Tag Archives: Dog training

Why do Newfoundland dogs wear life jackets while water training?

IMG_7246This is a valid question! Newfoundlands are known as water rescue dogs.  This story was published in the New York Times in 1919 and is one of the oft-repeated Newfoundland Dog legends:

DOG LANDS LIFELINE, SAVES 92 ON WRECK

Swims from the Ethie, Aground Off Newfoundland, After Shot Fell Short.

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CREW FEARED TO VENTURE

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Fishermen Ashore Pull Wreck Victims Over the Surf —Baby Rides in Mail Bag.

CURLING, N.F. Dec. 16. – The passengers and crew of the coastal steamer Ethie, numbering ninety-two persons, were brought ashore on a lifeline which was run out from the ship by a Newfoundland dog after their vessel grounded upon Martin’s Point.

Boats could not make the hazardous passage from the stranded steamer. An effort to shoot the line ashore failed when the line became caught. Men did not dare attempt the trip through the waters and so the dog was put overboard. Directed by officers of the Ethie the intelligent animal succeeded in releasing the rope and, holding it tightly in his teeth, fought his way through the breakers to the shore.

With block and tackle the Ethie’s crew, aided by fishermen on the shore, rigged a life-saving device, using a boatswain’s chair for a carriage. One by one, in this chair, ninety-one of the ninety-two persons aboard were hauled to safety. A baby, 18 months old, was pulled ashore in a mail bag.

The Ethie, which had been engaged in the coastal service between Curling and Labrador ports, went ashore last Wednesday during a gale while bound south. The wreck was not reported here until the shipwrecked passengers and crew arrived from Bonne Bay, all wires having gone down in the storm.

The New York Times
Published: December 17, 1919
Copyright The New York Times

After reading this, it does seem silly to put a life jacket on a rescue dog, but those training for Newfoundland Dog water rescue tests do wear them for several reasons.

  • Control. Canine life jackets have a handle on top which is an easy way to grab a dog while training.  They will also slow down an over-exuberant or anxious dog, allowing them to swim more calmly and focus on their handler while learning new skills in the water.
  • Wearing a canine life jacket helps to build strength and endurance.   A canine life jacket creates resistance in the water when they are swimming.  Swimming with resistance builds stamina, allowing them to swim faster and longer once it is removed.  The extra buoyancy also helps fight fatigue so that as they train, they can swim for longer periods of time, keep good focus and build strength.
  • A canine life jacket keeps them buoyant when they have slowed down. While training, we may slow down to repeat exercises or reward with treats and the life jacket keeps them floating so they can focus on their handler during these times.IMG_3547
  • A canine life jacket reinforces an efficient swimming position in the water.  Most dogs swim with their backs in line with the water but some dogs swim with their back ends in a lower position.  A canine life jacket keeps their bodies in a horizontal position and also helps create awareness of their back legs making them more efficient swimmers as they use all four legs to propel themselves through the water.IMG_3746
  • It helps build confidence. Not all dogs are naturally good swimmers, even some Newfoundlands, and wearing a canine life jacket will help a nervous dog enjoy his time in the water while learning to swim in a proper position as well as building strength and stamina.
  • It helps them recover quickly when jumping into the water. One of the skills on the test is jumping from a boat.  When they jump in, their head will likely submerge which can be startling for a dog learning this skill.  The life jacket helps keep their head higher in the water and they pop up more quickly.  It doesn’t usually take long for a Newfie to get comfortable with the sensation of going under the water and coming back up, but the first few attempts forms their opinion and if they decide they don’t like it, they may never do it again.IMG_3859

Since Newfoundlands are in the XL category, there are fewer canine life jackets to choose from.  I purchased two different models to use and compare after reading many reviews and talking to other Newfoundland owners.

The first one is by NRS (Northwest River Supplies). They make top rated PFD’s (personal flotation device) for humans and use the same technology and products to make their CFD (canine flotation device).  I liked that it has wide bands that go under the belly rather than flaps with velcro that their long hair can get stuck in.  It buckles at the top of their back and is adjustable on both ends. It also has a handy, zipper pocket to store a leash or ball if desired. I purchased it at L.L. Bean. I grew up in New England and I still have fond memories of our annual trip to Freeport.  I have trusted L.L. Bean to provide the very best products and have always been happy with my purchases.IMG_2927The second one is by Ruffwear and is the most popular with Newfoundland owners because it fits their bodies well and is very durable.  We have used this brand at the swimming pool they train at. My only complaint is that the buckles are very low on their side and I have to straddle them and reach under their belly to get it secured. I purchased it from Amazon.IMG_6633I planned to use both during our training season to see which one I liked better but I ended up reaching for the NRS jacket almost every time. I find it much easier to put on and it is lighter weight. It provides her with plenty of buoyancy without being cumbersome. The ruffwear is a great jacket but it is more expensive and doesn’t fit Winn as well as the other one.

Another jacket that is almost identical to the NRS is Ezydog. I noticed a lot of European dogs using this one for training and when I was shopping I chose the NRS because it looked similar. I did compare them side by side when I saw one being used and other than the zippered pocket and color, they appeared the same. The straps are nice and long and went around a very large boy Newfie with no problem. Ezydog is slightly more expensive than the NRS but comes in a couple of different colors.

After using the NRS all season, it did start to fade to a perfect Nantucket Red . I like it because it reminds me of all of my childhood summers on the water in New England. For me, sun bleached means fun times, but if fading will bother you, I’d recommend the Ezydog in yellow.

Nothin’ but Newf!

Have you ever wanted to see a Newfoundland Dog up close? How about 500?

Yes, you read that right, last week, almost 500 Newfoundlands and their owners gathered at the Newfoundland National Specialty in Frankenmuth, MI.

The National is a week-long celebration which is much more than a typical dog show. It includes working events such as carting, obedience and rally obedience. There are parades honoring living legends (Newfoundlands 10 years old and over) and rescues.  Special recognition is given the Top 20 conformation and Top 10 obedience dogs as well as to Versatile Newfoundlands, who have earned an AKC championship, an AKC obedience title, NCA water rescue dog title and NCA draft dog title. That’s just a few of the events on the weeklong agenda!

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Obedience and grooming were in the blue and white building, vendors were lined up in the big tent on the left and the main show ring was in front of the big white tent.

In short, it highlights the many different aspects that make the Newfoundland Dog so special.

This year I attended for the first time. Winn and I arrived Monday night and stayed through Thursday afternoon.  We were entered into two Rally Intermediate trials with the hope that she would get her title while we were there.  The requirements for the title are three qualifying legs under two different judges.  We earned the first two legs the previous weekend, so we just needed to do well in one of the two trials to accomplish our goal and we did! On Tuesday morning we scored a 93, got second place and earned the title.IMG_6746.jpgMy daughter met me up there to cheer me on and after getting our ribbons, she and I were able to wander around, enjoy many of the other activities and explore the cute town of Frankenmuth. The working events were scheduled at the beginning of the week and we watched friends in the obedience and rally rings and also observed the specialty carting event.IMG_3008IMG_3023We had a picnic lunch, went to Bronners the World’s Largest Christmas Store and got milkshakes and ice cream to celebrate our success in the ring.IMG_6773IMG_6818IMG_6809I don’t know a lot about conformation showing, but I really enjoyed watching the puppies in the ring.  Who doesn’t love watching puppies?

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6-9 mos. puppy dog Hotel California Tender Ebony
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6-9 month old puppy dogs
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6-9 mos. puppy dogs
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4-6 month old beginner puppy
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12-15 month old ThreePonds Boatswain
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9-12 month old Sugar-Mtn’s Pray For Peace

The planning and coordination that went into this big event was incredible and I was amazed by the spectacle of it all.  The amount of gear that gets hauled around for the show dogs is mind boggling.  When Winn and I go to a trial, I bring a soft crate, a chair and a bag with snacks, water and something to read.  That’s nothing compared to the crates, tables and grooming tools that accompany the conformation dogs.  There was a separate washing station set up near the hotel and then the dogs were moved into their reserved grooming spaces to be finished. Wire crates, which are very heavy, are used in the grooming area because they are more secure and frequently one owner is traveling with multiple dogs.  This ensures that they are safely secured while the attention may be on another dog.IMG_0688IMG_6880In between our trials, I walked around with Winn to chat with several of our friends who were there but I also found myself just watching it all in amazement.  I met some new people, stopped to watch some grooming in action and spent some time with this beautiful brown boy (who was at Westminster last year) and his owner.  There were very few brown Newfoundlands there and she sought us out and introduced herself.  She loved Winn and took us around the room to meet her friends and fellow brown Newfoundland lovers.

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GCH Royal Flush Davos of Bogmist nicknames Pupachoo, Chopsy  and Chop-Chop

I had such a good time on this trip and Winn was a terrific traveling companion.  She can still be a little shy when meeting new people so I passed treats to those who wanted to meet her and she figured out pretty quickly that meeting new people is tasty.  I made a funny observation while there: owners tended to offer the treats from their open hand under her chin; handlers held the treat between two fingers above her nose. The difference made me smile every time. IMG_6854 Winn was great in the hotel.  She figured out the elevator really quickly, knew right where our room was and loved to hang out on the balcony and watch everyone coming and going through the parking lot.  She ate well and slept hard. We did hear some barking from time to time, but she never made a peep.  She was the perfect hotel dog.IMG_3026IMG_3040On Thursday morning we met up with her breeder.  He and his wife arrived late the night before and this was the first time we had seen each other since pick up day when Winn was 10 weeks old. He was showing Winn’s big sister Bertie on Friday and he set up her crate next to Winn’s.  The two girls hung out together for a little while.  It was so nice to see him with Winn, she’s changed a lot over the past year!IMG_6879IMG_6900My only regret is that Annie wasn’t with us.  My primary interest in going to Newfoundland National was to march in the Rescue Parade with her and I figured if I was there with Annie, I might as well bring Winn along and we could participate in Rally.  I also knew that having Winn by her side would make Annie feel more comfortable.  It really hurt to be there without her, but I brought the honor flag I made at the Blogpaws conference and attached it to the bag that I carried around with us.  While Winn and I were competing, Annie was right there next to Winn’s crate.  It did bring a little comfort, feeling like she was there in spirit.  I never would have thought about going if it wasn’t for my desire to celebrate Annie and how special she was.IMG_3030.jpg

Tomorrow’s post is about Precious, the namesake of Annie’s rescue group. She was there, I spent a little time with her, and she marched in the Rescue Parade. She proudly represented the 43 other Newfoundlands that were rescued with her, many of whom are no longer with us.

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day fun day

We went on a spring walk on Saturday.  It was a glorious, sunny, cool day that was perfect for walking the dogs.  The highlight of this walk was that we joined our local Newfoundland Club to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Everyone was encouraged to show their spirit by dressing in green for a costume contest.

I had a vision in my head and gathered up the supplies to create two fluffy skirts that would bounce and sway with the “Newfoundland Wiggle”.

They turned out exactly as I wanted and their movement was perfect!

Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones that dressed up (our dogs) and we found ourselves in the midst of a very festive group.

 

After we left the walk, Maisie and I raced to our training class.  We are back in classes working toward being a certified therapy team. I decided to leave her dressed, figuring that the staff would be entertained by her outfit and they were!  Her skirt proved to be a good distraction for at least one of the other dogs to work through, and Maisie had her best class ever.  Maybe because she was tired, but I also think she was showing off because she felt special.  She was exhausted from it all once we got home!

We hope you all had a fun weekend too!

CGC for Winn!

Winn and I did it! She got her CGC!

CGC stands for Canine Good Citizen. She and I met with a CGC evaluator and we had to pass several requirements without the aid of treats.

This was our second attempt, the first time, well that didn’t go so well.

Winn and I enrolled in puppy school when she was about 12 weeks old.  She proved to be a quick learner.  She really loves treats and rewards, making her very responsive when learning new commands.  After we completed the course and she passed her AKC S.T.A.R. puppy test, we moved on to basic obedience classes.   We quickly progressed up through the levels and after about 8 weeks, found ourselves prepping for the CGC test.

We took  several practice tests, each time she did really well.  We were so ready for this test and I had no worries about passing!

That day, when we walked in, I was so confident of success but Winn had a different idea. There was so much distraction, and I wasn’t allowed to regain her attention with a treat.  Once she realized there were no treats, she completely checked out and was far more interested in watching and meeting all of the dogs that were being escorted in and out of day care. Mid-way through, after failing 3 of the first 5 tasks, I grabbed my treat bag and we continued on, using it as another training opportunity.

Did we over train? Did I push too hard too fast? Did I expect too much? I decided to let it go for a while. We enrolled in a rally class which allowed us to continue to bond as a team while we practiced and learned more obedience tricks.  We had fun together and she continued to impress me with her willingness to learn.  We entered a couple of rally trials and did really well, even getting her AKC Rally Novice title!IMG_4419Then, we went back to training and worked a little more.  This time, taking it more slowly, mixing in our rally class and keeping a sense of humor.  After 7 weeks, I scheduled another test.  Two days before our test she went into heat!  I checked with our trainer and she could test as long as she wore “feminine protection”.  I knew this might be distracting for her but I decided to go.  I figured  if we didn’t pass, we still had one more week on our training package, we could review and try again.  If we still didn’t get it, I’d just put it aside for while.

I left Winn in the car while I filled out the paperwork for the test.  I didn’t want to bring her in until our evaluator was ready for us. We were quickly whisked into the private training room, walking by the main training ring that was filled with a beginner obedience class.  Instantly there was a chorus of barking and howling dogs.  I caught the eye of the trainer in charge of that class and she had a look of surprise about what had just happened.  As the door was closed behind us, I burst out laughing.  It really is a thing, a girl in heat will drive the boys crazy!IMG_5321I was a little nervous but Winn was calm, cool and collected.  One by one, she performed each task perfectly.  I went in knowing we might fail, but she proved me wrong and made me so proud.

These are the some of the components of the CGC test (these pictures and videos were from our last class before we scheduled the test for the first time, about 4 months ago):

  •  Meet and greet a stranger: she has to sit and stay by my side while I meet someone and then do it again and let them pet her and touch her ears, mouth and feet.  This was generally pretty easy but a couple of times when she was tired she barked at the stranger.  She is still a puppy, even if she is a big one, so we kept working on it to make her more comfortable. After lots and lots of practice with strangers, we are both finally confident about this task.IMG_3662
  • One of the most challenging steps was approaching another dog and owner, sitting quietly while we talked and then walking away without lunging or approaching the other dog.  This was the hardest aspect of the test for Maisie, Winn did pretty well in practice but often times she tries to kiss the other dog. She passed this perfectly, meeting a dog we had never met before.  I was so proud.
  • Winn had to sit and stay (this can also be done with a down if that is easier for the dog) while I walked away and remain sitting while I walked back towards her and returned to her side.  I walked away again and then called her, she should come quickly, then she must stop and sit in front of me without mowing me down and finish with a sit on my left side.
  • One of the most important aspects is loose leash walking. With a dog of Winn’s size and strength, leash manners are a must.  We work together on and off leash, and she is such a good walker, in training sessions and around the neighborhood. For the test, we had to follow commands called out by the evaluator and also had to walk with a loose leash through a crowd.IMG_3671IMG_3674
  • The final component is supervised separation.  I needed to leave her and be out of sight for 3 minutes.  She can’t panic, bark, whine or pull away.  She had no problem with this and waited patiently for me to return.

IMG_3999So here we are with our CGC ribbon, another wonderful accomplishment for this amazing girl!IMG_5332