I knew that Winn was something special when she spotted the newspaper on the sidewalk, made her way down the porch steps and brought the paper into the kitchen for a reward. She was only 4 months old! I had tried to show her how to do that two or three times a couple of weeks before but I didn’t think she was getting it and figured she was too young and we would try again when she was older. That was the first time that she showed me she really was absorbing what I was trying to teach her to do and could put it together at a later time. I was instantly aware that I had a true working dog on my hands and we could explore all kinds fun activities together.
Last summer I observed some friends water training their Newfies and then I volunteered at our local Newfoundland Club’s annual water test. I had never been to a test before and was just beginning to learn about water work with Newfoundlands but after that experience I was hooked!
When I got home from that test, I knew it was something that I wanted to do with Winn so I purchased a recommended book that was dedicated to training for the three different levels of the water test. We played retrieval games with bumpers and a life jacket. I filled her wading pool with water so that she could dunk her face for carrots and hot dogs as well as diving rings. We went swimming in a doggie pool during the winter months, throwing in different articles for her to retrieve and even doing a little jumping off of the pool deck to encourage her playfulness in the water.
When spring rolled around, I was excited to actually start training for the test. We have good friends who have enjoyed doing water and draft work with Newfies for many years. They were teaching a water work seminar for the Central Ontario Newfoundland Club over Memorial Day Weekend and I decided that would be a great way to spend the weekend with our friends, learning new skills and being surrounded by fellow Newfie lovers.
They went through each of the different exercises and showed us how to break them into small segments. We learned tips and tricks to practice on land as well as in the water, and each exercise was introduced to each team individually in a gentle and fun way.
Land work: practicing going out and around and revving her up by having fun with her fetching articles.
Learning Take A Line, one of the most difficult exercises:
Introducing the boat, taking treats and pulling it in:
Swim With Handler, our favorite exercise that we had been doing all winter at the indoor doggie pool:
When we returned home, we had to wait a few more weeks for the weather to cooperate but we were invited to train with two other families at a nearby lake. We spent almost every Saturday or Sunday with them and Winn took to it amazingly well. We each took turns with our dogs, helping each other out with exercises by acting like a drowning victim, dropping articles in the water or rowing the boat. As the weeks passed, Winn was executing everything really well. When she was first learning Take A Line, we put a long line on her to help guide to the caller, then swim around them and back to shore. After only 2 or 3 times with the long line, she understood what she was supposed to do and after that I didn’t put the long line on again. She was great at retrieval, was starting to understand Tow A Boat and was perfect with the Basic Control exercises. I even found myself giving tips to others on heeling and recall!Once I was pretty confident with our skills, I started getting more excited about entering a water test. There were several tests planned in our area, all on different weekends so I started filling out the paperwork and entered 4 different tests with the hope of getting into and competing in 2 or 3. In addition to our own club’s test which would be the last one of the summer, we got into one in Indiana and one in Michigan. I really hoped that we would have success in at least one of them.
We continued practicing, fine tuning each exercise so that we were doing what was needed to pass and building her strength and stamina. She wore a life jacket during practice and I was planning on taking it off and doing a full practice run of the test the week before our first water test in Indiana. I wrote a post a while back explaining why Newfies wear life jackets when they train and you can read that here. Everything was going according to plan until the night before that designated practice and Winn went into heat! I knew it was coming sometime soon but I didn’t expect it that night. We would have to stay home and wouldn’t have any more time in the water until we showed up for our first test. I would just have to cross my fingers and go for it. That would add an extra layer of difficulty, she would most likely be more distracted and would have a harder time focusing on me. I had also severely sprained my ankle the week before and had skipped practice. By the time we tested, it was 3 weeks since we had been in the water and she wouldn’t be cleared to practice again until 2 weeks after we got back and that was the weekend of the Michigan test. It was time to have faith in our skills and go out and have a good time no matter how it may end up!next post: our first water test!