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It’s not that you’re biased, but you’ve got the cutest puppy in the entire world. The little bundle of fur bounds towards you as soon as you open the front door. Poppy then proceeds to follow you into every room in the house, including the bathroom. Now you quite liked her clingy nature to begin with, but now you’re realising that she's obviously got a lot of energy. Fortunately, you’re an active family and outside is a bouncy volleyball and plenty of space to play.
Training your puppy to play volleyball will almost definitely tire her out, ensuring she spends her evenings napping peacefully. The exercise is also good for her, helping her muscles to grow strong and lean, hopefully protecting her from ailments later on. But perhaps most importantly of all, training Poppy to play volleyball will make her social media famous all over the state! If those aren’t reasons enough, it may encourage you or other family members to get out and do some exercise.
Training a puppy to play volleyball is surprisingly easy. Admittedly, she probably isn't going to master all the rules. However, you can definitely train her to chase the ball and hit it to you, you simply need to find the right motivation. Treats and tasty food often works extremely well, but simply playing with her animated owners can also be motivation enough.
If Poppy is a fast learner and eager to please, then it could be just a week or two before you’ve got the latest edition to your volleyball team. But if your puppy spends most of her time napping and has a short attention span, then you may need a little while longer. It could be a couple of months before she's leaping into action and winning games. Training your puppy to play volleyball comes only with benefits, for both you and her. Exercise is good for both the body and mind!
Before you start playing, you’ll need to check that you have a few essentials. You will, of course, need a volleyball to play with. Try to use a relatively soft ball to start with, as you don’t want to scare Poppy. You will also need a large space to train in. This could be a yard, a beach or a local park. A friend or two will also be needed, as will a balloon.
Set aside around fifteen minutes each day for training. Make sure you have appropriate clothing and footwear to be running around in, as well. If you’re training in hot weather, a generous supply of water for both of you is also important.
Once you’ve got the above, put on your sneakers, grab your ball and puppy, then head for the door!
The Take It Slow Method
The right ball
Use a light, bouncy ball to start with. Anything too big and heavy may scare your puppy and stop training in its tracks. Once you have that, head for a large outdoor space with your puppy and ball. Try and find somewhere that isn’t too busy, so she won’t get distracted.
Now start gently bouncing the ball in front of Poppy. As you do this, talk in a high-pitched voice and get animated. This will give her time to get comfortable and see that the ball isn’t anything to be scared of.
Once she looks interested, roll the volleyball to your puppy. Make sure you roll it slowly as you don’t want to scare her. Start from quite far away so she has plenty of time to move out of the way if she isn't sure to start with.
As soon as she touches the ball, rush over and give her lots of praise. You can give her a tasty treat, verbal praise and just generally give her lots of attention. The happier she feels, the more eager she will be to touch it again.
Once she's comfortable around the ball, you can start volleying it to Poppy. At this point, you can then only reward her when she volleys the ball back to you. Being selective with treats will teach her that she needs to return it. Now you simply need to practice regularly so she improves.
The Pull Back Method
Head out into a yard or park with your puppy, a volleyball and a friend or two. Be animated and playful as you go, as you want to put Poppy at ease. This method relies on your puppy wanting what she can’t have.
Now start playing volleyball with your friends. However, make sure Poppy can see you having a great time. The more relaxed and happy you are, the more at ease she will feel and the more eager she will be to play.
Make sure she can’t get to the ball. Have one of your friends gently hold Poppy by the collar. The very fact that she can’t get to it is going to make her desperate to charge towards it.
After a couple of seconds, release Poppy so she can run towards the ball. At this point, make sure she gets to touch it and tap it. Shout encouragement in a high-pitched voice as she charges. Your job is now to support and make her feel involved.
As soon as she touches the ball, give her a reward. You can use treats, her favorite food, or simply verbal praise. If you use a clicker when you train, click as soon as she touches the ball. Now you simply need to practice a few times each week. Each time, make her work harder for the ball and don’t hand over treats unless she actually volleys it to you or one of your friends.
The Balloon Method
Many puppies are nervous and shy, especially around objects they do not know or understand. Volleyballs can seem big and scary, particularly when you’re just a little puppy. So using a balloon instead can be a great way to ease them in. Take Poppy into a large space, sit on the floor and wave the brightly coloured balloon around.
Keep moving it about until she seems relaxed and eager to touch it. If she doesn’t seem interested after a while, point and talk in a high-pitched voice to capture her interest.
As soon as your puppy does touch the balloon, give her loads of praise. Treats, toys, and verbal praise will all do the job. Just try to give her a reward within three seconds, otherwise she may not associate the action with the reward.
Introduce the ball
Once you’ve spent a couple of sessions with the balloon, introduce a volleyball. Again, start on the floor and encourage her to take an interest. Start moving further away and volleying it to each other. Once she gets the hang of it, only reward her for successful volleys and hitting it in your direction.
Short and sweet
Puppies have a very short attention span. Keep training sessions short to start with. Play for too long and Poppy could get bored. Importantly, puppies also need plenty of rest to grow big and strong. The trick is to build up her stamina gradually over many weeks.
By James Barra
Published: 05/31/2018, edited: 01/08/2021