Friday, May 29, 2009

toys, Toys, TOYS!

This is a post in two parts. This first part is written by Helen Hamilton, the breeder of this litter. She is also mom to Echo. The second part is written by Tamara, Tanner's mom.

Can a puppy have too many toys?

Some greyhounds are very toy oriented, others could care less. Most of the “toy” dogs love to carry soft fuzzy squeaky toys in their mouths. Surprisingly they are very gentle on toys and rarely chew them. I have some toys from 20 years ago. A little washing and patching and they are good as new. Performance people love a dog with toy/prey drive. To me this type of toy/prey drive appears to be a very different behavior. Lyric has the strongest prey drive I have ever had in a greyhound. Indeed it is still hard to get her to leave the cat(s) alone.

She also loves to carry large soft toys in her mouth-she runs to the door to be let out with a toy in her mouth, will run out potty and return with the toy firmly held in her mouth yet I can’t use this to reward in training, she just doesn’t care enough. I use a lunge line like a lure for her to chase as a training reward. I have also seen her run up and down the fence line with a toy in her mouth after squirrel and once a jack. Spirit also really enjoyed carrying toys around.

Whisper and Lyric would often play together with a toy.

Now we hear from Tamara, Tanner's mom.

I love how much puppies love to play with toys. I love watching them play together and I love watching them play with their mom. This is Winnie playing with Whisper. Winnie would tug really gently and let Whisper think they were an even match.

I love how easy it is to interact with them and pique their interest. As my previous greyhounds aged, they seemed to be less and less interested in playing with toys on their own. My first greyhound, Tigger, had a Ty ball that he loved to carry around.

Even when he was 14 years old, he would get up in the morning, go out in the living room and pounce on the Ty ball! He was also very motivated by his frisbee. Winnnie, on the other hand was not as motivated by toys. I learned to use the frisbee in training with Tigger. It was great to be able to pull it out (or even say the word) and bring some energy into our training. I did not have that with Winnie due to her low toy drive. Eventually, I purposefully taught Winnie to tug with me and it made a great difference in our training. I learned that this drive can be taught!

With Tanner, I am working on teaching him to enjoy interacting with me and to tug with me in training.

I am particularly working on teaching him to tug with me everywhere! Too often dogs will tug well at home but not so much anywhere else (just like obedience performances!). I am using a piece of sheepskin scrap that I picked up at a leather store in town. He seems to be able to grip it more easily than other things. I keep it put away when we are not playing together. I try to keep our tug sessions very short, when he gives a really hard (for him) tug I let him win.

When he brings it back I interact with him. After a few go rounds, I put it away. In the back yard, we sometimes tug on whatever toy is back there. He has a nice retrieve and one way I reward that is by tugging. It has been tough to find toy that he can get a good grip one!

The most important thing about tugging with your dog is to set rules and stick to them. The dog should let go immediately when I ask and only grab it when given permission. No cheating by grabbing my hand or arm to get me to let go (this offense causes an immediate and abrupt end to the game). It takes a lot of self control on the dog's part and toys area great way to teach self control!

I also leave toys out for Tanner to amuse himself and there are several toys that he and Shine like to play with together. Actually, any toy that Shine has is the one that Tanner wants!

Here is a link to one of my favorite blogs with an article that Fanny wrote on using toys to increase play drive.

Of course, we haven't talked about chew toys. That's a whole other subject in and of itself!