Outwitted by my Russell
(San Diego, CA)
My Parsons JRT, Boomer, was never one for playing fetch. From the time he was a puppy, through adulthood, and through the end of his life, keep-away remained his game of choice. He would bring back the thrown ball, but he would never present it to me. Instead he would stand a few feet away with his tail held high, challenging me to take it from him. If I feigned no interest, he would drop the ball by his side and excitedly graze the grass in the yard, moving the ball with him and waiting for me to make my move.
When he was about 2 years old, I made a vain effort to teach him to fetch the ball. Isolating him in a narrow side yard that culminated in at the gate, I threw his ball down the corridor and let him bound after it. Upon retrieving the ball, he would charge back up the corridor and attempt to sidestep me, but I was able to block his path and pry the ball from his jaws and give him positive reinforcement (Good boy!) while dropping the ball at my feet and slipping him a liver treat.
I repeated this process for about 30 minutes with no progress. Boomer continued his attempts to rush past me, I kept trapping him and taking the ball, alternating rewarding him with treats and praise. On the last throw, Boomer trotted back to me (I had reasoned that the repeated sprints up and down the side yard had finally tired him).
Dutifully, he dropped the ball in front of me, letting it roll between my feet. He accepted the treat from me, locking eyes with me as he gulped it down, then quickly slipped past me and grabbed the ball which had rolled past my feet and shot away from me into the main yard. He ran with a bouncing, galloping gait to signal his victory. It is something he would repeat for the rest of his life and always made me laugh as something so intrinsic to his nature.
I never again tried to train Boomer to fetch, instead simply appreciating his penchant for keep-away as an element so endemic to his personality. He was an awesome dog in so many other ways that allowing him his favorite game was easy to accept. A dog with a sense of humor was something I had never experienced before I owned a Russell.