I bought Sassy some new, hardier tennis-ball-sized balls and a Kong Frisbee on Amazon this week, and they came last night. We managed to get about an hour of hard running (we, meaning she, while I pitched and retrieved it from over the fence when it bounced off her nose) before the rain hit. Unfortunately, we only got to try one out, and naturally, she got quite possessive over it after the first time I pitched it. After her brilliant move of eating half a tennis ball two weeks ago, I wasn't going to let her keep it and try to pop it, so I turned the hose on her. It took about five rounds, plus some chasing her around the yard, before she caught on that I wasn't taking it to keep it or throw it away, but rather throw it for her to retrieve. After that, we had a good time.
I'm trying to train her to lay down before doing anything (i.e. getting a treat, me throwing the ball, etc.) as opposed to sitting down. It's too easy for her butt to come right back up when she sits, thus keeping her in that overexcited mode. Laying down requires more of a relaxation commitment, and it makes more sense to her when I ask her to "stay" in that position. She's fully caught on to it being a necessity every time she gets a treat; the ball, on the other hand, requires more insistent reminders and longer wait times from me before she remembers that I want her to lay down. Heck, it's not like it slows her down on the retrieve at all--in fact, it just focuses her concentration more, and she actually manages to catch the ball on the bounce more often than before.
If you have a dog who is play-obsessed, particularly when it comes to fetch, watch his or her eyes while he or she is waiting for you to throw the toy. I've recently realized that when Sassy is focusing in on the ball (etc.), her eyes dilate to the point of the irises almost completely disappearing. It's actually a little intimidating! In fact, looking back at a video I took of her about a year ago, you can see this happening somewhat, even in the dim light (and it's not the light that's causing the dilation.... it's the intensity. It even happens during the daytime):
Let me know if you notice your dog doing the same thing! I bet it's more common than I'd realized. Either that, or my dog's more intense than most. Maybe both. It's that herding breed in her (she's part blue-heeler), I think, that intensifies the labrador focus and obsession.
Well, I'm off. Take comfort, my friends... it's Friday!