Dog Etiquette

A river is the perfect playground for dogs to practice fetching things from water. Some dogs are lucky enough to have their own familiar chasing object, brought from home. Here are some dog-etiquette tips for chasing a tennis ball.

1. The Mental Preparation

This requires extreme concentration. Owners forget that dogs only see in shades of grey, so that bright luminous yellow colour is no help. And some dog owners have a serious problem with their release!

 Guaranteed to get the tennis ball moving.
Casual Preparation Stance

Be Prepared

So be prepared. Seems a simple thing to remember, really. But be ready to rush off on a few wild goose chases - not that there is actually a wild goose to chase. If there was you wouldn't be hanging around waiting for that fluffy grey ball to fly, would you? And if the tennis ball keeps getting stuck (why does it do that?), try the casual, relaxed look - this usually helps.

2. The Alert

Always watch the swinging arm of the dog-owner carefully, noting any sudden kinks or bends. Another giveaway is noise - listen on high alert for any sudden expulsion of air, like a grunt or a groan. Remember - they will throw the ball eventually. That's what they do


3. The Run

This part's simple. A straight line always does the trick. Ignore any ball bouncing - dogs don't analyse parabolas. They just anticipate the ball's destination and run like the wind. Forget friction, spin, turn, and the like. At the river, tennis balls go into the water nine throws out of ten, so an intelligent older dog might choose to take up an advance position.

 Recommended for older, wiser dogs - not so far to run!
Intense Preparation Stance

4. The Swim

Water - no problem. Remember - your ancestors invented dog-paddle. Be aware, however, that in some rivers the water temperature can be a bit cold. However, dogs who have dimished testicles (ouch!) won't need to worry about this.

 As much as caninely possible.
Swim With the Current

Understand your river currents - a wise dog, whether pure-bred or mongrel, will swim with the water flow. Emerging downstream is far better than struggling for breath against the current and dropping the darned ball.

5. The Shake

The shake can be dramatic or commonplace - and it's best to drop the tennis ball before you do it. The length of your fur will affect the length of the shake (or even the need to). Generally the best place to shake is as close to your dog owner as possible. Be prepared for a strangely noisy reaction.

 Note the sensible position of the tennis ball.
A Good Shake

6. The Return of the Tennis Ball

Now for some dogs this is the most difficult part of the process, and, try as they may, they just don't get it. In order to have the ball rethrown, you are actually supposed to RETURN to your owner and DROP the ball from your mouth. Rusty the red Border collie is seen here demonstrating what not to do!

 Rusty needs to come back to his owner with the tennis ball.
Too Far Away!

On no account should dogs run away with the tennis ball. Never growl as the owner's hand approaches, and don't over-slobber, either - you might find yourself prematurely in the back of the car. Remember - watching others having fun is no fun for a dog.

Short Attention Spans

Now it's hopefully back to the beginning of the next throw. But be warned. You might have to make allowances for your owner's short attention span. Unbelievable though it may seem, he or she can get bored after just fifty throws. Dogs thus caught short can sometimes prolong the session by picking up a non-smelly stick.

 Remember not to blink.
What Big Brown Eyes?

If this fails, you have two options. The first is to sit at your owner's feet, put on that goofy look that he or she thinks is love, and gaze up with your big brown - well, more like shades of grey, from a dog's perspective - eyes.

In Case of Emergency, Roll...

As a last resort (be warned - this a rather aggressive tactic, only to be used in an emergency) find something dead-old and smelly, and ROLL. Roll decisively, aiming for maximum coverage, and quickly, too, before anyone notices... You'll need another dip in the water before they let you in the car, hee hee.


The Moosey Canine and Feline Model Agency provided Rusty the red Border collie for the dog model. Dog owner Stephen threw the tennis ball, and the photographs were shot on location at the Waimakariri River, Canterbury, New Zealand.