Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Doggy Pong - or How To Keep Your Dog Happy

Got a herding dog like my McNab Dog, Rack?

Maybe a Border Collie who is running around barking at the ceiling fan?

A Poodle that is chewing up the furniture?

German Shepard Dog who won't let you leave the house because it's clamped down on your right shin?

They're bored.

Well, not my dog Rack.  He's actually quite happy.  Look at the picture for proof!

You see one of the toughest things to do is to keep a herding dog in a house.   They have limitless energy and are the Go Go! Breeds out there.

Walk them three times a day, one mile each time.  I swear by that.  It isn't the be all and end all of keeping them happy and busy, but it is a good start.  After all, not everyone lives within walking distance of a place where people hang out.  You know, a walkable business district?

If you have a farm, you're set.  Let your dog learn how to herd chickens.  

I hear you say "But, Bill!  I don't have a farm!  I'm walking my pooch long and far every day but he still has energy!  What can I do?"

Chill.  First off.  Your dog feeds off your energy.  If you are worried and tense, I guarantee your dog will wonder what's up and start acting up.  Calm, Cool, and Collected.  If you aren't, your dog won't be.

You tried the ball tricks.  You may have a dog like my Rack with no prey drive at all. 

Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  

I did the tennis ball bouncing thing.  He got up and walked away thinking I am possessed. 

Too bad really because there is this park near my house where they play tennis and there are always some stray balls flying over the fence needing a soggy retriever's mouth to reside.

See, Rack gets excited when one of us comes home.  He's good with staying on the property too, not perfect, but good. 

What we do is play McNab Pong.  If you don't have a McNab, you don't know what you're missing, but you could call it, I guess, Doggy Pong or Puppy Pong.

Yeah I'm getting to it.

Here's how it's played.

You are inside the house with your dog.  Someone comes into the driveway with the car.  Your dog wants to go see them.   First get the dog to sit at the door.  He will but he will also be a coiled spring ready to jump.

Open the door gently and work on that door skill.

Then release the hounds.  "Go get'em Boy!".

Rack will run out the door charging with legs flying in all directions.  In two bounces, he's made it to the car all excited.

It doesn't work with our mailman.  He's a great guy, but I wouldn't want my dog charging after someone who he doesn't like or know well.  You have to choose someone who your dog cares about and really wants to see.

I hear you saying "What next?  That's great your dog made a fool of himself running across the grass and is now jumping all over that person in the driveway.  Isn't that against that calm thing you said earlier?".

Yes, it is against the whole Calm, Cool, and Collected thing.  But this is an exception.  We are TRYING to burn off energy.  You see we do this just before the walks.  It actually makes for a better walk because we've blown off some steam.

First we sent our dog out to the driveway.  He's gotten about 30 feet away and now...

The person who he has greeted has to send him back.

"Go see Dad!"  Rack snaps to and runs back to the house in three bounces, legs flying everywhere, mouth open in a doggy smile.

Next your dog will get called back out to the driveway.  "Hey come on back to me!"

Feet flying he gets there quickly but a little slower.

"Go see Dad!"  

We repeat this as many times as needed.  Each time he goes back and forth, Rack slows down.  Finally he's down to a trot.  He loves the game, but he loves his people more.  Instead of him jumping all over us and knocking us backwards into a comfortable concussion on the pavement, he's now back down to almost mellow.

Almost.  Herding breeds aren't known to be couch potatoes. 

We've done the game where one of us was a solid 50 feet away, or more.  Rack will run the length of the property to get to one of us, and only gets sent back.  Athletic dogs need exercise or else they get into problems like obesity or destructive behavior.

In the case of my Rack, he sleeps all day.  McNabs will do that.  But only if their energy is focused and burned off correctly.

So if you will excuse me, I have a little bit of Doggy Pong to play.  Someone furry is wandering out to the back door of the house.

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