I have to admit, at first I thought he was cheating. The way he would take off and run halfway across the yard before I even threw the ball, or the way he would never bring the ball back to me, it just didn't seem like the right way to play ball.
The human is supposed to throw the ball and the dog is supposed to go and get it. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?
Harry not only wouldn't give the ball back, most of the time he wouldn't even pick it up. He liked to carry something while he chased the ball, like a stick or his water dish. He'd chase the ball and he'd touch it with his nose, but usually he left it wherever it stopped. Then he'd take off for the other end of the yard.
He figured I was supposed to run back and forth, at full speed I might add, and throw the ball from one end of the yard to the other so he could keep his relay going. Those were Harry's rules.
I thought about training Harry to play ball the "proper" way, according to time honoured tradition where I throw the ball and he goes and gets it. Repeat as necessary.
He seemed to be having so much fun, though, I decided to try to see things his way.
Let's face it, the game of "fetch" is fine, if you like that sort of thing, but there's no law that says that's how you have to play. Harry is not a retriever, so why should I try to force him to retrieve?
I decided to go along with whatever sort of game came naturally to Harry. First, I grudgingly gave up on the idea that I would just be standing still, throwing the ball. Harry obviously wanted me to be a more active participant. And if it was his nature to want to carry something, who was I to tell him different? I went out and bought some more tennis balls so he wouldn't have to carry a stick if he didn't want to.
The game we (or I, at least) now call "Dogball" evolved gradually on its own. Harry still likes to carry one tennis ball while he's chasing another. Interspersed with the high-speed running back and forth, however, is another game I call "Wolf Mode".
Harry invented Wolf Mode himself. In reality it probably has more to do with a thousand years of herding dog instincts than with his distant lupine ancestors, but he does look very wolfish while he's doing it.
While we're at opposite ends of the yard, Harry will put down the ball he's carrying and start creeping slowly forward, ears out to the side, tail down, eyes locked on the ball. He's very intense. If he were taller, it would actually be kind of scary.
At some point, sometimes after several minutes, by mutual agreement I throw the ball. If I do it right and get a proper bounce, Harry leaps into the air (his front paws leave the ground, which counts as a leap for a Corgi). Sometimes he gets completely vertical as he snatches the ball out of the air. On rare occasions, his back feet actually leave the ground as well. It's quite impressive.
Harry has invented quite a few other variations to Dogball as well. Sometimes he'll come running up, leap into the air, and grab the ball from my hand. This is a good one when we're both tired and don't much feel like running anymore.
Other times he'll just grab a ball and take off running, waiting for me to chase him. This one's good when there's snow on the ground and we can only find one of the fifteen tennis balls that are now in our yard.
There are many variations to Dogball. Most of them wouldn't make much sense to a spectator, but then Dogball isn't a spectator sport. It's just for fun. We're not saying everybody should play Dogball the way we do. We're just saying that you'll have a lot more fun if you stay true to your nature and don't try to force arbitrary rules on yourself and your dog and ruin something that was supposed to be fun.