Tag Archives: water 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.

______________

CREW FEARED TO VENTURE

______________

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.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.IMG_6633I plan to write a more detailed review on both of them at the end of the summer. Time will tell which one I like better.

Rainy Day Swim

Thursday morning we woke up to pouring rain and a flooded yard. While the dogs like nothing better than wading through the standing mud puddles, I’m not a big fan when it’s time for them to come inside.

Instead of letting them frolic and play in the yard, I hurried them into the car and we set out for one of our favorite places, a pool set up just for dogs!

We all still got wet (even though I didn’t get in, it’s impossible to stay dry when they shake off), but at least they weren’t muddy as they worked off their excitement in the clean water!

We are really looking forward to beach weather, but until then, this pool is pretty darn good!

It’s Friyay!

We are so excited that the weekend is here!

Our girl is coming home for the weekend and she is bringing five friends for a sleep over.  We love our girl and her friends always give us lots of extra loving attention. YAY!

IMG_5490
Maisie loves to pose for selfies!
IMG_0286
Winn is always a kisser!

Winn has just finished her first heat. YAY!

Today we plan to go for a nice long walk, our first in over three weeks and tomorrow we will get back into the pool. It feels like ages since we’ve been swimming.  DOUBLE YAY!

IMG_7049IMG_4710

 

We might even get some special homemade treats since we are all so happy that we are able to resume our adventures.  YAY, YAY, YAY!IMG_6837What are your plans for the weekend? We hope you have some double yay moments too!

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!