Tag Archives: Dog training

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.

10 things we love about Sit Stay Read

About a year ago, I got the chance to sit down with a woman who was the director of a small dog therapy organization on the east coast. She had observed Maisie and I from afar, and when we met she confirmed that Maisie had the temperament for therapy work. She was especially impressed when she saw Maisie’s non-reaction to three small French Bulldogs that lunged at both of us while barking like maniacs. We were both startled, but Maisie stayed right by my side and kept walking as I guided the two of us around them.

She encouraged me to look into smaller groups in addition to the well known large groups. I was interested in working with children. When my kids were in grade school, I enjoyed volunteering in their classrooms. I also used to teach swimming lessons to 3 to 6 year olds at our local YMCA, and I missed being around kids that age. I found a list of therapy dog organizations on the AKC website and noticed Sit Stay Read located in Chicago. After reading about their goal to improve reading and literacy skills for Chicago Public School students, it appeared to be the perfect match for Maisie and me.

I attended two different training sessions to learn more about what we would be doing. When I felt like Maisie was ready, I scheduled her temperament test with their evaluator and was thrilled when she passed. I was required to do three different observations and then I brought Maisie to a school session for our final step. We entered the classroom as one of the dog teams and were observed by the dog team evaluator. She watched us both as we interacted with the students and advised us when we needed it. At the end of the hour, she happily welcomed us to the program!

We just finished our first six week session in one classroom and are in the middle of a session in another classroom. Each week, Maisie is more and more comfortable with the routine and she continues to impress me with her ability to bond with the kids. We will be in new classrooms after spring break and I’m so excited to get to know a new group of kids!

  1. A specific curriculum has been developed for each grade by a Program Advisory Committee that utilizes dog themed books and materials. You can read more about each grade level here.
  2. The first day of each session is dedicated to dog safety. The children learn about how to approach a dog, ask permission, let the dog sniff their hand and where the best place is to pet a dog. They also learn about the signals a dog may send to them. Student volunteers act out dog body language in different situations which is a lot more memorable than simply being told what to watch for.
  3. A program leader is always present to manage the classroom and introduce all of the volunteers. We have a pre-program meeting to go over the readings of the day and also the dog team question. We answer a new question each week that relates to the readings. For example, it might be describing a certain characteristic using rhyming, similes or alliteration. The program leader makes sure everything is running smoothly and jumps in wherever needed. They also read a few of the students’ stories or poems out loud and lead the Sit Stay Read keep reading cheer before we leave.
  4. At the end of each session, each student receives a bound collection of their stories or poems that they can keep as a souvenir.
  5. At the end of the school year, each participating school has a Keep Reading Celebration. The kids get to visit with a dog team one more time and they each receive a Summer Reading Fun Pack. The packs include pencils, erasers, crayons, a design-it-yourself notebook and an assortment of books. In 2017-2018 each student received SIX brand new books for all age groups for themselves and to read to their siblings!
  1. Belly rubs and treats!
  2. The smiles on all of the kids faces when Maisie and I walk in the room and spread out her blanket.
  3. When the kids settle in and relax next to her while they are reading the books and their poems.
  4. She loves wearing her bandana, it means she’s going to see the kids.
  5. She knows when to give a little extra loving to the kids that are completely at ease with her.

If you live in the Chicago area and would like to learn more about volunteering with Sit Stay Read as a dog team or a reading buddy click here.

Close but no cigar

I have this memory of one of my favorite teachers walking up and down the aisles in our classroom muttering “close but no cigar, close but no cigar, close but no cigar”.

As she passed out the pop quiz that she had given us the day before, I noticed more and more confused faces looking around the room. I knew something was off when she approached my desk, looked me in the eye and stated “close but no cigar”. I looked down at my quiz, took in a couple of correction marks and read the blaring red letters across the top of the page: close but no cigar.

That’s how she chose to grade that quiz. None of us had any idea how this would be translated in the grade book. There were more than a few stressful looks on the over-achievers that surrounded me in that room!

We were second semester seniors with six weeks left of school. This was her way of giving us all a kick in the butt and letting us know there would be no slacking off in her class. We were hers until the first week of May, and we still had Classic American Literature to focus on before we walked across a grand stage and got our diplomas.

Last weekend, I stood on one side of an obedience ring while Winn waited for me on the other. I put on a smile and gave her my very best, upbeat command to come to me.

She sat upright, eyes glued to me, waiting for my signal.

She stayed there, upright, eyes glued to me, not coming on my signal.

We watched each other for too long and then I had to give her one more command.

She proudly ran to me, stopped perfectly in front of me and gave me her prettiest sit. Then she waited for my next signal.

When she saw me wave my right hand, she ran behind me and sat in position on my left side. She looked up at me with her most loving expression.

I laughed under my breath and gave her a big hug when the judge said, “exercise finished”. That’s when I heard those words in my head. Close but no cigar.

We’ve got more work to do, she and I.

After receiving two qualifying scores the day before, I was overly confident as we entered the ring.

Winn was excited, our warm-up went really well. I had her attention and she was eager. Her performance of her off leash heeling was near perfect and the best it’s ever been. I was feeling so good, we were going to get her novice obedience title, Companion Dog!

And then she failed the recall….

You only get one try, and to be fair, I don’t think she heard me. She was positioned close to the judges table and there was a lot of conversation and ring noise behind her.

She was trying to block all of that out and give me her full focus, unfortunately, she just didn’t get my first command.

Her recall has never been something I had to worry about. Those are the things that always get you, the things you don’t worry about.

She performed the next excercises perfectly and then we were excused with an “I’m sorry, not today”.

So….we will keep training, keep working and keep trying. We’ve still got things learn and hopefully next time we won’t be “close but no cigar”.

First two legs down, one more to go!

Our year in pictures

January: Annie, Winn’s first Rally title, fun times in the snow, training and Winn’s Canine Good Citizen title.

February: Snow!! Hearst Castle and indoor swimming.

March: St. Patrick’s Day, a VERY tiring grooming seminar and chasing chickens.

April: Kansas City with Maisie.

May: Newfoundland National Specialty, meeting new friends and attending a water training workshop with our Canadian buddies.

June: celebrating Maisie turning 5 and Winn turning 1 on our newly designated Annual Dog Birthday in honor of Annie, more ribbons for Winn and Therapy Dog training with Maisie.

July: 4th of July and water training with our friends.

August: Lots and lots of training fun and our very first Newfoundland Water Test (we didn’t do very well, but it was a great experience).

September: Studying hard for our final water test, which was our most successful and a great way to end the summer.

October: October baseball and Halloween, Maisie and I began our quest to find all of the murals in town.

November: Thanksgiving, playing in the leaves and frolicking in the first snowfall of the season.

December: The most wonderful time of the year!

so long, 2018!

How is it that the year is over? In some ways it seems like it flew by and in others it feels like it’s been a very long year.

It certainly didn’t start out the way that I had hoped. I had such big plans for Annie. For the first time since we brought her home, she didn’t bark at my son when he came home for Christmas break last year. She had finally accepted him as a safe member of the family and was able to tuck her fear of men away when she saw him. That was huge!

Unfortunately, she developed an illness that she just couldn’t overcome and we had to say goodbye on January 12. Even up until the day before, I was convinced that we could find a way for her to recover. She deserved more time with us but that disease is incurable and I promised her that she would never suffer in our house. It was the hardest decision I have ever made and to be honest, I’m still not over it. It was the right decision for her but I mourn her loss every day.

I think I overcompensated for Annie by working with Winn. We went to a Rally trial right before Christmas and she brought home her first ribbons! After that success, we continued to train in Rally and she earned her Novice title. In May, We traveled to the Newfoundland National where she earned her Rally Intermediate title and more ribbons. In June, I printed up the rules for the Beginner Novice title in competition obedience and entered a trial. She did beautifully in that and earned that title as well!

Once the weather warmed up, I decided to try and train us both for a Newfoundland Water Test and she was a natural. It was much harder than I imagined it would be, but on our final attempt in September, she came as close as she possibly could to earn that title and I was so proud. We didn’t pass the test, but she was able to execute each and every exercise, and we had so much fun working together. She really is an amazing example of a working dog and she loves to learn new things.

Maisie and I had very active year as well. We traveled together to Kansas City in April for a blogging conference and she was so well behaved. We’ve been working for quite a while at trying to become a Therapy Team. At the conference, I met a woman who was a director of a Therapy Dog program and she gave me some great advice on what to look for in a program. She was very impressed with Maisie, especially when she didn’t react and stayed right by my side after she was lunged at by a trio of very loud French Bull Dogs.

I’ve had to put our training on hold several times over the past couple of years, but this fall I was able to finally make some progress with her. I found an organization that seemed like a good match for us and in October she passed their temperament test. I need to do some observation visits on my own and with her before we can be officially certified. Once I get those done, hopefully we can get to work sometime in the next month or two.

The holidays always seem like a whirlwind and this year was no different. I love decorating our house for Christmas and this year I made a wreath to layer over the mirror that hangs above our fireplace. I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out! (I have admired a similar one for the last couple of years but I felt it was too expensive, so I gathered the supplies and made a bigger one at a fraction of the cost.) It was the perfect backdrop for the many silly holiday pictures that Maise and Winn patiently posed for.

As I reflect on the past year, I am pleased to say that we’ve accomplished a lot of the goals that I had for 2018. I admit, I’ve had a harder time writing this year, Annie was previously my inspiration so much of the time. I hope that as 2019 rolls around, I’ll be able to keep the blog going, but most of all, I’m looking forward to more fun times with Maisie and Winn!