Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Orchestrating Playtime for the Babies

By the time Andy was a year old, routines were established such as where, when and how they played. Playing out front could be especially challenging. Abby could be so demanding about going out front, and she would whip the others into a frenzy before we went out front. About half the time we went out front, the babies would chase a squirrel eating by the bird feeder or oak tree. Unless the babies cornered the squirrel in a tree, the chase lasted a few seconds, and the rest of the time each dog did his or her own thing.

Abby stopped fetching by now. The game she played and excelled was the tugging games. If I were not around, Abby would slowly walk around and sniff the yard smelling the lingering odors of any interlopers that may have passed through the yard recently. But if I were around, Abby would find a rope and we would have our own version of tug-o-war.

Andy would play fetch. In the ten or fifteen minutes we would spend out front, Andy would retrieve a toy at least a dozen times. When he was younger, we had to keep a close eye on his activity level because his compulsion to run overrode his ability to regulate his energy and exhaustion levels. He could have easily bopped till he dropped. Sometimes his tongue would be hanging out and his face would look peaked but he would continue trying to play. We had to literally take the ball from him and make him go inside.

Then there was Father. He was always confused about playing. Was it fun? Was it life or death? He didn’t know and would become confused trying to snap at Andy once in a while. On some throws of the ball, Father would run along with Andy, but on others, he would growl at Andy and posture over him trying to assert his dominance.

After I threw a ball, I had to monitor several things at once. In my left hand was the tugging toy. Abby grab at it and we would have our tugging match. Then I had to monitor where Andy was and prepare for the next throw. Most importantly, I had to keep a close eye on Father to make sure he wouldn’t try to attack Andy. All it took to make Father back down was a directed shout at him, and he would always stand-down.

Lastly, I had to keep an eye on Andy’s exhaustion level especially when he was young. As he grew older, he did a better monitoring his activity level. He couldn’t do it in a ‘normal manner’ like Abby and Father who would simply sit down when they were tired. Andy would do what I call the ‘fly-by.’ Without any notice or warning, Andy would approach me as he had on previous throws, but instead of dropping the toy by my feet or handing it to me, he would keep the toy in his mouth and run a few feet by me and head straight towards the door. It was his way of announcing that play-time was over but in his own cute way. If the door was cracked open, he wouldn’t even wait for the rest of us to go inside with him. Instead, he would nudge the door open with his nose going inside alone. Playtime was over.

1 comment:

  1. Good babies, and so smart. We were and are so lucky to have these awesome dogs in our lives.