Tag Archives: working dog

A little draft season wrap-up

Winn and I recently entered a Newfoundland Draft Test put on by our local Newfoundland Club.

We’ve been training for a few months. We started shortly after her 2nd birthday in March, which is the recommended age to start draft training. With all of the Rally classes we’ve had, she adapted to maneuvering with the cart really well and we entered the Draft Test at the Newfoundland National Specialty in April.  We didn’t pass but I came away with a better idea of what a test is like and some things for us to work on before we tried it again.

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Winn and I passing through the low narrows at the National test. It was cold there too and we had the same judge!

I put the cart away while we focused on water training for the next few months and then pulled it out again about 6 weeks ago.

Training this fall was challenging. The weather was pretty terrible with lots of rain but surprise, surprise the dogs were happy as can be pulling their carts around on the cool fall weekend days! fullsizeoutput_2e8eIt was great to practice with a group, we had a maneuvering course set up, a beautiful forest preserve to use for the freight haul, and it was really helpful to have several dogs together to practice the three minute out of site stay.

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The dogs must remain in a stay without moving for three minutes while their handlers are hidden out of sight.

As an added bonus, there was a tiny dog on site that was more than happy to fulfill the role of “intriguing distraction”, which was almost more that Winn could take until we plopped him in her cart and she took him for a ride.

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Luke The Distracter

The weather for the test was cold and sunny and the site for the test was really beautiful.  It was a perfect setting, the dogs were frisky with the cool temps and there were lots of people on hand to help out and cheer on all of us that were entered.

Of seven entries, there was one team that passed. There are so many details to accomplish, it really is a beautiful sight when a team makes it successfully through a test.

What kind of things make you fail? Winn and I failed because she got a little too far away from me, she must stay within a four foot radius, and I had to grab her to keep her from getting off course which is an automatic fail and dismissal (you must be hands free for each of the exercises). Another team failed because the dog refused to back up. There are two back-ups required and she just wasn’t in the mood for the first one. One team failed because there was a problem with the cart. There is a full inspection of the harnessing and cart once the dog is hitched. All of these things happened at the very beginning of the test.

A couple of teams failed on the maneuvering course, either bumping too many times or not completing the obstacles correctly. One team failed on the freight haul, which is the very end of the test because her handler told her to turn right instead of left and she sandwiched her handler on the bridge. We all got a good laugh at that one, it’s pretty much always handler error. The dogs take our cues, whether it’s from stress, sloppy hand signals or forgetting our right and left.

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Beautiful Ella, she came sooo close to passing!

We will keep practicing and hopefully pass a test sometime in the near future. Winn has such great instincts and the best part is that we have fun working together and that’s what it’s all about!

If you’d like to read the requirements for passing the Draft Dog test click here. There have been changes to the basic obedience since this was written but the overall test remains the same.fullsizeoutput_2e23

More working dog stuff!

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch another Newfoundland Dog test, this time it was for Draft Dog. In addition to water work, Newfoundlands are also excellent at draft work.  Drafting involves different exercises with the dog hooked up to a cart.

Think back to the days when merchants hauled their goods in carts and wagons.  Most of us probably picture horses or donkeys but large working dogs were also used, especially in Newfoundland, Canada and England.  Their size, temperament, strength, and dependability made them perfect for milk wagons, vegetable carts, delivery and mail wagons and teams were used for large sledges.

This test was especially fun to watch because Winn’s mother was one of the entrants.  It was her first draft test and she and her handler had been working very hard to prepare. Her cart was fashioned out of a milk crate weighted with milk jugs filled with sand.  What a brilliant idea that really incorporated the origins of the working Newfoundland Dog!

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Arlene waits patiently for her turn with her cart ready to go.

Similar to the Water Test, the Draft Test is made up of 5 exercises:

  1. Basic Control
  2. Harnessing and hitching
  3. Maneuvering
  4. Freight load
  5. Freight haul

Basic Control is the first exercise because it is crucial that the handler has control over the dog throughout the test.  All of the dogs entered did so well on this, I assume because the whole test involves cooperation between the dog and handler.  This is the foundation for what they had been doing together.  They had to walk side by side, do a left turn, an about turn (u-turn), a right turn and a halt, all with the dog off leash and remaining close to the handler’s left leg.  Next was a sit stay and recall and finally all the dogs were in the ring together for a one minute down stay.  Arleen is a big, beautiful brown girl who listened and responded so well to her handler but she did let her personality shine through right before the down stay when she decided to roll over and kick her legs up for a back scratch in the grass.  She quickly recovered and then she stayed in place for the expected time.

For harnessing and hitching the handler puts the harness on the dog, then the dog backs up so that the cart can be attached to the harness.  The judges are looking for cooperation, proper fit and correct and safe attachment.

Now they are ready to start the course! The course includes circular patterns, a right and a left 90 degree turn, 2 narrow areas, a removable object that requires the dog to stop and wait for the handler to clear the path, and changes in pace. This video shows Arleen going through the tall, narrow obstacle and stopping for the removable obstacle.

The dogs must also do a 3 minute down stay with their handlers out of sight.  They did this as a group after everyone had completed the maneuvering exercises. The people in the yellow vests are the stewards/volunteers not the handlers.

The final part of the test is the freight load which must be secured in the cart and then a 1 mile walk over natural terrain with the load. The load is about 25 lbs.

Arleen had 1 very small error on the first day but on the second day she achieved her Draft Dog title!  It was so wonderful to watch these handlers and dogs work together and have fun.

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Day 2 Draft Dogs Neko and Arleen, their handlers and the judges

While Winn is the one that shows the most drive to work, we won’t start training for this until she has finished growing and is at least 2 years old.  For now, we are enjoying our Rally Class and obedience training.  We will also be doing exercises this winter on land in preparation for water training to hopefully participate in a Water Test next summer.

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Winn thinks I go too fast, I think she could speed up just a little bit!

In case you missed it, I wrote about the Newfoundland Dog Water Test here, here and here.

Annie broke the hook…

Annie’s on a diet and Annie doesn’t like being on a diet.  I don’t blame her, I don’t like it either but we have both gained weight over the past several months so we are watching what we eat.

Maisie and I have been doing a lot of training lately, we are working on her Canine Good Citizen title and then hope to move on to Therapy Dog certification.  Yesterday before class I took Maisie out for a long walk to review some of the things we’ve been working on and to burn off some energy because she gets so excited when she sees the other dogs in class.  Distraction is her biggest obstacle to passing her test.

Because of this, I have treats tucked into the pockets of my coats, sweatshirts or pants.  When I get home, Annie will shove her nose right into wherever I have those treats.  She knows Maisie and I have been doing treat things without her.  Of course I will ask her to sit or lie down and she will get a treat, but it’s never enough, she always wants more.  I understand, I always want more yummy things too.

Well, yesterday I was rushing around.  Maisie and I went for a walk and I was taking pictures for a photo challenge and because of this we got home later than I planned.  We were both hot and muddy so I quickly rinsed Maisie off and then hopped in the shower.  We left for class 20 minutes later.  It was so warm out I discarded my coat, shoved treats in my sweatshirt pocket and took off.  When we got home, Chris and I were late for an outing with his mom and we rushed off again.  Yep, you guessed it, I forgot about the treats in my coat pocket and left my coat hanging on a hook in the narrow hallway that Annie used to never go down but now does not fear.

Later that evening I noticed Annie snuffling around in her crate.  Chris looked at me and said “what is Annie doing, and by the way, how did you break your hook?” Then, “Wait a minute, is that your coat?”.  Sure enough, there was my coat, rumpled up in her crate, buried under her blanket.  I stood up and attempted to remove it but Annie was standing on it with a look on her face that said “finders, keepers”.  We were both laughing as I struggled to get my coat out of there but I was finally rewarded with a slimy, wet mess of a coat.  The pockets were licked clean of any treat remnants.

Somehow she had pulled my coat down without ripping it by snapping the hook in half.  These are really sturdy hooks, they’ve been overloaded with coats and bags for years but in one afternoon Annie figured out how to break one.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

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Re-staging the scene, Annie won’t look at me, Maisie is incredulous and that burgundy wad in the crate is my coat.