Category Archives: Dog training

It all started with the newspaper…

Bailey was my first Newfoundland and she loved to work.  I taught her to bring in the paper and this was her daily job.  Her ritual was to bring in the paper after breakfast, the reward was her dessert.  Believe me, if I waited too long to open the door, she let me know!  When the paper was late, there was no relaxing until she heard it hit the porch.

I noticed early on that Winn exhibited many of the same personality traits and this is one of the first things she learned.  Since we don’t get the paper daily anymore, training opportunities were sporadic. I worked with her 3 or 4 times and it didn’t seem like she was getting it, I assumed she was too young.  About a week after our last attempt, I opened the door to bring in the mail and completely unprompted, she spotted the town paper, raced down the steps and grabbed it to bring it into the kitchen.  I couldn’t believe it!

14 week old Winn learns to bring in the paper:

The trouble is that once she figured out that she got treats for bringing in the paper, she began bringing me other things that she found around the house.  Close to meal time, she will sneak off and find things to bring to me in hopes of getting a tasty reward.

Empty food bags or containers:

Boxes intended for recycling:

Treasures stolen from the kids’ rooms:

Water training items:

Things that I set down while doing a task (a remote, a stir stick and packing tape).

And most obviously, empty food and water bowls:

Oh, what have I done!

Mini road trip

Recently we loaded Maisie and Winn into the car and went on a quick road trip.  We were off to visit our daughter who lives about 3 hours away.

It’s pretty obvious that Maisie considers Abigail to be her favorite person on earth.  It is always so fun to see their reunions, and this time was no different.  Winn loves everybody and responded to Maisie’s energy by wiggling and squeaking while showering Abigail with kisses.  A two Newfie welcome can be a pretty overwhelming affair!

We all walked to a little brew pub for lunch and I was so impressed with Winn.  She walked calmly and confidently through crowds while staying in a perfect heel.  All of our training time really paid off!

We sat down at a big picnic table and our waitress brought a large water bowl for the girls.  Maisie loves to sit and watch the people walk by on the sidewalk, but Winn quietly settled right beside me, looked around a bit and ignored the other dog that was barking at us from a table near by.  Eventually she crawled under the table and rested her head so that she could see all of the other patio diners.IMG_4227IMG_4250We tend to get a lot of attention when we are out with the dogs, their size makes it impossible to remain unnoticed and most people haven’t seen a brown Newfoundland so we get a lot of questions about their breed.  This usually includes:  “What do they weigh?”, “How much do they eat?”,  “Do they come with a saddle?”, and my least favorite  “Do they shed?”.  Yes they shed, Newfoundlands shed!  Most dogs shed! There are a few breeds that don’t, but there seems to be an increased assumption that one should have a dog that doesn’t shed.

After lunch we walked back to her house, left the dogs with two of her friends and went to a movie. When we returned, we took the girls out again, stopped and got some ice cream and relaxed by the shores of a nearby lake.  As soon as we were close to the water, Maisie and Winn both wanted to wander in, but they stayed close by and immediately came when called when they strayed too far away.  I was so proud of both of them, they were so well-behaved!IMG_4247IMG_4245IMG_4236It was a lovely day spent with our daughter in the town that she loves and has decided to make her home.  It’s close enough that we headed back home as the sun was setting and Maisie and Winn slept the whole way after having such a fun-filled day of activity!IMG_4229

 

More working dog stuff!

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch another Newfoundland Dog test, this time it was for Draft Dog. In addition to water work, Newfoundlands are also excellent at draft work.  Drafting involves different exercises with the dog hooked up to a cart.

Think back to the days when merchants hauled their goods in carts and wagons.  Most of us probably picture horses or donkeys but large working dogs were also used, especially in Newfoundland, Canada and England.  Their size, temperament, strength, and dependability made them perfect for milk wagons, vegetable carts, delivery and mail wagons and teams were used for large sledges.

This test was especially fun to watch because Winn’s mother was one of the entrants.  It was her first draft test and she and her handler had been working very hard to prepare. Her cart was fashioned out of a milk crate weighted with milk jugs filled with sand.  What a brilliant idea that really incorporated the origins of the working Newfoundland Dog!

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Arlene waits patiently for her turn with her cart ready to go.

Similar to the Water Test, the Draft Test is made up of 5 exercises:

  1. Basic Control
  2. Harnessing and hitching
  3. Maneuvering
  4. Freight load
  5. Freight haul

Basic Control is the first exercise because it is crucial that the handler has control over the dog throughout the test.  All of the dogs entered did so well on this, I assume because the whole test involves cooperation between the dog and handler.  This is the foundation for what they had been doing together.  They had to walk side by side, do a left turn, an about turn (u-turn), a right turn and a halt, all with the dog off leash and remaining close to the handler’s left leg.  Next was a sit stay and recall and finally all the dogs were in the ring together for a one minute down stay.  Arleen is a big, beautiful brown girl who listened and responded so well to her handler but she did let her personality shine through right before the down stay when she decided to roll over and kick her legs up for a back scratch in the grass.  She quickly recovered and then she stayed in place for the expected time.

For harnessing and hitching the handler puts the harness on the dog, then the dog backs up so that the cart can be attached to the harness.  The judges are looking for cooperation, proper fit and correct and safe attachment.

Now they are ready to start the course! The course includes circular patterns, a right and a left 90 degree turn, 2 narrow areas, a removable object that requires the dog to stop and wait for the handler to clear the path, and changes in pace. This video shows Arleen going through the tall, narrow obstacle and stopping for the removable obstacle.

The dogs must also do a 3 minute down stay with their handlers out of sight.  They did this as a group after everyone had completed the maneuvering exercises. The people in the yellow vests are the stewards/volunteers not the handlers.

The final part of the test is the freight load which must be secured in the cart and then a 1 mile walk over natural terrain with the load. The load is about 25 lbs.

Arleen had 1 very small error on the first day but on the second day she achieved her Draft Dog title!  It was so wonderful to watch these handlers and dogs work together and have fun.

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Day 2 Draft Dogs Neko and Arleen, their handlers and the judges

While Winn is the one that shows the most drive to work, we won’t start training for this until she has finished growing and is at least 2 years old.  For now, we are enjoying our Rally Class and obedience training.  We will also be doing exercises this winter on land in preparation for water training to hopefully participate in a Water Test next summer.

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Winn thinks I go too fast, I think she could speed up just a little bit!

In case you missed it, I wrote about the Newfoundland Dog Water Test here, here and here.

Water Weekend Wrap-up

I went into this weekend not knowing what to expect.  I had volunteered to steward, stating that I would be happy to do whatever was needed.  I was there to learn, and I thought the best way to do that was to be involved.

I’ve always loved being near water, but I get a little nervous about what may wrap itself around my legs.  When I found out I would be in the water, I smiled and said to myself “buck up, nothing is going to bite you”.  It was the best experience I could hope for! To be in the water, and see these dogs swimming out to save and rescue a “drowning” victim were among the best moments of the day for me.

Newfoundlands LOVE the water, and even though I suspected some of their owners were not keen on getting wet, they were willing to do it for their dogs.  This proved to be an activity of incredible bonding and the stimulation of their working dog instincts.

As the day went on, one thing became clear. Everyone here was doing it to have fun with their dogs and the titles were secondary.  I think these pictures show that beautifully.

 

 

At the end of day 1 I was exhausted.  I had gone out and treaded water in a really strong current 9 times.  At this point, I was feeling cold and clammy, my muscles were wobbly and I wrapped myself in a towel to wait for the final WRD entrant.

The last two dogs were both in season, one for WD and one for WRD.  The WD would go first so I needed to wait until she was done before I would do my final exercise as a steward.

I had seen the owner much earlier in the day for check in and early morning meetings and then she disappeared to wait off site with her dog until it was time for them to compete.  I had heard her say it was their first water test and she seemed very nervous. As I watched her do a quick pre-swim with her dog, I must admit, I assumed they would not pass.  9 dogs had already tried with just 1 able to get their Water Dog title.

I was feeling weary, and had put my camera away for the day.  This would be the first one I actually would watch all the way through without being behind my lens and I’m so glad I did.  When I’m taking pictures, I don’t notice what else might be going on outside my viewfinder.  This time, I was able to watch not only the dog and handler, but also the judges and the other spectators around me and it was a very special experience.

When they started with Basic Control, they went through it together as a perfect example of what controlled walking should be. Luna was close to her hip the entire time and automatically sat when her handler came to halt.  Prior to the stay and recall exercise, I heard the judge ask her if she was ok.  She said she just needed to catch her breath, her heart was racing.  She seemed like a picture of complete control, but was still so nervous!

Single Retrieve was quick and efficient, the first two exercises were easily passed.  While they waited for the canoe to clear the area after they placed the boat cushion, I watched her kneel by her dog, whispering in her ear, giving constant hand signals until they were given the start signal.  Luna charged out, grabbed the cushion and returned it to her handler on shore.  Later I heard her say she was nervous about that one.  She had to borrow a boat cushion from Ashley and Cass because they had only practiced with a life jacket.

Now it was time for the Take A Line.  This had been a tricky one for most dogs, and everyone on the beach was watching.  I heard one of the event organizers pacing behind me, whispering that she was so nervous for her.

After quick introductions to the steward and waiting patiently for their signal, Luna struck out with the line just as she should. When she was almost to the steward she turned back, and her handler became louder and more animated as she redirected her to go back and go around the steward.  Luna turned around, headed toward the steward and then once again turned too soon to go back to shore.  One more time she was quickly redirected and this time followed the steward’s calls and splashes as she worked her way around and then headed to shore.  The cheers on the beach erupted, we were all invested  in the success of this young team!

Only 2 exercises left, Tow A Boat and Swim With Handler.  For Tow A Boat, Luna swam straight out, grabbed her bumper and turned to pull the boat back to the beach.  Her handler was exciting to watch.  She was making pulling motions with both of her arms screaming “pull, girlfriend, pull”  “you got this” “almost there” “pull, pull, pull”. I  think we all assumed if she could do this, we were looking at a new Water Dog!

Swim With Handler seemed like formality and as Luna towed her handler back to shore, the joy on beach was electric.  As they climbed out of the water, her handler burst into tears of joy, and I have to say, so did many of us.  We had just watched something truly special.

I don’t even remember my final time in the water for the Life Ring exercise.  I was so energized and preoccupied by what I had just seen.  This was the most perfectly photogenic moment and team, and while I don’t have any photos I know that I will be able to visualize it clearly for a very long time.

On my way to my car, I stopped by to congratulate her and told her what it joy it was to watch her and Luna master their first water test.  I wish I had told her that she was an inspiration.  She and her husband had worked with Luna on their own and hadn’t trained with a water group.  They focused on obedience and land work because they were only able to get in the water 6 or 7 times this summer.  I had wondered if it was possible to train alone and she had just proven that it was.

Winn is young so I didn’t try to find a training group this summer, and I have met people to train with next year, but I tend to be a loner so until we join a group, we will keep doing our work together with the plan of entering the Water Dog test next year.

 

 

 

 

Water Weekend part 2

After 9 of the 10 junior level Water Dog entrants had finished, it was time for a lunch break and then the senior level Water Rescue Dog exercises would begin.

So far, only one new Water Dog title had been awarded, but several of the dogs from day 1 would try again on day 2.  The final dog that was left was in season (heat) and allowed to compete, she just had to do it at the end of the day once all of the other dogs had taken their turn.

The WRD exercises build on the skills from the junior level and are more complex. The 6 exercises are: Directed Retrieve, Retrieve Off A Boat, Take A Life Ring, Underwater Retrieve, Take A Line/Tow A Boat and Rescue.

I was excited to see this group since part of this test involved jumping off of a boat and I had my camera ready!

The dog featured in most of the pictures is Anna.  She was a rescue that was adopted when she was about 2 years old. She started training once she was with her new family and was here to re-qualify, meaning she had already gotten her title and was doing it again.  She was amazing to watch! She charged through each exercise with speed, enthusiasm and perfection and showed everyone on the beach that she could do each exercise as it was intended.

  1. Double Retrieve: 2 stewards row out and drop a life jacket and a boat cushion. Each item is retrieved and delivered to their handler in a specific order determined by the judges.IMG_6431

    Anna was so fast with each item, I didn’t catch the signals that she was given! Being expected to do it in a certain order by following their handlers’ signals was amazing to watch.  A couple of dogs, mixed up the order and this dog had to deal with a big current that swept his boat cushion out of the area but he went for it and brought it back after a much farther swim than expected.

  2. Retrieve Off A Boat: The dog leaps off of the boat to retrieve a floating paddle and returns it to their handler in the boat.

    I also need to feature this guy who had such a beautiful jump and held his paddle high in the air as he returned to the boat.  He was also a re-qualifier.

    What can go wrong? I quickly learned that not all dogs are that eager to jump!

    This sweet girl proudly brought her paddle to shore.IMG_6138

  3. Take A Life Ring: The dog carries a life ring out to a “drowning” victim who is splashing and calling for help.  He must ignore two other swimmers who are quietly bobbing nearby (I was on of those swimmers) and then tow the victim to shore.  Clarence is featured for this exercise.

This was a tough exercise. A couple of dogs went to the quiet swimmers rather than the calling swimmer and returned to shore without a victim.

4. Underwater Retrieve: The dog retrieves a sunken item from elbow deep water and delivers it to their handler. Once again, Anna was so fast I had a hard time catching it but I did get some good pictures of another boy excitedly doing this exercise.

5. Take A Line/Tow A Boat: The dog carries a line out from shore to a waiting boat. The steward grabs the line and the dog turns and tows the boat, beaching it on shore.

Just like take a line, and take a life ring, this exercise was very challenging and most of the dogs weren’t able to pass.

6. Rescue: The dog must leap from a boat to his handler who is calling him from the water, then the dog tows his handler to shore.

This was a dramatic way to finish the test and I loved seeing these dogs leap to their owners’ rescue!

Anna re-qualified both days for her 4th and 5th time!

IMG_3978I was so impressed with what I saw over the weekend. Tomorrow I will share some really sweet moments between different owners and their dogs as well as the story of a dog that I found very inspiring.