A popular game played by Australian shepherds is something my family calls Keep Away.
Variations abound, but it goes a little something like this: “I’ve got the ball. NOPE, you can’t have it! Teeheehee!”
“You should chase me now to try and get it!”
Being such smart dogs, if Aussies aren’t getting enough physical and/or mental exercise, they’ll find their own. Keep Away is one of Rain’s favorites to play with my mom. Rain will grab something she’s not supposed to have—a glass coaster, perhaps, or a check. She’s pretty good at finding things to pick up that will be bad for her if she damages, or bad for us.
She won’t do anything with the item at first. When the human sees her, she will scamper off and invite them into a good chase around the house. She’ll duck under tables and use the maze of chair and table legs for protection. She’ll be backed into a corner and still manage to spring out from between the human’s legs.
It’s pretty hilarious, even when it’s infuriating.
This morning Rain tried to play Keep Away during our morning jaunt to the park (as seen above). We have a schedule to keep, and we had a distraction that was keeping us from playing ball for a bit. But she wasn’t ready to go home!
Rain would bring the ball back but not give it to me. She’d then duck just out of the way when I’d try to put my hand on the ball in her mouth or to grab her harness to leash her up again to leave.
Her Uncle Atticus used to do something similar when he was young. We would play frisbee and when he sensed it was about time to go home, he’d snap up the frisbee in the grass and quickly turn his head when I’d try to grab it from his mouth.
He had figured out the signal that we were stopping: I walked toward the frisbee in a certain way and stepped on it instead of picking it up to throw it again. If he could stop me from stepping on the frisbee, we would have to keep playing. Dog logic!
What’s my “tell” that Rain has figured out? When I start throwing the ball closer to the area of the park we exit from, I think she knows that we’re winding down. And it’s a perfect time to steal the ball.
Aussies are too smart!