Lumen and the art of playing

I was complaining to the husband the other night that Lumen’s only fault is that she doesn’t get excited. I’m serious- this is a dog who doesn’t get excited when you pick up the leads and keys to go for a walk, but rather plods about calmly and, when released from the door, wanders through without speed or enthusiasm. She doesn’t get overly excited at dinner-time, or about any particular toy. She doesn’t have an obsession, which in some ways I can appreciate (the story of Penny’s Panshanger bringing her friend sticks all night while they were out camping so he woke up looking like he was ready to be set alight comes to mind), but in other ways frustrates me because it means I have no real jackpot. Nothing that really makes her want to work.

This morning I was reading a blog I’ve recently subscribed to, and she wrote about ‘playing with your dog their way‘. Yeah, yeah, I thought. I know. But I read it anyway and to sum it up: some dogs play rough and like playing rough (tug, wrestling, etc), some dogs are chasers. Lu tends to flip between either style quite happily, depending on the dog, although she has a strong preference for chasing/being chased. At the park she loves nothing more than a game of keep-away with other dogs. She loves it so much that once she picked up a poo-bag (filled with her own poo) and played keep-away with another dog. The prize was the poo-bag. Yep. She loves keep-away. And if there’s nothing to keep, she just loves being chased. Sometimes I try and incorporate this into our training but of course I don’t do it properly, and can’t really run after her, and if I spend all my training time running around chasing her I’ll be too tired to actually train! But I feel like I need to do something, to make my rewards better.

So I took the advice of the post and on Monday evening I played a new game. I got out a ball that Lumen likes OK (the hollee-roller ball) but pretty quickly looses interest in. I did a cik around the bollard inside, threw the ball behind me and ran off in the opposite direction. Lu grabbed the ball and came hurtling into the kitchen after me, feed sliding everywhere on the wooden floors. I was waiting for her in ‘monster pose’ – hands like claws, body ready, and she does what she does when faced with the monster which is to jump at it with her front feet. I grabbed the ball, tugged very briefly, pulled her to the side and… ran off again! Again, she came hurtling after me, pounced, and tugged. Ah ha.

We played this a few times and every time she responded with enthusiasm and a lot more tugging than normal. And I’m not all that fussed about the tugging, I really just want a game that she’ll love, that she’ll be dying to play. And I know, it’s very different inside our house with Mal joining in to at the field where she’s very much in ‘work’ mode, but I’ve been able to transfer the ‘race to the toy’ game pretty well to the field, so why not play this game where I gave more space and she doesn’t have to injure herself on the floorboards?

It didn’t take long until we were both puffing, but let me say I got a lot of enthusiasm and happiness out of her for the few cik/tok reps we did. I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Hopefully I’m on to a winner.

7 thoughts on “Lumen and the art of playing

  1. Rosie says:

    I think I understand what you’re playing, and how it looks, but a video would help! I have this same issue with rumble in that I don’t exactly know what style of play works best for him. I KNOW it will come in time, he’s just a pup. But I need to keep exploring.

  2. I love this post so much. I am not sure why I do though. Hmm, maybe it is because you have found something that might work that the majority of the population wouldn’t have thought have. I have a lot of respect for your problem solving skills. I love the idea of working out a keep away game.

    I also can’t help but tell you a Panshanger story of trying to motivate her, not at all useful for Lumen but more about my experience with ‘playing the way your dog wants to play’. When Pan was about 5 I *finally* worked out that Pan has a giant ego that needs stroking. If I watched her ‘play’ with other dogs (rare) she only liked the games where she dominated and they were left going ‘whoa, she is one strong bi-atch!’. She is happiest when she has a bunch of dogs standing around her barking while she parades the stick around. Now when I play with her we play ‘OMG there is no way I could wrench that ball from your jaws of steel Panshanger!’ and I try to grab the ball and cos it is all slimy I can’t pull it out and then I tell her she is a winner and then I tell her to give me the ball and she is all ‘Fruit you monkey hands!’ and I tell her she is such a winning dog and it is The Best game of all time apparently. We also play ‘ZOMG there is no way I could beat you to that toy!’ which is pretty much the same as above to a stationary toy.

    I am going to really enjoy hearing what you come up with for Lumen, I really love this stuff 🙂

    • Em says:

      Hahaha I love your Pan stories so much. You’re so spot on though, and she likes it when she has a stick and n00b dogs like Lu are all like: hey, cool stick, can I see? And Pan’s all: marvel at my stick-killing powers!!!!
      Maybe I need to body-slam Lu some too? 😉
      Yeah I’ll see how we go. She’s a tough cookie cos she loves to wrestle and chew on Mal too, so infact I think she equally enjoys chasing to wrestling. Maybe wrestling interspersed with chasing. Yes. Hopefully it motivates her a bit more anyway.

      • How fun would that be! Just had the best funniest thought… As Lumen’s jackpot for the contact you just take her out. WWF style! It will be the greatest thing ever. You could make her a shiny pair of underpants

      • Em says:

        I actually played with her tonight tugging and spinning around bumping her with my hip like body-slams and she was totally into it! Got all growly and tuggy and when I let her win she ran back over with it to play again.
        I like your idea about shiny hot pants though. And maybe I could compete in them and it’d become a trend.

        She’s so restless tonight though. I was home sick and slept lots so she didn’t get a walk or shaping or anything. Poor Bean.

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