“Find someone who looks at you like Grace looks at a rabbit ball.”
I wish I’d discovered the joys of game dummies and balls years ago – they are one of the best things I’ve ever bought for my dogs. The idea might seem a bit disgusting but… the look on the dog’s face makes you forget quickly.
Each dog will have their preferences and what tugs at their soul. Nell loved pheasant and their sounds were truly the song of her heart. For Grace, rabbits are her true love – not only does their smell electrify her outdoors, but these rabbit balls are much loved indoors too. However, they’re loved more “gently” than regular balls which I’d describe as more of an obsession and, paradoxically, they’re also easier to leave around. And our friend’s Gordon setter who has never been interested in tug toys instantly fell in love with a boar skin tug – her human had never seen a reaction like that!
I suspect these game toys fulfil an unmet need for (some) dogs because it seems to bring a satisfaction almost nothing else does. And if your dog is already mad about rabbits, for example, this helps them meet that genetically wired need – if you allow them to scratch that itch regularly in a controlled way, there is less of a need to take matters into their own hands.
This is the same principle used when training young hunting spaniels: never let them discover the joys of hunting for themselves because they’ll never work for you, and even if you don’t work them, it’s much harder to persuade them to stay with you once they’ve discovered that dopamine and adrenaline high from the chase. I guess one comparison could be getting your rush from riding a rollercoaster vs. skydiving?
You can find them at hunting stores online – there are also small bottles of scent you can put on other items and use them for fetching (remember that the world of smell means more to dogs than it does for us!).
For Grace, the best of the best is a tennis ball covered in rabbit fur – I can only assume it’s the ultimate sensory satisfaction of holding a round object with just the right texture and your nose is filled with the most delightful smell!
Some links if you want to take a look (not affiliated, just to make it easier for you!)
In the Netherlands:
In the UK, Sporting Saint has a great selection but I’m sure there are lots of other stores too.
I have only ever seen the boar skin at dog shows, but there are also sheepskin tugs available – often used for agility and other training: