Tag Archives: puppy training

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

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!”

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.