All posts by maisiethenewfieandcompany

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

I’ve been dog training a lot lately.  I mean, A LOT.

Maisie and I are still diligently working toward becoming a therapy team.  I must admit, I’ve been ready to throw in the towel a couple of times but then I take a breath and try to focus on how far we’ve come.  We are sooo close, my greatest hope is that we will be able to wrap this up and get working very soon.IMG_7172Winn and I have been doing a different kind of training.  We’ve enjoyed Rally Obedience and she has earned her Rally Novice and Rally Intermediate titles. We are at a stopping point with it for now because the next levels all include a jump and that is not good for her until she’s about two years old.

Since Rally has helped us form a great foundation as a working team, I decided to learn about what was required to earn an Obedience title.  I observed a few trials when we were at Newfoundland National and the Beginner Novice level seemed to be a good match for our skills.  Winn would be on leash and rally signs are laid out for the heeling pattern.  It all seemed doable for us, but I would be limited on commands and signals, which is very different from Rally.  In Rally, I can talk to her and encourage her as much as I want, not so in Obedience.

I printed up the rules so that I could have a clearer picture of what I should be doing and scheduled a couple of short sessions with our Rally trainer. The two exercises that I was worried about were the Figure Eight and the Sit for Exam.  Both involve strangers and Winn can be a little shy.

In Rally, the Figure Eight is done around cones and we easily go around them with no trouble, even with food bowl distractions near our path.  This test requires two strangers to stand facing each other instead of cones.

The Sit for Exam requires me to put her in a sit/stay then stand 6 feet in front of her while the judge approaches her and gently touches her head.  Up until now, I have stood next to her while she is meeting a stranger which over time has gotten much easier for her.

We met with our Rally trainer to practice all of the exercises so that I could get used to doing them with the obediance guidelines.  There are specific positions to hold my hands, some exercises allow one phrase of encouragement and others don’t. Most exercises allow either a verbal command or a hand signal, not both.  All of that is new for me as a handler and Winn needs to be comfortable heeling next to me while we work our figure eight around people as well as having the judge approach her without me by her side.  We had people from the training center help us and after practicing several times, we both were a lot more comfortable with what we needed to do.

Last weekend we entered a show to give it a try and we did pretty well!  The funny thing for me was that it was held at a sporting facility that for many years was one of my lacrosse carpool destinations.  My son played indoor lacrosse every winter with the same group of boys during grade school and middle school.  When I walked in with Winn I had a major deja-vu moment.  The crating area was in one of the basketball courts and the rings were set up on one of the turf fields. I couldn’t believe it!  I sent my son a picture and he recognized it right away.  My husband advised me to not let Winn lose her mouth guard.  That made me chuckle.

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The turf field

Winn’s crate is pretty big and I found a great spot next to a Great Dane and her owner that I’ve seen before at trials.  Once our hang out spot was situated, I wanted to walk her around on the turf so that she could get used to it.  That was a new experience for her. We have always been on hard or padded indoor surfaces and the turf has a very different feel.  I wasn’t the only one curious about how the dogs would do on turf, I watched mixed reactions from many of the other dogs and handlers around us.  All of us had the same fear that they would feel free to potty on the turf, but I don’t think that happened.  At least I never saw it happen which was a relief.

On Saturday, I entered us into a Rally Intermediate trial to use as a warm-up since we work well together in Rally and followed that with two Beginner Novice trials. Winn was great in Rally and scored a 98 (we even had a Figure Eight to navigate), one of our best scores! I quickly put her in her crate and went straight to the walk through for the first Obedience trial. We were the first dog to go, so I hustled back to get her and did my best to keep calm while waiting for the judge to call us into the ring.

We did pretty well, but the Figure Eight was the tough one for us.  Winn kept stopping to  smell the shoes of one of the stewards and I’m pretty sure I gave her several voice commands to keep us going.  Fortunately, that didn’t disqualify us, but we did lose 8 out of 40 points on that. She lagged once (walked behind me) in the heeling pattern but every thing else was perfect on her part.  The judge let me know that I should use a different hand position on our recall for our next trial but she congratulated us for qualifying (scoring 170 or better) on our first try! We scored 188 1/2 out of 200 and were the only ones in our group to qualify so I was really proud as we left the ring.

We did even better the next time around.  We lost only 2 points out of 40 on the heeling, 4 points on the Figure Eight and 1/2 point on the recall  (my hands were in the right position but my head bobbed a little) for a score of 193 1/2.  She was perfect for Sit for Exam and the Sit Stay while I walked around the entire perimeter of the ring. Once again, we were the only dog in our group to qualify and I was so happy to score in the 190’s. I really didn’t expect that! We ended the day with three blue ribbons, which are fun tokens for the day, but two qualifying scores in Obedience on our first two tries were the best prizes in my opinionIMG_7452.jpgOn Sunday we entered 1 Rally Intermediate trial and 1 Obedience trial.  Day 2 has proven to be more difficult for us as a team in the past and we were definitely more sloppy.  We scored an 85 in Rally which I think is our worst score ever, but I really didn’t care because I was just using it as a warm up for our Obedience trial.  The Figure Eight was a challenge, Winn actually stopped to stare at one of the stewards and I had to give her a quick tug to get her going again. Our heeling didn’t feel as crisp as it should have and I bobbed my head again on the recall, but we did qualify along with one other dog.  We scored somewhere in the low 180’s and got second place. I forgot the score because all I really focused on was that we qualified and got the title (3 qualifying scores under 2 different judges)!IMG_7467I have to say, I really enjoyed the Obedience work.  It’s a new challenge and Winn and I have a good time working together.  We hung out with some friends who we’ve seen at previous trials and I connected with someone to start training with for Obedience.  I’ve haven’t found someone in my area and this woman told me she teaches at a dog club not too far from my house so I’m planning on checking that out next month. She and her Doberman had such a perfect Figure Eight that the judge complimented her. She gave me a couple of tips but I know that we need a lot more practice to better master the timing, pace and focus that it requires.

As a special reward for Winn, when she does well in trials I whip through the Chick-fil-A drive thru and get her a small box of chicken strips.  She loves them and now she knows what that red box is.  On Saturday I was feeling so good about our success that I bought two boxes so that she could have one after Sunday’s trial as well (they are closed on Sundays).  When we got home Sunday, I made her pose for a picture with all of her ribbons and then I went to get her reward.  I opened the refrigerator and it was gone! I knew immediately what had happened. My son Thomas had eaten her chicken! I hollered down the stairs at him and he stared up at me like I’d lost my mind when I told him that was for Winn. His response was a logical one. He said, “I thought food in the refrigerator was for eating.” I had to laugh, just a little.  Winn did find the empty box, and tore it to shreds looking for her prized chicken strips, but I found some chicken jerky in the dog treat bin that she also thinks is pretty delicious. That made her happy and was good ending to a very successful weekend.IMG_7501

In honor of Annie…

June 7th will be our annual dog birthday party.

Annie was the first dog of my dogs to have a birthday party.  She had never had the opportunity of feeling special before she was rescued and I was compelled to give her as many celebrations as possible.

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Annie’s first birthday party, Annie turns 10! 06/07/16
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Annie turns 11! 06/07/17

This year she would have been 12.  Last year, I knew that chances were slim that we would be having another party for her. 12 is a ripe, old age for a Newfoundland but I was hopeful.  She had some chronic conditions that we were managing, but none of them were fatal and she was so happy with us.  I knew she wasn’t going to give up easily, she was enjoying the good life and for her, every day was a happy day filled with love.

Winn turned 1 on March 6th and Maisie turned 5 on May 12th.  Rather than doing birthday parties for them, I decided we would wait until June and have our first annual doggie birthday celebration.  I pulled out the hats, made some pupcakes and frozen yogurt sundaes and gave them these special treats after dinner. I remebered Annie and it felt good to have another celebration in her honor.IMG_3979.JPG Happy Birthday girls, and Happy Heavenly Birthday Annie!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: All-Time Favorites

I was really sad to read that this would be the final weekly photo challenge.  I still remember the first time I participated, I was so nervous about putting something out there!  What I discovered was a supportive network filled with people who love to capture images.  We all interpret the theme in our own way and there are no wrong answers.  The photo challenge has exposed me to people from all over the world and their experiences and lives.  I’ll miss it, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to participate.  I gained the confidence I needed to keep posting and build my blog to what it is today.

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My first photo challenge. The prompt was Cherry on Top.
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My favorite picture of Maisie. She loves everybody and just wants to be friends!

via Photo Challenge: All-Time Favorites

Why do Newfoundland dogs wear life jackets while water training?

IMG_7246This is a valid question. Newfoundlands are known as water rescue dogs.  This story was published in the New York Times in 1919 and is one of the oft-repeated Newfoundland Dog legends:

DOG LANDS LIFELINE, SAVES 92 ON WRECK

Swims from the Ethie, Aground Off Newfoundland, After Shot Fell Short.

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CREW FEARED TO VENTURE

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Fishermen Ashore Pull Wreck Victims Over the Surf —Baby Rides in Mail Bag.

CURLING, N.F. Dec. 16. – The passengers and crew of the coastal steamer Ethie, numbering ninety-two persons, were brought ashore on a lifeline which was run out from the ship by a Newfoundland dog after their vessel grounded upon Martin’s Point.

Boats could not make the hazardous passage from the stranded steamer. An effort to shoot the line ashore failed when the line became caught. Men did not dare attempt the trip through the waters and so the dog was put overboard. Directed by officers of the Ethie the intelligent animal succeeded in releasing the rope and, holding it tightly in his teeth, fought his way through the breakers to the shore.

With block and tackle the Ethie’s crew, aided by fishermen on the shore, rigged a life-saving device, using a boatswain’s chair for a carriage. One by one, in this chair, ninety-one of the ninety-two persons aboard were hauled to safety. A baby, 18 months old, was pulled ashore in a mail bag.

The Ethie, which had been engaged in the coastal service between Curling and Labrador ports, went ashore last Wednesday during a gale while bound south. The wreck was not reported here until the shipwrecked passengers and crew arrived from Bonne Bay, all wires having gone down in the storm.

The New York Times
Published: December 17, 1919
Copyright The New York Times

After reading this, it does seem silly to put a life jacket on a rescue dog, but those training for Newfoundland Dog water rescue tests do wear them for several reasons.

  • Control. Canine life jackets have a handle on top which is an easy way to grab a dog while training.  They will also slow down an over-exuberant or anxious dog, allowing them to swim more calmly and focus on their handler while learning new skills in the water.
  • Wearing a canine life jacket helps to build strength and endurance.   A canine life jacket creates resistance in the water when they are swimming.  Swimming with resistance builds stamina, allowing them to swim faster and longer once it is removed.  The extra buoyancy also helps fight fatigue so that as they train, they can swim for longer periods of time, keep good focus and build strength.
  • A canine life jacket keeps them buoyant when they have slowed down. While training, we may slow down to repeat exercises or reward with treats and the life jacket keeps them floating so they can focus on their handler during these times.IMG_3547
  • A canine life jacket reinforces an efficient swimming position in the water.  Most dogs swim with their backs in line with the water but some dogs swim with their back ends in a lower position.  A canine life jacket keeps their bodies in a horizontal position and also helps create awareness of their back legs making them more efficient swimmers as they use all four legs to propel themselves through the water.IMG_3746
  • It helps build confidence. Not all dogs are naturally good swimmers, even some Newfoundlands, and wearing a canine life jacket will help a nervous dog enjoy his time in the water while learning to swim in a proper position as well as building strength and stamina.
  • It helps them recover quickly when jumping into the water. One of the skills on the test is jumping from a boat.  When they jump in, their head will likely submerge which can be startling for a dog learning this skill.  The life jacket helps keep their head higher in the water and they pop up more quickly.  It doesn’t usually take long for a Newfie to get comfortable with the sensation of going under the water and coming back up, but the first few attempts forms their opinion and if they decide they don’t like it, they may never do it again.IMG_3859

Since Newfoundlands are in the XL category, there are fewer canine life jackets to choose from.  I purchased two different models to use and compare after reading many reviews and talking to other Newfoundland owners.

The first one is by NRS (Northwest River Supplies). They make top rated PFD’s (personal flotation device) for humans and use the same technology and products to make their CFD (canine flotation device).  I liked that it has wide bands that go under the belly rather than flaps with velcro that their long hair can get stuck in.  It buckles at the top of their back and is adjustable on both ends. It also has a handy, zipper pocket to store a leash or ball if desired.IMG_2927The second one is by Ruffwear and is the most popular with Newfoundland owners because it fits their bodies well and is very durable.  We have used this brand at the swimming pool they train at. My only complaint is that the buckles are very low on their side and I have to straddle them and reach under their belly to get it secured.IMG_6633I plan to write a more detailed review on both of them at the end of the summer. Time will tell which one I like better.