If you've read my blog for any length of time you will know that Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione Sophia is slightly defective. (I say that with all of the love in the world)! However, we picked the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed for its lap dog qualities and our little girl is the the furthest thing from a lap dog. We had picked her breed so that we could do therapy work with her: those plans may have to be placed on hold until she's a senior citizen and no longer a Jumping Bean. She certainly loves her people, but she needs vigorous daily exercise and a lot of stimulation. It doesn't bother me most days, but since it's been below minus 10 C most days this winter getting her out for her exercise has been difficult. We're all going a bit stir crazy.
So, for quite some time I've been trying to come up with an activity I could do with her to keep her little brain and muscles stimulated.
We tried scent detection, but she acted like more of a sight hound.
I thought Rally O, but she became so bored with the activities no amount of high value treats or toys could keep her interest. "I already know how to do that Mom!"
Then, one day, when talking with Brooke from the blog "Ruled by Paws" the answer was found.
Brooke and her husband Huib and their fuzzy gang picked Rufio, Otis and Hermione up from the airport for Mr. K and I when we moved back from Edinburgh. The animals were arriving before us and they really needed some guardians until we could get back. In those few days, Brooke got to know my little energiser bunny. She suggested to me that we try Fly Ball with Hermione.
Why hadn't I thought of that?!
It was something I had thought would be fun, but knew it wasn't something I could do with the dogs I had at the time. The first time I read about fly ball I had a guide dog and guide dogs are not to be chasing balls, never mind jumping hurdles. I had completely forgot about the sport until Brooke suggested we try it. So, off I went to research how to start a dog on Fly Ball.
Initially, I was worried because Hermione's not fantastic at fetch. She loves chasing the ball, but I wouldn't say she's a ball obsessed dog. This apparently is a good thing. Sometimes dogs who are too ball obsessed won't make good fly ball athletes because the ball is way more important than the running of the hurdles Etc-or so I've read.
There was an exercise that I read about that is used to start a dog. It is called "dead ball" or something like that. Basically, your dog has to want to still retrieve the ball even if it's not moving. I knew Hermione would chase a ball and get it if it was moving/bouncing/rolling Etc, but I wasn't sure what her interest was if the toy was still. So, testing her interest in a stationary ball has been what we've been working on. She loves it. All I do is set the ball down, release her from a sit stay and she goes tearing after it. I'll even randomly just carry the ball around with me, set it down and see if she takes interest. She does. I started with a ball that Kim so nicely gave to us. It has a bell in the middle which makes it possible for me to know if Hermione's playing with it. I knew she loved that ball: it's her favourite toy and so that is why I started with that. Now, I'm going to have to switch over to tennis balls since that is what is used in Fly Ball. I probably could have started with a tennis ball, but the number one rule in dog training is to always set your dog up for success. I was counting on Hermione's love for that ball to help her be successful. I don't think she even knows we're training.
My next step is to get her used to jumping over things or at least stepping over them to start. We have a long narrow hallway and I am going to place a broom handle across the entrance of the hall. The handle will start on the floor so it's not super high and intimidating. I'll see how she does with that very unobtrusive obstacle and slowly start raising it. The idea behind using the entrance of the hall is to ensure she has to go over. There is no way for me to know 100 percent if she goes over instead of around if I placed the broom handle down in an open area. This way, she doesn't have a choice; except for not going over I suppose, but at least I'll know what she's doing and adjust training accordingly.
Once she's got some of the basics down it will be fun to find a club and start training with others and maybe one day competing. But, I won't get ahead of myself. First we have to start jumping and bringing the ball back to me consistently.