Tag Archives: swimming

Winn’s week of firsts

We have had a lot of activity lately.

We started with a walk in the woods on Thanksgiving morning. Maisie and Annie immediately knew where we were, but Winn was beside herself with excitement.  She and I walk a lot and we have spent countless hours in training classes.  She has always walked perfectly on leash but suddenly she was pulling me harder than any dog has ever pulled me.  She had never done this before and I was amazed by her strength!

Stupidly, I had left my treat bag sitting on the kitchen counter so I had to resort to verbal commands and redirection to get her under control. It took a while, too long really, and my hand was raw from the leash but eventually we reached an agreement and we were able to walk along the path and enjoy a beautiful day.  We were stopped numerous times by people who wanted to meet the girls. Three Newfoundlands is a bit of a spectacle but I’m alway happy to answer questions about my favorite breed and I was so impressed with Winn as she sat by my side while we talked.  IMG_4658

Our next adventure took place at a doggie pool. We frequently go to the dog beach in town but it is very shallow so they don’t end up doing a lot of swimming.  Winn has been swimming a couple of times, but typically they all just romp and play in the shallow water while chasing toys and each other.

After taking some time to figure out the ramp to enter and exit the water, Winn enthusiastically took off.  She loved it! She’s a strong swimmer and her form was perfect. I was surprised that Maisie was the one who was nervous and wasn’t as confident in the water. Hopefully next time she will enjoy it more.

Notice how Winn is perfectly horizontal using her front and back legs and her tail to guide her around and change direction. She’s a natural!

Our final excursion was to a Christmas party for our local Newfoundland Club.  I debated  taking all three, Annie gets nervous in new situations and with strangers and sometimes Winn picks up on Annie’s nervousness and she gets nervous too.

They all had so much fun! We stayed toward the back of the room so that they could all get comfortable and Maisie and Winn kept creeping closer to the front so that they could see the other dogs and meet their owners. Annie plopped down next to me, joined the chorus of  barkers and stopped to meet and greet some people on our way out. What a great way to kick off the holiday season!

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 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.

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

Winn’s first beach day

We have a wonderful spot nearby that we can take the dogs and let them swim.  It’s one of Maisie’s favorite places and she has been going since she was a puppy.

Maisie swims, runs and romps around. She loves to chase other dogs, especially when they are fetching a ball.  Sometimes this is OK, sometimes not, so she is very carefully supervised.  img_3325

We introduced the beach to Annie about 3 months after she had joined our family.  She didn’t leave the yard or house for several weeks and getting her into the car was a major ordeal, so we were very careful about making sure we were following her own pace when it came to new a new place and experience.

Annie prefers to walk the length of the beach, back and forth.  She likes the sand and sometimes dips her feet in the water but she won’t go in unless one of us walks out with her. IMG_2757

It really takes two of us to properly supervise them, one with Annie and one with Maisie so I decided that for Winn’s first time we should probably leave Annie at home so that I could introduce the water and see how she swam.

I read a couple of articles on hot to introduce a puppy to water for the first time and was so excited to see how Winn would respond to the beach.  She has already started to show some skills in retrieving and had played in the kiddy pool in our yard so I was pretty confident that she would be comfortable in deeper water while discovering her swimming instinct.

When we arrived we took some time meeting other dogs and letting her explore the sand and water.

Then we ventured into the water.  I guided her toward me, then a little deeper so that she swam a few strokes, then around me and back to the shore so that she could feel the sand reappear under her feet. On our first attempt she went between my legs which was a bit awkward.

Our next few tries went a lot better!

After doing this several times we took off the leash and let her do whatever she wanted.  She loved it, we loved it, and I look forward to going back and watching her spend more time in the water. We have another beach dog!