Long Haired German Shepherds just love playing WHIPPY BALL!
Watch, below, as Jane plays Whippy Ball with Drew!  (Photos taken on August 29, 2009, shortly after Drew's 10th birthday.) 

Drew's objective is to catch the ball -- and Jane's is to keep it away from her. 

If you look closely you will see that while Drew usually has her eyes on the ball, she may be heading in a different direction from where  it was as the photo was taken. 

This is a game of strategy, and Drew goes to where she thinks the ball WILL BE, not where it is now, based on the style of play of the person playing with her.  Jane's style is to whip the ball forward and backward and side to side -- Eric's is to play in a clockwise direction most of the time, varying the movement from overhead to front and back with respect to where Drew is.  She adjusts her style of play to match that of the person playing with her!

The photos below are in sequence, and give a sense of the activity of the game -- which we invented originally to provide vigorous activity for Drew without killing US!  She modified and developed the game herself, including how it is scored, and we play it daily (10-12 minutes at a time) -- starting when the ground first dries out after the rainy season in the spring till when the rains begin in the fall, ending for the year when the lawn and yard get too muddy for play.  Though she mourns the end of Whippy Ball season, Drew understands, and waits for the wet months to end, before brightly pointing out -- usually on exactly the right day -- when the next season can begin!

If the photos below haven't started appearing yet, wait for a moment.  Once all 25 are loaded, the slide show will automatically begin!

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...Okay, if you've watched the whole 25-photo sequence, you probably have an idea of how Whippy Ball works.

Now, you're wondering just what was going on in frames 24 and 25!

Well, Drew adapted and embellished the game and made it her own.  When we first started playing she was well under age 1 and not fully grown, and once she had caught the ball we could "whip" it out of her mouth to resume playing.  But after she gained her full size, her jaws were too strong for that, and we had the problem of just how we would continue the game after her first catch.  Of course, she wanted to continue it too, but was not about to let us jerk the ball out of her mouth if she could help it.

We said, "okay, if you don't let go, the game will be over."  She didn't let go, so Eric grabbed the rope on which the ball is mounted and began to drag her into the house.

Eureka!  That is how she wanted to score the game. 

When Eric dragged her up to the back porch doorway, she then let go, ran down the back steps, and started circling the stand of bamboo by the back door -- waiting for Eric or Jane to whip the ball back out into the yard and restart the game.

By the way, you will see in some of the photos a small round bare area in the middle of the lawn which Jane was standing in -- that's the "Whippy Circle". 

When we play, we stay put and just turn in one spot.  That spot has gotten worn down into the Whippy Circle.  We didn't dig it out; it is an artifact of how we play!  You may also catch a glimpse of the track around the bamboo that Drew has worn in her years of circling there after scoring.

Folks do say you should not play tug-of-war with your dog.  In this case, though, it is the only way to get on with the game! 
 
But, the main reason they say that is that it is not a good thing for your status in the family if you dog wins and you lose a tug-of-war.  In this case, though, Eric has never lost to Drew the "drag" to the back door, and Drew does not expect him to ... she just loves bucking and dragging during the trip!

So how does the game actually end?  We usually play the game by moving the ball more or less clockwise, even if whipping it about.  When it's time for the game to end, we reverse course and play counterclockwise, and when Drew catches the ball on that round, we say "all done" and head for the house.  No dragging required...she trots on into the house with the ball in her mouth.
 
(In fact, recently she worked out how to end the game when she wants to end it -- she hops in a half circle and stops! In other words, she reverses course in the way she used to when we reversed course! Nowadays, we usually let her end the game when she wants to, in this way.)

SO -- that's how Drew has trained us to play the game.  Your dog will probably find variations, and will manage to communicate them to you.  The important thing is, the dog gets great exercise and you don't overexert.  You play with your dog, and you both have fun!

The whip we use is a standard "lunge whip", available for horseback riders at some pet shops and at various pet supply locations.  The ball on the end is a very high quality Wilson tennis ball (doggie tennis balls disintegrate immediately under this sort of treatment, and inexpensive tennis balls don't last well either). 

The ball is tied to the end of the lunge whip using quarter-inch nylon rope, available at hardware stores.  See how to tie on the ball by clicking
HERE to open an Adobe Acrobat illustration of the knot and details of the construction.  (If you don't have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, you can download it here.)

It's obvious how Drew scores in the game -- she gets a point each time she catches the ball and is dragged to the back door!  But to be fun for the human player, there needs to be some way of scoring what the HUMAN does. 

In our case, we chose to count the loud audible jaw "snap" when Drew tries for the ball -- and misses. 

The only way to get a snap is to get the ball close enough to tempt her without quite getting it in range for her. 

In some games, we humans have tallied more points at the end -- in some, she has more points (we don't count her catch at the end of the final counter-clockwise round, since she and we understand that the game is over then). 
 
She doesn't care about the points, but scoring the game this way makes it more fun for the human playing, and also gives the person incentive to get good about getting the ball temptingly close without the dog grabbing it, which means the human develops skills at the game too, as it goes on.

Hope you try it.  This is Drew's all-time favorite activity!



If you have a broadband connection and are able to play 3GP video files, here is a brief movie clip of Drew playing Whippy Ball with Eric in the back yard in midsummer, 2011 -- about the time Drew turned age 12!  Click on icon at right to play -- on many PCs you will have to right-click on the icon, choose "Save target as", download it, and then play the file from your computer, in order to see it.  Be patient while the 28 MB file downloads.  (Video courtesy of Michael Sullivan)

 
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Of course, Whippy Ball is not about tennis balls.  It's about interaction, it's about using the mind and anticipating and responding to the game, it's about having fun with the people in the family.  This particular game has a particular advantage in that in fifteen to thirty minutes a day, the German Shepherd gets a really good physical workout, and the human being involved does not collapse keeping up with the dog!

But, German Shepherds love a variety of interactive games -- and having fun.  If you doubt that, then we offer proof in the video below. 

Apparently the British broadcaster who prepared this little feature story was bemused about what was assumed to be these particular German Shepherds' apparent love for soda water. 

Actually, it has no more to do with soda water than Whippy Ball is about tennis balls!
 
 
When done watching, to return to the "GSD Intellect" page, CLICK HERE.