Tag Archives: Dog training

Friday Night Lights anyone?

“Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE!”

For those of you who don’t know, this is a reference to one of my favorite tv shows about a high school football team, the coach, his family and a small football-crazed town in west Texas.

Last Friday, Winn got to have her own Friday Night Lights moment by being a rally girl. Granted, her rally girl duties were very different from those highlighted in the TV show, but she had fun nonetheless.

For the last several months, Winn and I have been participating in Rally Obedience classes.  Rally is an obstacle course set up with 10-15 stations, each station involves some sort of obedience trick. Sits, downs, turns, change of pace, weaving through cones in different patterns, changing direction and combinations of any of the above, all while remaining in a perfect heel, can be found in a Rally course.  It has been a great way to reinforce all of the training that we have learned in her previous puppy and manners classes.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Winn and I entered our first rally trial. I wasn’t expecting much from our performance, I thought of it as another training and socialization opportunity.  She (and I) would be introduced to a new environment with lots of dogs, their owners and the noise, excitement and stress that goes along with an enclosed dog sporting event.

That was a long day.  I got there early to find a place to set up her extra-large crate and we ended up being the last dog of the day to compete.  It reminded me of sitting around at a swim meet when my kids were little.  You wait and wait and wait for your brief time in the ring.  CB37FC5A-CA34-49E0-A2AD-A046DC08B6BEWinn was so good that day. I stayed by her crate and read a book.  We went out a couple of times to walk around, do a few commands and then come back in.  By the time it was our turn, she was relaxed and comfortable with the noises and other dogs around us. She did everything she was supposed to, I was the one who almost blew it for us.  I walked right by station 8 (with Winn in a perfect heel of course) but when I approached station 9, I knew something wasn’t right.  Fortunately, I figured it out in time and was able to go back and re-approach the sign with only a small penalty. Even with error, we finished in first place and got our first qualifying leg toward her title.  Now we just needed to do that two more times!277F883C-B2B6-40FB-9B6B-748BEADE952EOn Friday, we did it two more times!

During the first trial, just seconds before it was our turn, the dog in the ring ahead of us decided to mark (pee on) the second to last sign of the course. His handler was mortified, it’s an automatic disqualification and he quickly got his dog out of the ring. As Winn and I stood off to the side, there was a flurry of activity and excitement.  The area and the sign were sterilized and the judge came over and made a point of telling me that he had moved the sign.  I wasn’t all that concerned about it being distracting but maybe it was.  Winn was a little off and didn’t follow my commands as well as she usually does but we qualified, and then waited and waited and waited for our next trial.

Winn napped most of the afternoon, so about 30 minutes before our group was up I took her outside. On the way out, a dog lunged and barked at her, scaring the bejeezus out of both of us.  When we came back in, she quickly squirted into the safety of her crate.  I let her stay there until our number was called on deck, but at that point, she had no intention of venturing out again!  I tried everything; different treats, different voices, my friend came over with cheese but she wouldn’t budge. As I continued to try to lure her out, I nervously watched the progress of the dog in the ring.  I was coming to the conclusion that we would have to withdraw from the trial, and I was now trying to picture how I was going to get her out of the building.

Suddenly I realized that the spot she got barked at was close to the opening of her crate, so I grabbed the sides and whipped the crate around to face another direction.  Winn stuck her head out to take a look, and thankfully decided that all seemed safe, so we quickly headed for the ring.  We walked right in with no time to think about what had just happened and managed to have a nearly perfect run.  It was our best performance of our three trials, and she got her AKC Rally Novice title!

As I was packing up our gear, I was chuckling.  When I was standing in line to check in for our second trial, there was a gentleman behind me asking a lot of questions.  He wondered about novice and I told him we were in that level.  He was curious about doing it with his dog and said he would come back to watch us.  As Winn and I were navigating our left 360 turn followed by a right 360 turn,  I caught his eye and saw him smiling.  He stopped us on our way out and said “beautiful dog, you looked like you were driving a beer truck”.  Hands down, that’s the funniest thing anyone has ever said to me about my giant puppy!

Over the next two weekends, we are doing four more trials with World Cynosport Rally. The signs are the same as AKC Rally, but I can reward her in the ring.  Winn does really well with rewards so I think this will be a little easier for us as we continue to build our skills.

We are having fun, and I’m so proud of my little rally girl.

“Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE!”

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.