I'm so beyond thrilled tonight. Toby has never been willing to play anywhere but home... He might take a toy if asked but would normally drop it off hand. It's never mattered where we were at... camping, staying at someone's house, just out in a field... He wouldn't play. He'd 'work,' aka tricks, but was never relaxed enough to play. Lately however, the abandoned track near by has double as our backyard/walking grounds. It's not safe to walk in the neighborhood, so I've taken to using that almost daily to get him the exercise he needs. In doing so he's gotten really, really comfortable there... enough so that he'd play agility with me and run through the jump standards I got.
So I've been trying to build the fun/relaxing aspect of the track for a little while now, in hopes that maybe he'd be comfortable enough to actually play with me. Tonight was finally cool enough that I decided to grab the jump standard for some work... and two toys. They're both new ones... a nice, soft tug and a fake rabbit pelt. No food rewards like I normally have to use when we go on an outing... just me and two toys I didn't know would work.
He was a blast!!! At first he was just thrilled to have room to stretch his legs and was pacing at the end of his 50ft line when he came trotting up to 'help' me set up the jump standard. I got out his tug toy and started twirling it over the ground, jerking it about and running and WHAM! He latched on for a game of tug and then chase and tug again. Finally I cued him to give, set him in a sit and ran him through the standard for another game of tug. I was so beyond pumped. It's the longest session we've ever had with the jump - just being able to run and play. The rabbit fur toy was even more of a hit. It's the first time I've actually walked him around and had him turning back looking for a toy to go play with instead of walk.
He was more relaxed there than I've seen him normally and totally willing to be a goof. I'm so glad to see him finally relaxing somewhere other than home like this. (On a bonus note, the other day my brother's friend was over with his 10 year old brother. The boys were all out back and had taken Toby with them while they played. Toby played beautifully with the little boy, doing his normal 'keep away' game which the boy got a kick out of chasing him around the backyard. He will bring it back if you ask, but Toby grew up with little dogs and he's always considered that type of play to work the best. Lying down to wrestle is okay but takes a lot more self control than letting the other dog chase him around. He takes that view to play sessions with people he's not too sure of how to play with either. And of course, with one of us if we're not specific right away on the game we want to play).