I've been playing a game with my dogs for a while, which I sort of refer to in my head as the Ball and Frisbee game. It needs two dogs, and specifically, it probably needs my two dogs, or dogs with similar motivation.
The way we play is this:
I take out the Chuck-It (for small balls) and the frisbee (small Ruffwear soft frisbee). I start out with Variation One. I throw the ball with the thrower as far as I can get it across the field, and both dogs take off after it. Pallo gets the ball, and Koira comes pelting back to me. I throw the frisbee for Koira on her way back while Pallo comes all the way back to me and delivers the ball to my feet. Koira arrives with the frisbee, drops it in anticipation of the next ball throw, and away they go again.
After a while, we normally switch to Variation Two. Koira gets sick of playing ball, and just wants the frisbee, so I will throw the frisbee for her, immediately followed by throwing the ball for Pallo. Koira brings back the frisbee, and I throw it again, generally getting two frisbee throws for one ball throw, as Pallo brings the ball back rather slowly during this game.
The game has a couple benefits, the basic being getting out for some running time. Koira has gotten way better at catching the frisbee since we started playing this, and now catches it more often than not, even if my throw isn't stellar. We might even have a chance during our normal summer frisbee competitions (which we previously have always lost spectacularly at). Pallo pretty much works on endurance in the form of quick bursts of speed.
I am also using the game to transfer into flyball. A while back I wrote about Koira not seeming to like flyball, and that I was thinking of pulling her out of the game. Well, I no longer think that will be happening. In fact, at our last practice, the instructor commented that we should put Koira into a full line up soon. I don't think she is quite ready for that, but it shows exactly how far we have come.
The difference is in the motivation factor, which is where the game comes in. We pulled out all of the jumps except 4 (closest to the box). I send Koira over the jump to the box where her racquetball is loaded. She hits the box, grabs the ball, and comes back over the jump, where I then throw her frisbee for her back into the empty space where there should be jumps. After about 7 repetitions, Koira started to push to the box more, in anticipation of getting her frisbee when she came back to me, just like when we play our Ball and Frisbee game at home.
Sure, her turn isn't the prettiest. But it is much better than it was, better than a lot of dogs, and unlikely to get any better without improving her enjoyment of the sport first at least. And sure, she bobbles the ball quite a bit still, or spits it out while jumping. But really, I don't care, because my dog is pushing out for the ball, and returning with speed and enthusiasm. We have built up to all four jumps, but only did one repetition with all four before I went back down to two jumps again, as I don't want to push her to hard, and she hesitated a smidge at doing all four jumps.
Long in short, I am proud of the progress my girl is making. Even if she is now chubby and needing to lose some weight. Gar.