it back; got his treat; picked it up; carried it to the bottom of the garden; dropped it; picked it up and brought it back.
In Ray’s version of Fetch, we are nothing more than treat dispensers! I guess that way he feels as if he is in total control of when he gets his treats as he doesn’t have to wait for us..
The more I think about this, the more I think this is a good development of the original Fetch principles! This means that on a Summer’s day, we can throw his frisbee, or tennis ball, and then sit down with a nice cold beer and periodically give him treats as he plays Fetch. Sounds good to me!