All posts by maisiethenewfieandcompany

10 items to get you and your Newfie started with water dog training

Are you interested in learning something new with your dog? Does your dog respond well to training? Do you enjoy being in the water? Do you trust your dog off leash?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, great! If not, no worries, if you are willing to put in the time for training, especially with obedience, this could be your favorite new thing.

Here’s a description of each of the exercises for the Junior Water Dog test: http://www.ncanewfs.org/working/water/pages/WD.html

Last year was the first time I tried water work with my Newfoundland and I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of what I learned when I was getting started. Consider this post tips for a beginner by a beginner!

1. A training book

The first thing I bought was the book Water Work Water Play by Judi Adler. This proved to be an indispensable training manual. It explains each of the exercises for the Junior, Senior and Excellent titles. Each exercise is broken down into trainable steps with land work as well as water work. There are chapters on equipment, puppy training and basic skills like take, hold and give that are the foundation for water work. You can purchase it here.

2. Life jackets: A Coast Guard approved jacket for you and a Canine Life Jacket for your Newfie.

You are required to wear a life jacket for the test and whenever you are on a boat. Do yourself a favor and get used to wearing it whenever you train. They come in many different styles so find one that is comfortable. The dogs are not allowed to wear a life jacket for the test, but they are a very good training tool. When you are just getting started, a life jacket will help reinforce an efficient swimming position, aide with endurance and will give you more control because there is a handle that is easy to grab. I wrote a post about canine life jackets last year and you can read it here.

3. A long line (a 20 ft. leash)

In addition to the handle on the life jacket, a long line is a great tool to help gently lead your dog where you want them to go. They can swim away from you, but you still have control and can bring them back toward shore if they swim too far away, start to chase a duck or get confused. Teaching Take A Line is easily done with a long line. I gave Winn the knotted rope and sent her to the caller. He gently led her towards him by pulling on the long line when needed and then guiding her around until she was facing me and I called her back to shore. I have two different lines, a 20 foot and a 50 foot, to build distance without getting tangled up with lots of line when we are working closely. I don’t use them much anymore, but they were very helpful when we were first starting. They are also good to use on land when you are training recall.

4. Bumpers

Bumpers come in an assortment of sizes and materials. I have bought several different types to see which one Winn likes best. Some are squishy, some are hard, some have nubs, some are smooth. Winn has one bumper that she retrieves and another one that she can get a good grip on for Tow A Boat. Try different styles, each dog has a favorite and what one dog may love, another won’t like at all. You can buy bumpers at sporting goods stores like Cabelas in the bird hunting section. Online retailers Amazon, Chewy, Gun Dog Supply or TBI also sell a variety of plastic and canvas bumpers (dummies) in their dog training/retriever training section. The 2” diameter is a great size, I’ve accidentally ordered 3” or jumbo size and they are too big and heavy for what we are doing.

5. An empty gallon jug

You don’t need a boat to start training Tow A Boat. A jug filled with water mimics the weight of a floating boat. Tying a bumper and rope to the jug is a great way to introduce pulling. Start with the empty jug and gradually fill with water to add weight. Pulling the jug around the yard is great training and when a boat isn’t available, I also use it in the water. Whenever we have trouble with an exercise, we do a lot of practice on land and break the skills down step by step. Our trusty jug is a big part of land work.

6. Submersible toys

I dug out the diving toys that we used to take with us while on family vacations when my kids were little. I figured the sooner the better for Winn to get comfortable getting her face wet, and she took to it immediately. She also likes to dive for carrots on a hot day. One of the exercises on the Senior test is an underwater retrieve. There are specific dimensions for the toy and water depth, but Winn thinks it’s all a game for now.

Items 4, 5, and 6 are all things you can start playing with in your backyard. No lake needed!

7. 100 feet of floating rope

Polypropylene rope floats and can be found at hardware stores as well as boating supply stores and online. Some are hollow braid and others are multifilament. Winn likes the rope that is filled, it’s a little softer in her mouth. Tow A Boat calls for a bumper with an 8 foot line attached, Take A Line and Take A Life Ring call for a knotted line. For Take A Line, you will need to make the knot and then have 75 feet of line attached. You can make the knot and 6-8 feet of line with a loop to practice with and later on add another section of rope to equal 75 feet for the test. (Our practice line is about 25 feet because I also wanted to get comfortable feeding the line out as she swims.) YouTube is a good source to learn how to make knots, and once you get them tied, you can keep using them all season.

8. A water absorbing car liner

The worst part about water training is getting back in the car with a wet dog. I towel Winn off as much as possible, a chamois works really well, but she’s still pretty wet and we drive about an hour to our practice site. I found this blanket completely by accident. It is made by a company that makes pee pads. It’s big enough to cover the cargo area, pulls most of moisture away from Winn and doesn’t soak through on the other side. You can learn more about it here: https://www.lennypads.com/washable-training-puppy-pads-designer/

We also have a plastic cargo liner, so if I’m not using the Lenny Pad, I’ll layer on a big fleece blanket that I can easily pull out and wash when we get home. This helps with clean up and my car doesn’t smell like wet dog and stinky lake water all summer long. There are lots of options online for back seat and trunk liners as well.

9. A leash to use in the water

Leather leashes get really slippery when they are wet and canvas leashes take a while to dry and can get stinky. A lot of people make a leash out of polypropylene rope because it floats and dries out quickly. I like this one made of quick drying neoprene because its softer on my hands, is antibacterial and has a matching collar. Last year at our first test, Winn got spooked by a dive bombing horsefly and tried to run off of the beach. I grabbed her collar and was thankful that the clasp was good and strong so she couldn’t get away from me. You can buy them here: https://www.doogusa.com/collections/collars-leashes This company also has great floating toys that Winn loves to retrieve.

10. Additional items to add as you advance in training: floating cushion and small PFD, a life ring and a paddle.

The Junior and Senior tests both have exercises that utilize a floating cushion and a life jacket (PFD). The Senior test switches Take A Line to Take A Life Ring and introduces jumping from the boat. The dogs jump for a dropped item (paddle) and again for their handler to rescue them.

Other items you may want for your own comfort (I know, this makes my list more than 10 items) are a pair of shoes to wear in the water and cold water wet gear. I started with an old pair of workout shoes but they got pretty stinky from the lake so I eventually bought a pair of water shoes. They are easy to hose out when I get home and they dry quickly. Wetsuits come in a variety of shapes and thicknesses. I prefer pants and a separate top, other women I know like short wetsuits. Since I am very seaweed averse, I wear my pants even on hot days and I don’t get panicky when something brushes up against my legs. I have bought a lot of my gear including Winn’s life jacket at LL Bean. Most sporting and outdoor stores have a good selection with various price points.

Here’s a great article about swim training that I referred to when I brought Winn to the beach for the first time. It is written by an NCA member: https://hubpages.com/animals/swim-training

Dog Works sells a Water Test Kit with all of the items that you will need for the Junior and Senior tests. I didn’t want to spend the money all at once but you can buy the kit here: https://dogworks.com/product/water-test-kit/

If you’d like to learn more about water work and see Newfoundlands in action, consider volunteering as a steward at a Water Test. Here’s a list of the different Newfoundland Clubs around the country and the calendar of Water Tests in the late summer/early fall. Two years ago when Winn was just a puppy, I volunteered and learned so much. I wrote about that experience in two posts and you can read them here and here.

Newfoundland national 2019 part 3

Four months after we adopted Annie, the Newfoundland National was held in Warwick, RI. I saw a picture of the Rescue Parade on Facebook and I envisioned Annie and I doing that in the future. The following year, the National was held in Oregon and it was just too far away for us to attend. Last year it was held in Michigan. Winn and I attended for the first time, but unfortunately Annie was no longer with us. I was too broken hearted to stay and watch the parade, but this year, this was the event that I was most looking forward to. I was ringside, cheering them all on with memories of Annie in my heart.

Each dog is announced and as they enter the ring, their story about how the came into their adoptive family is read out loud. They receive a special medal, lots of attention and I must admit, more than a few happy tears are shed in their honor. To me, this is the most important event of the week. All Newfies, whether they are show dogs or not, deserve to be celebrated and recognized. I was so happy for each of these dogs and their new life because they were rescued.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger view.

Since I wasn’t able to be in a parade with Annie, Winn and I participated in the Honors Parade. This was open to all Newfies that have earned a title and there were over 100 entries. Each Dog’s name was read, oldest to youngest, and if they were present, they walked into the ring to receive a special medal.

On Thursday, the boys are judged in the ring and I watched another class that I thought was really interesting. Stud class includes not only the Sire, but two offspring. The main reason for conformation is to showcase the breed standard. What better way to judge a dog than to see how those traits are passed to the next generation? The brown dog didn’t take 1st place but I thought he and his offspring were all really beautiful.

Last year I was pretty overwhelmed by the scale of this show. Knowing better what to expect, I enjoyed myself more this year and met friends new and old. Winn’s brother Porter was also up for the week competing in several events, along with their breeder who was a tremendous support to each of us. It was fun to see Porter and Winn side by side as they both were in the Rally ring as well as Specialty Carting.

The final day of the show is when the top dogs compete for Best of Breed. It’s the big event of the show, and many people make a day trip just for this. After I checked out of the hotel room and got the car loaded up, Winn, my daughter and I sat on a blanket to take it all in. We knew a few of the dogs in the ring, Winn fell in love with one of the brown boys and did her very best flirting to get his attention, but for the most part, we just sat back and enjoyed the show.

It’s not possible for me to post a picture of everybody, but here are just a few from the final day in show ring:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this assortment of events at this years’ Newfoundland National Specialty. Of course, there is so much more to see and do including shopping the vendors tents!

Until next year…….

Newfoundland National 2019 Part 2

Tuesday and Wednesday are primarily dedicated to Obedience but Tuesday afternoon also includes the opening ceremonies. Flags from the U.S., Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico, the State of Michigan, the Newfoundland Club of America and the American Kennel Club are all paraded in before the National Anthems are played. After that, each regional club brings in their flag while their accomplishments and activities are read out loud.

Most of the clubs dressed in a theme appropriate for their area. My favorite was the Newfoundland Club of New England since they were proudly wearing the jerseys and gear of their sports teams but many of the other clubs were very creative with their outfits. Winn and I marched with our club and we all wore draft test t-shirts since our club put it together this year. ( I didn’t get any good pictures since we were in the staging area waiting for our turn.) After the ceremony, the club flags fly just outside the show area for all to see.

Wednesday was our final day of competitive events. We had been in the hotel since Sunday night and we both woke up feeling sick. I had been up most of the night with a terrible headache and nausea and Winn started the day with an upset stomach. I realized too late that I was having caffeine withdrawal because I hadn’t been drinking my normal amount of coffee each morning since we were so busy. I think Winn was suffering from stress, over stimulation, too many treats the day before or all of the above. I was contemplating pulling us out of our events and lying low in the room, but decided to try our first event. I figured I could pull out of the other two if we didn’t feel up to them.

We were one of the first dogs in the Rally ring and I didn’t expect to do well. I think I was the most calm I’ve ever been since my expectations were so low and we nailed it! To my surprise, we scored well, finished in 3rd place and Winn got her Rally Advanced title. We had so much fun I decided we would go ahead and do the next rally event. We got a perfect score! Winn was very chipper exiting the ring after we proudly took first place.

Our final event was in the Obedience ring. On Tuesday we didn’t qualify. We had been trying to finish her 3rd leg needed for her Companion Dog/Novice title and that was the 5th time we NQ’d. I had no hope that we would do better, but we played games before we went in and I decided to be as goofy as I could between exercises to keep her attention and make it fun. Apparently, that was the secret because we tied for 3rd place, she got her best score ever in that event and we finally got her title! To break the tie, we had a run-off with an additional heeling pattern which neither of us were really into. I had a hard time focusing since I was just so thrilled that we actually qualified. The other team performed better and we finished in 4th place. In addition to our placement, qualifying and titling ribbons, the trophies that day were pieces of Lenox China made for the show. What a wonder way to finish!

One of the most special highlights of the week is the Living Legends ceremony. Newfoundlands 10 years and older are honored. A huge banner with all of their faces is displayed all week just outside the main show ring. This year, over 80 dogs were celebrated. Their names are called out and those that are present and able, walk into the ring. They each receive a special medal, a booklet featuring all of the Living Legends and a special poster made with their picture in the center.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger view.

I’ll finish this post with an event I hadn’t seen before, but is definitely one of my favorites that I watched last week. Imagine trying to make two dogs move as one in the conformation ring. That is Brace class, a thing of beauty when they are in sync mixed with a few moments of mayhem in between.

I’ll wrap up this series tomorrow with a few more featured events, but there is certainly so much more to see at this show!

Newfoundland National 2019 part 1

Last week, approximately 400 Newfoundland Dogs descended upon the town of Frankenmuth, MI for the annual big show. It is a week packed with events to showcase all of the wonderful traits of my favorite breed. There is so much to see and do and I’d like to highlight some of the special and unique events that occur in addition to the conformation ring packed with beautiful Newfoundlands.

The beginning of the week is dedicated to the working events which include the Draft Test as well as Competition Obedience and Rally Obedience. Winn and I participated in all three this year so we were very busy!

The first event of the week is the Draft Test. We were up bright and early Monday morning. I packed the wagon with her crate, a chair, weights for her cart and miscellaneous other things I thought we would need. Winn pulled her cart and I pulled the wagon down to the test area to join the other teams checking in and lining up their gear.

We started training about two months ago. I didn’t expect to pass (we didn’t), but with every test or trial we enter, I always learn new things for the next time. This was the first test for me and I did learn a lot. In training, I focused primarily on maneuvering, which we did really well, but there are a lot of details that are included in a passing score that we learned while we worked our way through the exercises. The judges were very supportive and gave me lots of feedback. Hopefully with our next test we will be closer to getting that Draft Dog title!

The fun part of entering these events is the camaraderie we develop with the other people that are also there. I had just as much fun (maybe more because it was less stressful) cheering for their success as I did participating. One of our friends entered with a team (two Newfies harnessed together). She didn’t pass either, but she gave it a valiant effort and of course I loved seeing another brown team. She was first and we were last, creating brown newfie book ends for this test.

The very first group to hit the conformation ring are beginner puppies. Puppies 4-6 months old bounding around the ring with pure puppy glee are my favorite. I don’t think there is much else to say except PUPPIES!

The final event in the obedience ring is Team Obedience. Take it from me, trying to get through the Obedience exercises with one dog is very challenging, Team Obedience includes four dogs and their handlers. Completing all of the exercises perfectly with all of teams takes a special kind of training. I love watching this and everyone gave it their very best effort. You never know what will happen, even with the very best trained dog and we’ve all learned to go out there and have fun. What will be, will be.

Junior handlers have their own competition within the show. Juniors are the future of all sports, and they participate in many events throughout the week side by side with all of the other handlers and their dogs. I saw them in the obedience ring and the conformation ring as well as lending a helping hand to other handlers as they were preparing for their own events. There was a pool party, a scavenger hunt and other fun activities for them during their downtime. I enjoyed seeing them coming and going and was especially excited to see them all in the big ring for their Junior Handler event.

As you can see, there is lot going on throughout the week. I need several posts to cover it all, so you can look forward to reading about the Rescue Parade, the Living Legends celebration, Brace class, Stud class and so much more!

Gettin’ ready for the big show!

Next week, April 29th-May 4th is the Newfoundland National Specialty in Frankenmuth, MI. Newfoundland Dogs (and their owners and/or handlers) from across the country and even from other parts of the world, gather for a week filled with activities and events of all things Newfoundland Dog.

I went last year for the very first time and Winn and I participated in two events. We were there for three days, Winn earned her Rally Intermediate title and I did my very best to remain calm and not get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the show. My daughter joined me which was a huge confidence boost while I mingled around other Newfoundland owners that seemed to have so much more experience with this incredible breed that I love so much.

This year I decided to go for the full experience and will be up there all week. Once again, I am bringing my steady partner Winn and we are entered in 10 events (yikes!). The first one is the Draft Test on Monday morning for which we have been focusing our training over the last several weeks. Currently we are on the alternate list, we started as the 4th alternate and recently jumped to 1st alternate so there is still hope that we will make it into the test. (The test is limited to 15 dogs, so we are waiting for just one more person to drop from the test. ) If we don’t make it in, that’s OK, we will watch our friends participate and we have 9 other events to keep us plenty busy.

This show is the Granddaddy of all shows. I’ve been looking forward to it since last years’ show ended. I have focused on being even more prepared for the many aspects of the event. It seemed so far away for so long, but now it is next week and I’ve got a lot to do! I’ve had a running list in my head for the last few weeks that include: training, a very lengthy packing list, Winn will need a bath and fresh trim to look her very best and I need to gather my support materials for our agenda.

Training:

Most of our training has been in Rally and Obedience. For the health of her joints, I needed to wait until Winn turned two, her birthday is March 6th, before we started focusing on jumping and pulling the cart. After earning her Rally Intermediate title last year, she can compete in Rally Advanced but that level includes jumps so we had to hold off on entering that level until very recently. Shortly after Christmas, I purchased a carting starter kit and slowly introduced the harness, the feeling of pulling something and then finally hooked her up to the cart about six weeks ago. She’s very good with all of the maneuvering, I think because it’s so much like rally, she just needs to pay attention to me and my commands. She doesn’t love putting the harness over her head, so we continue to work on that with lots of praise and rewards. Harness and Hitch are the first two elements of the course and she has to be willing to do that before we can even begin.

Packing list: this list seems to grow every day, but so far, this is what I’ve decided I need to bring.

For Winn:

  • Crates-2 soft sided 1 wire (large for room, lightweight to bring to sites, wire to set up for longer stay in grooming building as a back up), crate pads
  • chairs-2 one for show, one lightweight for sites
  • treats: training and reward
  • food: dry and fresh, supplements
  • food and water bowls/ extra water bowl and water bottle to bring to event sites
  • blanket/sheet for bed, toys
  • portable fan, charger and extra batteries
  • draft cart (disassemble Sat), weights, harness
  • draft cart repair kit: extra clips, nuts, allen wrench, large screwdriver
  • leashes: slip and leather
  • clean up kit: rags, wipes, poop bags
  • first aid kit, embrace ins. form and immunization record, copy of registration for eye clinic
  • bibs
  • brush, grooming spray, scissors
  • Winn’s robe/towels
  • training bag
  • cross bars for roof rack

For Me:

  • clothes for a week
  • outfit and hat for Derby Day party !!??!!
  • bathing suit
  • toiletries, brushes, hair dryer, curling iron, plenty of hair ties, ball cap
  • cooler with grab and go foods: deli meat, yogurt, soda, bread, snacks
  • camera, charger, lens cleaner
  • pillow
  • raincoat and rain boots
  • sunscreen
  • disposable cups, plates, paper towel
  • wine, wine opener
  • small scissors
  • laptop, iPad, chargers for all electronics, camera cord

How on earth is all of this going to fit into the car?!

Winn needs a bath and trim Tuesday/Wednesday

Misc.:

  • Take screen photos of all entry numbers and judging form for each day. Create a phone note for each day with the schedule of events and entry numbers as well as meals and downtime.

I’ve learned from being at different events that internet access can be spotty and slow. When checking in at past events, I’ve had to scramble a few times to find my entry number because reception has been bad. This time around, I want to have stored notes for each day with my numbers and the schedule for quick and easy reference. I don’t need to add to my stress level and I like to be prepared when I approach the stewards to pick up my numbers.

I’ll be taking lots of pictures and posting daily on Instagram and FaceBook. There is so much that we are going to be doing that I’m sure I’ll have enough material for several posts, so stay tuned, and wish us luck!

You can read about our experience at last years’ Newfoundland National here.