Tag Archives: Newfoundland Dog

Annie the adventurer…who knew?

Every time Annie does something remotely “dog like”, I take note.

Behaviors that might seem completely normal and maybe even annoying in other dogs, are behaviors that she is learning.  She wouldn’t take a treat from my hand.  She wouldn’t come into the same room with me.  She wouldn’t go through new doorways.  She wouldn’t go upstairs.  She wouldn’t voluntarily leave her crate. She wouldn’t leave our yard to go to the car or for a walk. Slowly, as she got more comfortable with us and her new home, she started doing these things.  One day at time.  Sometimes she would regress, and we would start over, trying to make her comfortable.

She still won’t roll over for a belly rub. She still barks out of fear when someone other than my husband or I walks through the door, even if it’s someone she knows well.  She still hides behind me when we are out for a walk and someone is walking towards us.

Imagine my surprise Sunday morning, when I heard a commotion at the front door.  Maisie and Winn were crowded together with their tails were wagging and I could tell they either saw someone on the sidewalk or even on the porch that they knew.  Annie was in the middle of the living room barking her alarm bark.

I went to the door and my next door neighbor was there.  He didn’t ring the bell but when I opened the door, he said one of them was wandering outside in front of his house and he had just brought her back. Winn had recently brought in the paper and maybe I didn’t latch the door all of the way.  I was a little surprised, but thanked him for returning the rascal.  I figured it was Maisie.  As he turned to go down the stairs, he said “it was the dark one”.  The dark one!  I said, “Annie?”. “Yep”.

I couldn’t believe it!  I was cleaning the bathroom when I heard her barking, and that’s when I went around the corner and saw the other two with their wagging tails at the door.  Apparently he had returned Annie, she ran inside and then started barking which led the other two to check out whatever was happening.  I can not believe she actually left the house and went for a stroll.  That is something completely new!

I certainly don’t take it lightly that she got out, but there is a part of me that can’t help but smile because it’s one more little sign that lets me know that she is confident enough in her surroundings that she thought she would go say hello to the neighbor.

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 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

What is going on?

Yesterday, I had a post ready to go. The working title was It’s official, Annie is a city dog!

I was snapping some pictures to add to my post when I realized that perhaps things are different from what I originally thought.

The theme of the story was that Annie grew up and lived in the country before she came to live with us.  Unfortunately, for most of her life, it wasn’t the idyllic existence that one would think of for a country dog.  She and many other dogs lived in rural Michigan in an area without an animal warden. Care and conditions were terrible and there wasn’t anyone around to inspect or enforce violations.  Once she got into foster care, she was exposed to a wonderful country life with open land to explore, a pack of 6 other dogs to play and bond with as well as love, affection, vet care and regular feedings from a wonderful family.

Transitioning to our city life took her a while but she has embraced it.  We have a nice sized fenced yard and we are a couple of blocks from a bustling downtown with restaurants, shops, bakeries and coffee shops.  Walk a few blocks in a different direction and we are on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Annie loves our walks, whichever route we may take although she is always cautious and alert when we are passing strangers along the way.IMG_1364Annie’s favorite place is our backyard.  She has learned how to let herself out and will come and go to her heart’s content.  We have 3 huge, old oak trees that provide lots of shade and she is perfectly happy to lay at the top of the deck stairs or curl up in her favorite dirt hole and sniff the air before falling into a deep, contented sleep. We have plenty of small animals that enter our yard including bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, possums and occasionally a skunk or raccoon.  She has never paid attention to any of them nor has she exhibited a prey drive.IMG_2941Imagine my horror when I opened the door Monday to let everyone inside before I left the house to run some errands and there stood Annie with a floppy, bloody, dead rat in her mouth. Yes, a rat. The most vile creature ever to walk the planet. Living near restaurants and water means that there are also rats in the area but until this summer I have been blissfully unaware of whatever may be lurking on the other side of our fence.

Two things happened this summer to encourage this invasion into our yard. First, two houses away, a dilapidated, dark and unused garage was torn down to make way for a new, modern garage with an upstairs apartment. There were rumors that rats had taken up residence there but I never saw them so I chose to pretend that they didn’t exist. Second, we replaced our fence and gate shortly before we picked up Winn.  Our old gate brushed against the sidewalk, the new gate has a pretty large gap between the sidewalk and the bottom of the gate which would allow small animals easy access to the yard.IMG_2937We started to suspect that a rat or two (I know, you see one rat and you actually have many more) were wandering into our yard about a month ago. Maisie loves to play with all creatures big and small and has been spending a lot of time sniffing and pacing in the bushes along our fence line with Winn hot on her trail.  Annie has ignored all of their excitement.

When I shrieked at Annie to drop the rat, and she did, Winn was right there eager to pick it up.  Fortunately she responded well to my hysteria and also dropped the rat and everyone ran inside avoiding my attempts to grab their collars to hurry along the process.

Once I caught my breath, I couldn’t help but wonder who had killed the rat? Maisie has picked up lots of small critters but has never killed them.  She wants to love and play with them.  Annie doesn’t have any front teeth and has never shown any interest in chasing or catching them.  Winn is interested in everything and while she did drop a baby bunny when I told her to, she wasn’t allowed the time to figure out what the natural next step might be.  Had she done it when I wasn’t around to stop her?IMG_5313I was betting on Winn but then, when I let them out later Annie was the one that was running around excitedly sniffing the bushes, around the planters and all along the fence line.  It seemed that she was the one that had scored the rat and was very proud of herself. She had officially become a city girl by catching a city rat.IMG_5316The next day, I had my camera ready when Annie and Winn gathered together and were sniffing around the same spot.  I thought it was cute and stood away from them snapping pictures when I began to get suspicious.  The were very curious about something in the dirt but so far, their mouths were empty.  I called them away and as they both came toward me, I was able to catch a glimpse of four small feet sticking out from under a plant close to the sidewalk.  Good grief, another one!  Upon closer inspection, I could tell that it was a squirrel.  I had more questions because neither one of them wanted to pick it up, they just looked at it, looked at each other and then looked at it some more. Were they leaving it alone to avoid more shrieking?

My new working theory is that there is a predator cat in the alley and these maimed creatures are making a quick escape into our yard by squeezing under the gate.  Then again, the squirrel could have just fallen out of the tree.  I’ve seen that happen before…