Eli, my pet pal at the Oregon Humane Society, is a very smart young dog. We got rained out of playing fetch outside today, and there was a group of kids doing who knows what in the indoor play space, so we retreated to his kennel.
And what’s the best indoor game ever? Tug! But only if you know the rules, which Eli was a bit sketchy on at first. Here is his learning curve, presented as a play for your reading enjoyment:
Eli: Growl! I pull on the rope!
Me: Yes, you do. Okay, time to drop it.
Me: Drop it.
Eli: Extra loud growl!
Me [turning around completely]: Fine. I don’t play with dogs who don’t play by the rules. I’d rather pick the dirt out of my fingernails. [counting to five in my head]
Eli: Growl! Growl? [drops rope toy and sits]
Me [turning back around]: Good drop it, Eli! Good dog! Here’s a jackpot of treats, and I’ll pick up the rope and play again! Hooray!
End scene. Or, more accurately, repeat until he gets the idea and drops it on command.
Once he could drop it when I asked, I’d tell him to “take it” and hold the rope out for him to grab with his teeth. Light bulb! “Drop it” doesn’t mean “game over;” it means “drop what’s in my mouth”! We played that way for 15-20 minutes. He got really good at it before I had to go, and he thanked me for teaching him by putting his nose against mine and staring into my eyes with that patented border collie stare. Disconcerting, but I knew what he meant.
If you live within driving distance of Portland, Oregon, and you’d like to adopt Eli, please feel free to comment here or contact me. I’d be happy to help you meet him!