Tag 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 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.

Water Weekend part 1

The Newfoundland dog is a large working dog. They can be either black, brown, grey or white-and-black (called Landseer). They were originally bred and used as a working dog for fishermen in the Dominion of Newfoundland (which is now part of Canada).[3][4] They are known for their giant size, intelligence, tremendous strength, calm dispositions, and loyalty. Newfoundland dogs excel at water rescue/lifesaving because of their muscular build, thick double coat, webbed feet, and innate swimming abilities.[5] 

wikipedia

I spent this past weekend at the North Central Newfoundland Club’s water test. I have been so curious about water work and training and I was able to watch dogs and their handlers (owners) perform exercises for two different levels of Newfoundland Dog water titles.

The junior level title is Water Dog. The senior level title is Water Rescue Dog. I took loads of pictures and met and talked to so many people about their training. While it is very challenging to pass all of the requirements, all of them were there with big smiles on their faces as they worked through the course with their dogs. It was clear that the main objective of the day was to have fun with their dogs and if they got the title, that was a bonus.

I was a steward (volunteer) assigned to one of the senior level (WRD) exercises, so I had the morning off to observe and learn about the junior level (WD) test. My friend Ashley was there with her dog Cass and allowed me to photograph them so that I could have pictures for the blog.

The Water Dog test is composed of 6 different exercises that rely on their basic instincts of retrieve, carry and pull.  They are: Basic Control, Single Retrieve, Drop Retrieve, Take A Line, Tow A Boat and Swim With Handler.

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The score board, each dog must pass every exercise to get the title.
  1. Basic control is a non-water exercise that is the starting point. The dog must show that he can stay by his owner’s side, listen and respond to commands, and be trusted to be off leash for the duration of the test.  It starts with controlled walking, staying close to their handler’s side, doing an about turn and a halt and sit.  They also must do a sit-stay, come when called and finish with a sit in front of their handler.

A lot can go wrong, they need to stay close, listen to commands, not bolt out of the area or charge the water (which of course they all love).  That temptation was too much for Cass and he broke free and tried to go for a swim.  Ashley was able to get him under control so they didn’t pass this section, but were allowed to continue on with the test. Another dog ran away from the area, demonstrating that he wasn’t under control and wasn’t allowed to continue on with the rest of the test.IMG_5937

2. Single Retrieve:  The handler throws a bumper into the water and the dog fetches and delivers it.  All items must be delivered to the handler’s hand, not dropped on the ground before they return.  This exercise is an easy and fun one for them and all of the dogs passed.

3. Drop Retrieve: A steward rows out and quietly places a life jacket or boat cushion in the water so that the dog doesn’t immediately see it.  The dog is sent to fetch it and returns the article to shore and into their handler’s hand.

What can go wrong? Sometimes the dog just doesn’t find it or chooses not to swim out and get it.  On the first day, Cass swam half way and then returned without it.  The stewards went back out and picked up the cushion.  On day 2, he nailed it with no hesitation!

4. Take A Line: The dog carries one end of a long line from land to a calling steward who is treading water. They go around the steward and then return to shore.  Since this is the Junior level, the steward is allowed to greet the dog before they enter the water so that they can create a friendly bond before the dog is sent to take the line.

Cass struggled with this all season, but he nailed it! This proved to be very difficult for many dogs and they did not pass this exercise.

5. Tow A Boat: A steward in a boat waves a bumper with a rope attached and calls the dog. The dog leaves shore and swims out, grabs the bumper and tows the boat back to shore and beaches the boat.

Cass executed this beautifully! He’s such a strong and powerful dog, it was fun to watch. This exercise seems to be a favorite for many dogs, even the smaller dogs showed no problems or hesitation bringing in the boat.

6. Swim With Handler: The dog and handler wade into the water together and then swim together until the judge signals that they’ve gone the required distance, then they turn around and the dog tows the handler into shore.

Many handlers have said this is one of their favorite exercises.  Look how closely these two swam together!

At the end of the weekend, out of 10 dogs entered, 2 dogs got their WD title (unfortunately not Cass), but everyone had a wonderful time.  Tomorrow I’ll post about the Senior level, WRD.IMG_5564