Friday, May 20, 2011

Pongu vs. Nessie, Round Two: Catch the Toy!

One of the games I sometimes like to play with my dog(s) is Catch the Toy.

Our house, predictably, is strewn with a constant litter of dog toys. At any given moment there are usually a couple of empty Kongs rolling around, an eviscerated Kong Braid toy (Pongu is especially partial to the geckos), a well-gnawed Nylabone or two, and maybe the deflated carcass of a Tuffie whale or sea mite to round things out. Pongu goes through toys like a chain smoker does cartons of Marlboro Reds, so there's always a whole lot of something lying around.

We play Catch the Toy in the middle of this mess. I throw a random toy down the hall. The dogs have to chase that toy down, as opposed to all the others scattered in their way, and bring it back to me for a treat. Wrong toys get no treats.

Pongu and Nessie wait for a new game to begin
I never actually taught Nessie the rules of this game because it's not a training exercise, it's just something I do in the morning before I've had enough coffee to think of a real exercise. Also, I figured she'd pick it up easily enough on her own, since the basic idea is so simple and it's easy for dogs to distinguish the "live" toy that's moving from all the "dead" toys that are inert.

Well, I was half right.

Whenever I played Catch the Toy with Pongu and Nessie, they would both immediately run after the moving toy and try to catch it. Nessie always got there first because she's twice as fast as Pongu. Then she would flip it into the air and chase it again, or do the terrier head-shake and whip it around from side to side, because she didn't know (or didn't care) that she could trade the toy for a treat.

This drove Pongu absolutely bonkers. He wanted the treat. He knew how to get the treat. He probably would not have minded so much if Nessie had just traded the toy in, eaten her treat, and started a new round of the game, but her refusal to move things along just frustrated him beyond all endurance.

So he started trying to take the toy from her. First he tried just grabbing it and yanking it away, but that didn't work too well since most of the time he either couldn't get it away from her or Nessie turned it into a game of tug-of-war, which was enormously fun for her and enormously enraging for Pongu.

The next strategy he hit upon was grabbing a different, non-rewardable toy, and playing with it in front of her with great exaggeration, as if to say "this toy is SO AWESOME, it is way better than your lame toy, pssh who would want that toy when you could have THIS ONE which by the way is SO MUCH FUN, just look how much fun I'm having!"

Nessie fell for it every time. She'd drop her toy and go after his, whereupon Pongu would snatch away the reward toy and run it back to me for a treat.

Pongu: 2. Nessie: 0.

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