I saw a funny post the other day about how we talk to our dog friends vs. our non-dog friends.
My answer to the question ” what have you been up to?” varies based on the audience.
For my non-dog friends, I’ll say I’ve gone on a couple of weekend get-aways to visit friends. I’ve also been going to the beach a lot, trying to get back into a workout routine and researching organizations to start volunteering with in the fall. I try to sound like a normal person that isn’t doing “weird” stuff.
For my dog friends, depending on what I know of their dog activities, I will be more forth coming with my answers i.e. I’ve been training Maisie to be a Therapy Dog and have found an organization that I’m pretty excited about. I’ve gone through my own training with them and I’ll be tagging along this week to observe their program in action. Hopefully we will pass their dog team test so that we can volunteer with them in the fall. We’ve been going on a lot of training walks, in and out of stores and mixing up our destination to expose her to lots of different situations and people.For dog enthusiasts, I might elaborate a little more. Winn and I have been doing all kinds of advanced training over the last several months and have entered several different types of trials and have earned five titles. Right now we are focusing on Water Rescue training and are having a blast!
I’ve been around water my entire life and for about 10 years I worked at my local YMCA teaching 3-5 year olds pool safety and how to swim. I loved working with that age and I really felt like I was teaching them something that could save their lives. Now I’m exploring a different form of water safety by working with Winn and her natural instincts. It’s just for fun, she’s not going to be a lifeguard or a search and rescue dog, but I love swimming with her and having a reason to be in the water again.I’ve taken a couple of trips with her to learn the skills needed to enter and pass the junior level Newfoundland Water Dog (WD) test and have been working on a few of the skills included in the senior level Water Rescue Dog (WRD) test. (Last year I volunteered to help at the water tests in my area and wrote about those skills here and here.) She loves the water and has amazing instincts. We work really well together but being in the water is exhausting and I’m reminded that even though she’s a big dog, she’s still young and she tires easily. I’m also getting used to being in the water again so we are both working on building our stamina in the water and knowing when to call it quits.This week, I’ve been filling out entry forms for water tests put on by different regional Newfoundland clubs. Two are close by, about an hour’s drive and two are further away and would require a hotel stay. I hope to get into at least two, maybe three. My friend who has been doing this a long time and teaches water skills clinics would like me to go to Canada with her so Winn could also try for her Canadian Water Rescue Dog title. I think this year, we will just focus on her American title and consider that in the future. I’ll be thrilled if we get the title this summer, but I’m loving the bond we’ve formed and the fun we have learning new skills. I have high hopes for us as a working team and there are so many possibilities for us to explore!
Why do Newfoundlands wear life jackets while water training? This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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. I purchased it at L.L. Bean but they aren’t carrying it anymore. Amazon and Chewy have both stocked it recently and it is also available at the NRS website.The 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. I purchased it from Amazon.
I planned to use both during our training season to see which one I liked better but I ended up reaching for the NRS jacket almost every time. I find it much easier to put on and it is lighter weight. It provides Winn with plenty of buoyancy without being cumbersome. The Ruffwear is a great jacket but it is more expensive and doesn’t fit her as well as the other one.
Another jacket that is almost identical to the NRS is Ezydog. I noticed a lot of European dogs using this one for training and when I was shopping I chose the NRS because it looked similar. I did compare them side by side when I saw one being used and other than the zippered pocket and color, they appeared the same. The straps are nice and long and went around a very large boy Newfie with no problem. Ezydog is slightly more expensive than the NRS but comes in a couple of different colors.
After using the NRS all season, it did start to fade to a perfect Nantucket Red . I like it because it reminds me of all of my childhood summers on the water in New England. For me, sun bleached means fun times, but if fading will bother you, I’d recommend the Ezydog in yellow.
After using the NRS with Winn for 3 water seasons, I’m still really happy with it. It has faded, faded, faded, but otherwise still in great shape. The straps and buckles still work perfectly and the jacket itself doesn’t have any rips or tears.
It does tend to shift around on her back when she’s on land, but once in the water, it stays in the proper position. Winn’s back stays aligned with the water and she is able to swim efficiently. It’s the perfect training jacket for her needs.
Winn weights about 105 lbs and the XL jacket is for dogs 80 lbs and up. I’m not sure that it would be the best choice for dogs in the 130-150 range.
I purchased and Ezydog life jacket for Maisie this summer. 3 years ago I compared Winn’s NRS with and Ezydog that someone else had. They were the exact same size and appeared to be made in a similar way. The XL I received this year is much bigger than Winn’s. The straps are longer and would certainly fit a much larger dog than Winn. I think this would be great choice for dogs bigger than Maisie and Winn.
It is very easy to put on and take off since it buckles at the top. The straps have light padding for the belly area and Maisie is very comfortable when wearing it. I’m really pleased with this one as well.
Ruffwear has changed the design a little bit this year, but it still buckles underneath which is the main reason that I’m not very fond of this jacket. It still is the life jacket of choice for lots of Newfie owners who don’t seem to be bothered by the buckle placement.
I also purchased a pink life jacket, because it was pink. When I received it, it had flaps that fit under the belly that close with velcro underneath the straps. I returned it immediately because their long hair gets stuck in the velcro and eventually the velcro fails. I’ve had friends that have had jackets like this design and we ended up cutting the flaps off because the velcro was such a nuisance.
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!
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!
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!
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!What are your plans for the weekend? We hope you have some double yay moments too!