forward step!

You guys…
This morning, when I stayed home from work because I didn’t want to get more sick but then had to use the opportunity to do some 1-jump training in the backyard anyway because we’re talking about me here, and I can’t just laze around all day, Lu did a neck-twist move for her hollee-roller ball. I see her do this to Loki all the time when they try and play tug and I yell at her because it’s a very strong move designed to break his neck. It’s not some pissy head-shake from side to side, she fully puts her shoulders, neck and head into one thrashing side-to-the-other-side motion… She’s NEVER done it with me and tugging before…

Until this morning!

I was so shocked that she won the toy, of course.

Anyway, this afternoon both the boydogs were outside so I grabbed the same toy for some ‘no strings attached’ play and she was so keen – heaps of head thrashes and growling and putting strength into the game!

I only thought to film it for my play class after already playing with her for a good while (more than 5 mins probably) so she was pretty tired by now but you can still see how much energy she was putting into it… Usually if you see her head shaking or something it’s me doing it to her but not tonight! That movement is all her! One time my back went “CRACK!” as she pulled me in weird and wonderful ways. Thanks, Lu, for your chiropractic help.


food love & sniffy things

Noticing an interesting thing when playing shaping with the Lokidog – if he gets a jackpot, he is inherently more interested in searching for more food than playing with a toy that’s being dragged around. This worries me a little cos he’s already choosing something else over the play, and look, I know he doesn’t associate play with a reward maybe, it’s just a fun thing that happens after he does something sometimes… and I know, he’s a baby, but we all know that I like to see problems and fix them. It’s what I do.

Today I just held out, kept dragging that toy around until he came and played and we had a big party. I suppose in Susan Garrett world this was like a “don’t wanna, don’t haveta” moment, or whatever she calls it. Thoughts? Opinions?

I need to remember to set a timer when doing that stuff, too. He can keep going, and does, but I need to remember he should only train for probably 3 minutes at a time right now.
Also, I set up a super wobbly board with this rectangular soft board thing on top of a paw pod, and he was riding around on that thing without a care in the world. Super confident (about that sort of thing, at least. He wasn’t sure about a child’s bike that he saw yesterday)

Here’s a video:




And there’s even more of this now without toys, more wrestly-bitey style play is starting to happen. I think Lu is gonna like having a little bother.

more thoughts on play


I know, I always use the same picture but it’s a good one and it has to do with the post, so why not?

Since I was stuck at home being sick until this afternoon when I got to enjoy the sun with Penny and Badger and Lumen, I decided that I’d give obsessively looking for ways to increase motivation and play a rest and read the old sample issues of Clean Run.

Well, whaddya know, there were at least 3 articles on play and tugging. How convenient.

So I read them through and one stood out more than the others- and I can’t remember exactly who wrote it, but they made a point that I’d heard before but maybe this was explained better or something… and that is that you need your toy/tug to be prey (and I know, Silvia always says this but I suppose I got to the ‘drag it around really fast until caught’ stage but then didn’t know what to do from there) and that there are several stages of the chase/kill that you should go through in order to really make it fun for the dog. Those being:

see/smell the prey (works pretty well when I pull out a toy and draw in a long breath of anticipation)

track it, chase it

pounce on it, bite it


So in the past I’ve done a lot of track and chase, but gotten stuck there, and more recently I’ve done a lot of tear/kill/tug without the other stuff…

This afternoon I put it all together while we were doing some shaping and she was into the toy and she game. I also stopped making noise while tugging (one of the articles said that, too) and I’ve been making sure that I keep putting the toy away when she still wants to play.

I don’t think she’ll ever be super obsessed and run full-speed to a dead toy – I can get her to do it inside though so maybe outside is possible, I just have to actually train it outside, too.

Oh! I also learnt that if she lets go of the toy, it needs to escape – not be offered back to her mouth. I find sometimes this works (and she gets to chase) but sometimes it doesn’t work (she chases but doesn’t grab it again to tug – it’s easier for her to chase it, kind of grab it, then for me to offer it to her for a tug session right then).

Play update

We are having success!

Before dinner, I’ve been getting Lu to toy on a not-very-exciting rope toy… the first night I did this, she looked at me like I was mad, until I swirled it around on the floor a lot, and then we had a very quick tug, and then she got her dinner. The next night, she had a few seconds of “don’t wanna” and then tugged, briefly, and got dinner. Last night, I made their dinner, pulled out the rope, and she almost immediately went for it. We had a longer tug session, and she got dinner. Woo!

Similarly, before going off-leash for a run in the bush or at the dog park today she tugged, and I’m using the jackpot-tug again with the food pouch in. This was also has jackpot toy for RC the other night and she loved leaping into the air and grabbing it as she flew past. At the dog park today we actually had about 3 good tug sessions, which so wouldn’t have happened a few weeks ago- there would have been way more interesting things going on. I also think with her, less intensity is the key to getting her to tug back- if I kind of let her grab it and then stand there, she’ll start pulling it back, rather than if I’m bouncing around trying to be exciting- it’s too much.

We also did some race to the tug this morning inside, and I’ve been doing a fair bit of running to my side to the toy to get that full-speed running thing.

She also thinks that the holl-ee roller hidden in the drawer is the most amazing toy ever – she’s now allowed to bite it a bit but not for long, have to keep the mystery alive. 😉

So all in all, success so far. Hopefully it’ll make her more driven/motivated – that would be fun and cool.

The things we do…


So, in an effort to make Lu more toy-mad, Husband and I have begun following Susan Garrett’s advice about how to make that happen.

So, I’ve put her holl-ee roller ball in a drawer with a sock tied on. Yesterday and today, twice or three times a day, we go to the draw saying things to Lumen like: *gasp!* Lu!!! Ohhhh, what is it Luuuumen? What IS IT?!?

And slowly peeling open the drawer. When we did it this afternoon her eyes looked bright like she knew something weird and wonderful was about to happen.

I gasp. Whip out the toy and begin going crazy about how amazing and wonderful the toy it. I drag it around the ground by the sock, making sure she doesn’t get a hold of it. I say: “NIC! What is THIS?!” and throw it across the room to him, where he proceeds to perform the same song and dance, bashing it on the ground and generally having a wonderful time.

Meanwhile, Lu is launching around, trying her hardest to get this amazing new toy. After a little while, we put the toy back in the drawer and say: “Oh… it’s gone” *sadface* and then continue about our day.

Lu, meanwhile, begins counter-surfing and generally trying to find where the magical toy went, looking between us desperately.

Tomorrow she gets to get her teeth on it but only for a second and then I play with it and it goes away again.


Simultaneously to all this, we also have a tug-rope lying around on a counter for when she seems playful, and we have one very short play which, when she tugs, she wins the tug, we go: “YAYYY!” and then end the game. She goes: Whatttt? Why finished?! and gets all upset that the game is over. Success!

Meanwhile, all the toys in the house (except one for Mal, he was getting very upset at not being able to carry something around when he was happy) have been put away so she has no choice but to play with us… or Mal. Possibly Mal is getting annoyed more than usual but that could also be because she seemed really tired and mopey at school so I didn’t take her out for a walk or training tonight and now she’s full of beans. Sigh.

product review: lemonade bottle.

In my never-ending quest to find a highly motivating toy for Lumen, we’ve probably spend a few hundred dollars buying toys. Balls, tugs, fleece, fur, soft-toys, hard-toys, rubber toys. You name it, I’ve probably bought it (much to Husband’s dismay). Lu seems to ‘like’ everything, and ‘love’ very little. Which is to say, she’ll play half-heartedly, or even whole-heartedly with almost everything, but get very excited and ‘drivey’ over almost nothing. So I, like many others, scoured the internet searching for the perfect toy. Here, I’ll review some that I’ve found particularly exciting for Lumen, though she’s a bit odd, so don’t take whatever we say as gospel. 

Today I’m reviewing something a bit unexpected. If you google ‘motivational toys’ you’ll get a huge array of particularly tugging things, and particularly fur or fleece things.

Lu doesn’t have an issue with any of these things, but I’ve known since she was a puppy that she adores chewing up plastic plant pots. One day she found a half coke-bottle in the backyard and has proceeded to prance around merrily with it, or spend hours chewing it up (but not destroying it, interestingly enough).

Husband suggested the other day that we should get her another plastic soda bottle, since she loves the first one so much. No worries. I went down to the supermarket and got a home-brand one for 99c.

I decide to giver her a go on cik/cap with it- my ultimate test for how much drive it helps her obtain. I rev her up with the toy, she’s biting it, launching at it, tugging it – I’m hitting her on the side with it, using it as a shield so she doesn’t bite my hands.  I don’t restrain her into the wrap, but rev, rev, ready, ready- we run- I hold the bottle out like a lure, and– lo and behold! More than a lazy canter!! Her exit was slow, but her entrance was fast- exits I can work on when I have more space than my backyard, it’s the entrance which is our real problem.

All this to say that I just had more success using a 99c soda bottle than with a myriad of other toys. Don’t be afraid to use things that you might have lying around. I reckon if I tied a glove to a string she’d be pretty excited about that too, and I’m thinking I’ll tie some rope around the neck of the bottle so I can run off with it bouncing along the ground. Lu also loves long bits of bark that come off gumtrees and can be dragged, chased, caught and tugged (and they taste like wood but are soft, so no danger of splinters or sticks). I just made a tug-toy out of an old t-shirt of Husband’s (Lu seems a little overwhelmed by my creation, and plus it might smell too much like clothes and therefore might be considered ‘off-limits’ for tug?), and one out of a tea-towel that had a hold in it as well. I once found that my usually mellow and hard-to-get-excited-about-toys dog Mal, went absolutely bananas over oven-mitts, channelling Shutzhund-style dogs as he bit into them and growled with excitement.

Obviously a bottle isn’t the most durable toy on the market, and you probably don’t want to leave your dog unsupervised with it (eaten bits of plastic aren’t the best thing for a pup!) but if your dog is like mine and enjoys chewing on plastic things rather than soft things, it might be a good idea to give it a go! And at 99c it doesn’t really matter if you go through a few here and there if it’s working.
Does your dog like unusual toys? Are there things around your home that your dog might really enjoy playing with? Or do you have a normal dog that just loves playing with normal toys? 😉

product review: JW hol-ee roller

I’ve always wanted to do a product review, and I’m guessing we’ve spent a couple of hundred dollars trying to source the perfect and most motivational toy for Miss Lu.
Everything from tug ropes including real fur or fleece (extremely against my ethical beliefs as a vegan, but I’m willing to try anything and the fur one is apparently sourced from op-shop fur coats, neato), different balls and plush, or not-plush toys… flying disks, flying rings, and a myriad of others..

I have 2 toys in circulation at the moment that seem to get ‘the best’ out of Lumen, and I’d like to write a review of the one I’m using the most.

Keep in mind, this post is not sponsored by anybody, I’m just writing this because I think it’s a great toy, and anybody trying to get into dog sports needs a toy their dog is super enthusiastic about, and in this case, the toy is super versatile, too. Big plus!

I’d seen Silvia Trkman training with a version of this toy initially, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Hol-ee roller in action. Look at that stretch! Look at that tug!!

I bought the ‘medium’ size which would be better suited to a border collie I think, as Lumen’s lower jaw often gets stuck in the holes already, and she’s still meant to get bigger. That being said, she doesn’t mind, and just pulls it off with her foot or manages to spit it out.

The best thing about this toy, as I said, is its versatility. You can throw it, tug on it, skitter it around on the ground, all without your fingers or hands being chomped on (Lu likes to tug and tries to play with a traditional tennis ball. Uh, no). This is the toy that Lumen has actually managed to learn to TUG with. She was an average tugger before, but she puts all her strength into tugging this one. I think she can get a great grip with her teeth (ropes she’s always found a bit hard to grip- a bit slippery) and because it’s rubber, it’s sort of bouncy and stretchy, meaning no jarring when she tugs back.

Because it can be thrown, brought back and tugged, this opens up a great amount of possibility for games – if she lets go during the tug, I’ll throw it, keeping her prey-drive high.. I can throw it as she comes out of a tunnel, or use it as a target to latch on to after a tight turn.
It seems very sturdy for my girl, though I wouldn’t leave a serious chewer alone with it- she’d have no inclination to destroy it – and despite all the full-on tugging we’ve been doing, I haven’t been concerned about it breaking from being over-stretched at all.

Price was pretty reasonable, I guess, given the price of most toys and tug-ropes. If you compare it to a tennis ball, sure, it’s going to come out more expensive.

I bought mine from Game on Dogs, who have a huge selection of great toys for motivating your dog. I also got my ‘lamb tug’ from there too- our other favourite.  Check it out if you’re looking for an affordable, versatile toy for motivating your dog!