Gun Dog Foundations: Whistle Problems

Last week our Gun Dog Foundations 1 class began. We had a pretty busy weekend, so other than reading the lecture material and checking out the forums, I didn’t do any actual work.

I had Huib read the material and watch the videos before we started.

Once we get the clicker out, the dogs know something exciting is happening, so it’s kind of a pain to get them to go down into the living room, so we can work with them one at a time.

Arizona was first.

The first lesson talked about the importance of engagement, so I began our session playing with Arizona. She loved it!! She really enjoys interacting with me, so I think I will try and remember to incorporate this into our classes in the summer, where her distraction level rises.

Once she was fully engaged, I started to work on a ‘whistle-sit.’ I blew once on the whistle and quickly said “sit.” The minute she sat, Huib clicked and tossed a toy for her to chase and bring back to us. We did this a few times, until I no longer needed to say “sit.”

Arizona was beginning to learn this in the summer, but we never really did much work on it.

To take a bit of a break, we moved on to the ‘whistle-recall.’ Huib held her, I blew the whistle three times and said “here” in a very excited voice. Arizona ran over, I petted her and I dropped kibbles at my feet. We did this a couple times before I dropped the verbal cue all-together.

We use the whistle-recall a lot in field, so Arizona’s pretty good there.

Huib suggested we do some more sits, but try to get some distance. She kept coming really close, so Huib attached a leash to the staircase rail, so she wouldn’t be able to move. Starting a foot away, I blew the whistle once and said “sit.” She did nothing, so Huib finally lured her into position, clicked and rewarded her.

We continued to have similar issues, as well as problems with her going into a down. I stopped using the whistle and just worked on showing her she can sit while on a leash attached to something. It’s like she thought that being tethered to something meant she had to be in a down position.

Next it was Rogue’s turn.

I blew the whistle once and said “sit.” She just stood there. I tried again, but got the same result. Huib said it looked as though she was nervous. We think the whistle might hurt her ears and remind her too much of the smoke detector, which scares her.

I’m hoping she will be okay with the whistle outdoors, or I am not sure how we’ll do any field.

To get her back “in “the game,” I ran through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours. Rogue knows these well and loves ‘touch,’ so I think the exercise helped destress her.

Once she was back to herself, I did some distance work. I’d ask her to “sit” and quickly walk away while I did it. Huib clicked anytime she sat and I was at least a metre away, then I’d toss a treat for her. We did this several times and she steadily progressed.

Since I couldn’t do the whistle-recalls with her, I did some retrieve and ‘hold’ work with her using the bumper. The last class we took that used shaping to teach a retrieve, really helped because she has a nice quiet hold now. We just need to work on moving around with items and on getting them and passing them over.

I am hoping to do some work with the girls outdoors next time, so I can see if Rogue is okay with the whistle outside.

If anyone can suggest a substitute for the whistle, in order to also work indoors with Rogue, that would be awesome!!

Rough Conditions

Today was a tough day for tracking. It wasn’t extremely cold, but there was a light snow/rain mix, along with a bit of a breeze.

Wanting to keep everyone warm and dry, I had all three dogs wear their winter coats.

A few weeks ago, our friend, Kelly, asked if we might want a green Hurtta harness for Canyon. She purchased it a couple of years ago for Ace, but he has a very awkward body structure. On Saturday, she was at an agility thing with another friend, who offered to drop it off at our house.

I was looking forward to trying it out with Canyon.

Sunday’s tracking group consisted of: Stewart, the Belgian Tervuran, Cordelia, the Golden Retriever and our three.

Stewie tracks with his handler, Sandy, a lot more often than we admit to working with our guys – we’re so bad!! He tends to be quite on when he’s working, but he found this track to be really challenging. He missed almost all of his articles, which were mostly covered over with a light layer of snow, and he also had a bit of trouble locating the track while following it through a more contaminated area.

Rogue was up next and I was expecting the worst. Her first leg was a bit messy, like usual, so I brought her back to me and had her settle before cuing her to “find.” Once she settled in, she worked really well. She had some trouble locating her articles, but she let us know they were nearby, so we are all thinking the snow must have been creating some difficulties. Rogue did not really run into any issues following her track, even in the more contaminated areas. We were all quite surprised and excited!!

Next was Cordelia. She is still learning to do urban tracks, but she did very well. I don’t think there were any major problems. From listening to the rundown of her track by Laura and Sandy afterwards, it sounds like the biggest improvement came from her handler, Mary’s, work. Both Sandy and Laura said Mary has improved a lot in her ability to handle Cordelia on the track.

While Cordelia was running her track, Huib laid one for Canyon. When you are teaching a dog to track, you want to keep it fresh and avoid too many complications.

Arizona was next. Both Laura and Sandy were impressed. She found all of her articles and really didn’t struggle too much. The only place she showed some difficulty was as she neared the end. Arizona began to slow down, so Huib started tossing treats ahead, encouraging her to keep moving. We think part of the issue was that Laura had put a parking lot crossing into her track, so Ari got confused, but she figured it out and ended beautifully. We just need to continue extending her track, so she’ll be ready for the long ones at a test.

Last, but not least, it was Canyon’s turn. Huib put a squeaky tennis ball into his pocket as I got Canyon dressed. He really likes toys, especially balls, so we thought a ball, rather than a treat, would be a better reward at the end.

I will be handling Canyon in tests, so I am starting to work with him now. I need to work on teaching him to really check out the scent pad before we take off, but he did an okay job there. Once I felt he had located the track direction, I said “find” and we were off!! He is a very calm and focused worker. It was easy to follow him and he really didn’t seem to get distracted by other scents. I’m not sure if this will change, but it was sure a great start. Huib laid the track to have about 3 or 4 corners which Canyon found and navigated nicely. He is a very quick worker, so I’m sure glad that I’ve started to work on running. Once he located the glove at the end, he picked it up and gave it to me in exchange for the ball.

Despite the conditions, all three of our dogs did a fantastic job!!

Obedience with the Youngsters

It’s been a while, but we’ve finally returned to obedience class.

I would really like to try and earn the Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD) title this spring with Arizona.

If I can teach her consistent heeling and at least a one minute (30 seconds is actually required, but I’m thinking I should account for time needed to return and getting the leash back on) sit-stay, then we’ll be ready to trial.

Ari reliably performs a 25-second sit-stay at home. I need to extend this time, while also adding distractions and working outside the house.

As for heeling, it’s really a work-in-progress. She can do it when we’re at home, but add any sort of distraction in and she’s done.

From reading the CKC obedience rules, it looks like Arizona needs to earn three qualifying scores before she’ll get the PCD title.

Arizona absolutely LOVES Susie, so I didn’t expect great work. And, she didn’t let me down… She did her usual screeching and bouncing around, lol!! Once she’d efficiently greeted Susie, I took her into the training ring and began running through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours – sit, down, touch, ‘leave it.’ When we begin training sessions at home, I do this, and I think it helps to get her into “the game.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Susie was a big fan of the work we’ve been doing. Her biggest concern was with the way I tossed treats after clicking. For me, when I click, the behaviour is over and the dogs can go get their reward. I feel tossing the treat helps reset them because they have to come back and get into position again in order to receive a click/treat. Susie doesn’t want me tossing treats because she bellies it is not promoting a bond with me, and she thinks it will just encourage scavenging. I don’t agree with her assessment, but I will follow her request when we’re in her presence.

Susie and I use the clicker in similar, but different ways. When I click, the dogs know the behaviour is over, so they can move and go get their treat. For Susie, the click means you’re doing it right, but it doesn’t mean you’re done.

I’m going to stop using the clicker when I am with her, just using a verbal “good” or “yes” instead.

I want the dogs to continue seeing the click as an end to the behaviour and a time for reward.

I am leaving Canyon out of obedience classes for now. I need to work out some problems we’re having with the sit-stay.

Last week, we started our Sensational Stays class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, so I’m really hoping his issues will iron themselves out.

Rogue is coming to class with Huib. I wanted to do obedience with her, but she gets confused when I ask her to heel because I also require her to ‘leash-guide’ from time-to-time. As a result, Huib has offered to work with her and together they will try for the PCD.

From listening to the comments he received in class, I think the first goal for him will be to develop a working relationship with her.

Once Rogue knows that she needs to pay attention to him, I think the rest of the requirements will fall into place quickly.

Rogue already knows how to work. She just needs to realize that I’m not the only one who might ask her to perform cues.

Thankfully our next class isn’t for about 10 days because we’ve got lots of work to do.

Busy Busy

What a week!!

Around 3:00am Wednesday morning, Huib, Rogue, the goldens and I took off for Gatineau. I had to attend a three day meeting that would be starting at 9:0am. We had originally planned to leave Tuesday evening, but Ottawa got a lot of snow, so instead of worrying about the road conditions, we decided to delay our departure and do an early morning drive. Our drive was smooth and uneventful – it only took us five hours, compared to the usual six.

After dropping Rogue and I off at the meeting, Huib and the goldens drove to our friend Jess’ place. They spent the day relaxing and helping Jess run a few errands.

Rogue and I had a pretty boring day. She slept under my chair most of the time, while I tried to pay attention and control my facial expressions. When you are in a room with a group of people who have very different life experiences and opinions, it can be difficult at times not to scowl or roll your eyes, but it’s important to try not to do so, just in case you might insult someone.

I’m not sure how many other service dogs were in the room, but Rogue was fabulous!! We had another dog sitting right beside us, but she never paid any attention to him. Other than getting up a bit more often starting around 3:00pm, an hour before the meeting’s end, Rogue remained relaxed throughout.

With the early start, we were all pretty exhausted Wednesday evening, so other than ordering some pizza and salad for dinner, we did nothing and went to bed by 9:00pm.

On Thursday, Huib fed and relieved the dogs while I got ready. Rogue and I had to go to another full day of meetings, so Huib tried to ensure she had a good amount of time to relieve herself. Rogue can be a bit of a finicky reliever when not at home, but I think it helped that she had been to Jess’ place before because she had no problems.

We were a little late getting to the meeting, so we had to rush into the building. We got stuck in traffic between Ottawa and Gatineau. With the rush, I let Huib get Rogue ready while I got my backpack on. He passed me her leash and we were off. As we were walking/running to the room, Rogue tried to sniff some things, so I told her to “leave it!” It isn’t normal for her to try sniffing in harness, so I was a bit firmer the second time it happened. When I settled at my chair, the woman beside me asked me if I meant to have Rogue work without her harness. The woman knows I am visually impaired, so told me about the missing harness because she was surprised I would choose not to have her wearing it. I laughed and immediately messaged Huib, who came running back inside with it. The mistake totally explained why Rogue was so interested in smelling things as we were walking through the building.

The rest of our day was completely uneventful.

At 4:30pm, Huib came to get us. Jess was also with him because her and I were going to her running group.

Before Christmas, I started walking a few times a week on my treadmill. Jess has been helping me increase my speed and endurance over the past month. Our treadmill measures things in miles, so I have gone from doing my workouts at 3.0 to 3.5 miles.

Jess has asked me to do a 10 kilometre race with her the last weekend in May. As long as I do not have a presentation that weekend, I said I would do it.

Walking/running outside is a lot different than doing it on a treadmill, so Jess asked one of her guides to guide me Thursday evening. I didn’t realize we weren’t going back to her place before the running group, so I forgot to pack my running clothes in the car. I had okay shoes for the run, but my clothes were a bit of a poor choice. I was wearing jeans and a knitted sweater, lol!! Jess asked one of the guys if they had a shirt I could borrow, which they did, so I changed out of my sweater and was ready enough to go.

The walk/run went well. The roads and sidewalks were a bit icy, so we only ran when the path was clear. I think we ended up doing a total of four or five short running sessions. While we walked, I learned about getting into a stretching routine, the importance of breathing and not heel-striking when running.

Jess, and our friend Jason, are going to see if they can find guides for me in Guelph, so i can continue working outdoors.

Every time I think about the fact I am actually considering a 10 kilometre run, I laugh. I have never been interested in running, but Jess has really motivated me to try.

Stay tuned for more updates!!

Friday was another full day of meetings. It is tough not being able to talk about the meetings, but I can say Friday was pretty serious and intense. It is sometimes rough going when you’ve got a large group of people coming from different walks of life. everyone has their own opinion on how the work needs to be done and has their own agenda. As a non-voting member of the committee, it can be frustrating at times not feeling as though you’ve really got a voice in the discussion.

On Friday evening we went to dinner with Jess, our friend Jason and some others. We met at a pub that had a nice atmosphere and good food. I had a nut burger with fries, while Huib had some sort of potato and veggie thing with fries. Jess and two others had fish in a coconut sauce with fries and I can’t remember what the other two people had. It was nice to catch up with Jason and to hear about the trip him and his wife had taken to Barbados. Jason is pretty excited about me running, so we took some time to chat about that as well. He has a lot of connections here in Guelph with the running community, so I hope he’ll be able to find some guides for me.

On Saturday, Jess had a triathlon camp to attend, so we got together with a friend to track. We have met Michelle at a couple of tracking tests, so when I knew we were going to be in Ottawa for a few days, I sent her a message on Facebook to see if she might want to do some tracking.

We got together at one of the National Research Council sites – a great place to track!! Huib laid a track for her dog, Cameron, while she laid tracks for Rogue and Arizona. Huib also laid a track for Canyon, so the poor guy wouldn’t be left out. After all of the tracks were laid, I had to pee, so we went to a little coffee shop nearby. They have tasty cinnamon buns and some good coffee.

Since Canyon is still learning, Huib had him run his track first. Michelle said he did a fabulous job!! This is Canyon’s second time formally tracking, so she was impressed. Huib says he thinks I can start handling Canyon now. Huib usually starts with them, so he can point out where the track is if the dogs need help, but Canyon seems to be a natural.

Next it was Arizona’s turn. I’m not sure where our crazy girl went, but Ari seems to have found her work ethic. She did a great job on her track. I walked along behind with Michelle, so got a play-by-play.

Cameron’s track was closest, so we did his next. Michelle did a really good job of handling him and he followed his track well. It was interesting to see the differences between his work and the way our retrievers work. Cameron checked out each of the cross tracks we passed, but never really went far off his actual track. I also liked how he picked up the article – I hope Rogue will do this some day!!

Rogue’s track was next. She was a bit excited at the beginning, so she had a bit of a messy start. She never got off track, but she was portering a lot. Michelle suggested I rein her in, not giving her so much line, so I brought her closer. She wasn’t as exact on her corners, but she followed her track well and found every single article!! Afterwards, I asked for Michelle’s opinion and she recommends I talk to her a bit less and also stop giving her so much line. I am going to work on this.

I liked having someone different lay her track because then she had an opportunity to follow another person’s scent and also work someone else’s track idea. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we sometimes lay tracks in our own ways, so it can become a routine that the dog can predict.

For fun Michelle laid a quick track for me to run with Cameron. I have never worked with any other breeds than my own, so it was fun. Cameron is an English Springer Spaniel, so a lot lighter and different from my retrievers. Maybe it’s just that Cameron is more experienced, but I found him a lot less frantic or crazed than my guys can be. He checked out the scent pad, then followed the short track to the glove, picking it up and bringing it over to me. Michelle told me not to talk too much and I could see how the quiet really helped him concentrate.

Nothing too exciting happened while I ran Cameron, but funny stuff did occur before and after. As we were walking over to the scent pad, Huib had to take me over and through a difficult path of snow and ice. My guys are used to my balance being off, so they sometimes get pulled in different directions, so I felt bad for Cameron, but he was a good sport about it all. After the track, Michelle gave me a container and asked me to open it and give it to him. I had heard her mention bringing cheese curds with us, so I thought that was what was in the container. After I took the lid off, I reached in to get the curds and found wet food!! I quickly removed my hand and both Huib and Michelle laughed…lol! SO gross!!

I am glad we had a chance to meet up with Michelle and Cameron. I hope we can do it again.

In the evening, we were all pretty tired, so Huib made some yummy salad and pasta for dinner. We then chatted about our days and went to bed around 10:00pm.

On Sunday Jess had a 10 kilometre run in the morning, so we slept in and then started packing up. I had two hard boiled eggs and a bowl of Smarties ice cream for breakfast with some coffee – I love being an adult!!

When Jess came back, she brought Jason. It was nice chatting with them before we left.

On our way home we planned to stop in at Arizona’s breeder, so we left around 10:00am. The drive to Anne’s place was quiet and pretty. Anne and Jeff live outside Perth in Tay County. They have a beautiful house beside a lake.

When we arrived, we let Arizona out to pee and then went up to knock at the door. Anne came and let Sitka and Teal out to greet Ari before we all went inside.

Sitka has the same dam, but different sire than Arizona. I have always loved Sitka, she is very loving and adorable. In August she had a litter of seven puppies sired by Teak, Ari’s sire. I wish we had known about the breeding because we would love to have another Teak puppy.

Teal is six months old and one of Denali’s puppies. Denali has the same sire as Ari, but a different dam. Teal is a very cute girl!! She kept climbing into our laps and giving us kisses while we were there.

Anne brought Denali and Abba out after putting Sitka and Teal away. She wanted the girls to get a chance to greet Ari separately.

Abba came over and checked out Arizona, letting her do the same. Abba is now ten or eleven years old, so has some old lady lumps, but looks pretty good. After she was satisfied with Ari, she came over to cuddle with me – I loved it!!

Denali was a bit more enthusiastic about greeting Arizona. She is just a year older than Ari, so definitely has more energy than Abba.

Arizona was a good sport about being checked out by everyone, but she did get a bit grumbly after a while. teal had her head inside Ari’s mouth a few times, so I can’t really fault Ari for grumbling. She never went any further than that, so I didn’t say anything. Huib just had her come over and sit with him and lie down by his feet so he could control things a bit.

The only girl Arizona didn’t grumble with was Abba. I think Abba is a lot calmer and more respectful when greeting, so she didn’t annoy Ari.

I think this was probably the longest we’ve ever spent just chatting with Anne and Jeff. It was great!! I didn’t come right out and ask Anne about breeding rights for Ari, but from some of the things she said, we think she knows we want them. We are going to start getting Ari’s health clearances done, starting with her eyes and thyroid.

After a bit, Anne let Sitka and Teal back out and for the rest of the visit, we had all five girls together in the living room.

It was really interesting to learn about the personalities of each. Sitka and Ari seem to have the same independent-mindedness, which we think comes from Abba. Denali and Ari have the same crazy nature, but willingness to learn, so we think that must come from Teak. Anne says she never really knows what to expect at a test or trial with Sitka, and that Denali always makes life interesting – we all know who that reminds us of…lol!

Anne showed us her training room and had Sitka and Teal demonstrate some of the things they can do. It was fun to watch little Teal work, she’s such a smart girl!! One thing Anne uses, that we don’t feel comfortable doing ourselves, is use a prong collar when teaching the heel. She said her trainer suggested it and that she finds it works well.

Anne told us that she is hoping to start training for utility with Denali, but that she is done with obedience with Sitka because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy it. I asked her if she had any suggestions on how to get Ari in the game with obedience and she suggested using a puppy sized bumper as a reward, since it works really well with Sitka. Huib and I are going to find one and try it out.

Sitka will be trying for her senior hunt title this summer, but I’m not sure what Denali is working towards.

Before we left, Anne gave us a couple of goose wings and a few ducks for training. I am looking forward to seeing what Ari thinks of the goose wings.

Our drive home was nice. Huib decided to take the long way, since we weren’t in a hurry and we needed to make a stop in Aurora anyway. When we got home, Cessna was SO excited to see us!! She loves staying with Dad, but I think she also likes when we all return.

It was a great trip, but an exhausting one. Now I must get back to work, preparing my PhD application and a mini presentation for Friday.

A Doggie Weekend

Saturday morning we did some tracking. It’s been pretty mild over the past week, so good winter tracking weather.

Other than Sandy and Stewart, we were also joined by Susie and two of her female labs, as well as a woman named Margot and her three Irish Water Spaniels. Susie and Margot are just starting out, so it was also a good opportunity for us to introduce Canyon to the sport.

Laura laid tracks for Arizona, Rogue and Stewart prior to our arrival so they could age. After explaining some basics about laying an urban track, we got to work on tracks for the remaining dogs.

While Margot and Susie were laying tracks for their girls, Laura took Huib and Arizona to run their track. Arizona is still learning, so her track does not need to be as old as Rogue or Stewart’s. I walked with Sandy and got a play-by-play.

Overall, Arizona did a good job. She got a little confused by contamination in a few spots, and distracted by smells on a couple of electrical boxes, but she located the turns well and found all of the articles.

Canyon was probably the biggest surprise for us all. He has not really formally tracked before, just followed an old one of Rogue’s or walked behind another dog with us, but not really tracking. Huib used Rogue’s tracking harness and ran the track with him because it’s the beginning stages, so a lot of times you’re bending down to show the dog where to go. Huib said he had a moderate, but not hard pull, and seemed to know what he was doing. He had put two articles on the track, not knowing if Canyon would just stop after finding the one, so he was pleasantly surprised when Canyon willingly gave up the first article and returned to tracking. When they were done, he came over proudly to show me what he had found. I look forward to working with him in the future. I think it will be a lot different reading him compared to Rogue.

Finally, it was Rogue’s turn. since she isn’t a fan of getting wet or cold, I don’t ask her to sit at the start of her track in the winter. She ran into a few obstacles along the track, all in spots where people did a lot of walking, but she worked hard to figure it out and was successful each time. Even though the track didn’t go perfectly smooth, I felt she did a good job of working out the problems and ignoring all distractions. Laura forgot about her issues with sticks as a first article, but Rogue surprised us and found the stick without having to be reminded to look closer. She navigated each turn well and did her surface changes perfectly. I think she’s becoming quite the little tracker.

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On Sunday we took part in the Labrador Owners Club’s Obedience Fun Match. For readers who do not know what a fun match is… Clubs will put on in-formal obedience events where people can run through a course, for a small amount of money, to see what it is like, and also see where they might need to work on things with their Dog. It is also a good opportunity to obtain critiques and advice on where problems might be and how to work through them.

Huib and I have never been to an obedience trial, so we thought a fun match would be a good start to our future obedience work.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, so I decided to pay for one run for each dog. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of time to allow Arizona to settle, so she was a bit enthusiastic when her time came. Susie, our field and obedience instructor, was ‘judging,’ so I think that added to the excitement – Susie is Ari’s ‘friend.’

Arizona sat each time I asked her to sit and sort of walked with me, but she had to be kept on a really short leash. Also, when we did the figure eights, she wanted to visit the people who were acting as poles. They were making beeping noises, so that really distracted the Wild Child. I didn’t do the group sits with her because I am still working on her stays and I didn’t see the point of pretending she knows what she’s doing.

After Ari was done, Huib took her back to the car and got Canyon. Like Arizona, Canyon sat perfectly each time I asked and I thought he heeled a lot better, but he lacked enthusiasm. Huib thinks he might have been a bit uncomfortable with the environment, so feels we should try to get there earlier next time and allow everyone an opportunity to settle before participating. We did the figure eights quite well and I think working the course with him really helped me feel a bit more comfortable with the movements.

Huib was up next with Rogue. He has not done a lot of one-on-one work with her, so we weren’t sure how she would do. Huib said she did surprisingly well. He says they need to work on heeling and practice staying, even when I’m nearby, but otherwise he felt she did an okay job.

Once Rogue was done her course, it was time for the group stays, so I had to put Canyon in a sit-stay beside a young chocolate lab and then Huib had Rogue sit-stay on the other side of the lab. Huib suggested Rogue and Canyon not be right beside one another so she wouldn’t get distracted by him or confused when I returned to him. Canyon sat and waited for me, but Rogue broke her stay and charged me, lol!! Huib says it’s okay though because she might have gotten distracted by the other handler, who was returning to their dog to remind them to remain seated.

After the novice obedience dogs were done, the other pre-novice handler asked if she could do another run. Susie suggested I get Arizona and do the same. She feels Ari is the closest to being ready to actually attempt a pre-novice obedience run for real.

For a different experience, Susie asked another club member to ‘judge’ the runs. Arizona did a much better job of following my lead and ignored the beeping people a bit better. I need to learn how to walk in a straight line, but otherwise it’s just a lot of practice for us.

I am hoping to take Ari to another fun match before I actually consider entering a trial. We won’t be ready to try for novice obedience until next year, the dog needs to be able to heel off leash, but we should be able to attempt pre-novice by the spring.

We’ll also be restarting our weekly obedience lessons, so along with the work I do with the dogs through the Fenzi Academy and Training Levels Program, I hope we’ll see some progress.

Winter Tracking

Tracking in -12 weather equals dedication. Or maybe it’s just being Canadian.

Either way, Rogue and Arizona did a fantastic job today.

Our tracking instructor sent out an email on Friday to see who might be interested in tracking this weekend. Everyone wrote back to say they would rather stay indoors.

Being the brave souls we are, I said SURE!!!

This morning Huib and I put on several layers of clothing.

I also put jackets on Rogue, Canyon and Arizona. Normally, I do not make the goldens wear coats, but with the wicked wind, I thought the jackets were needed. No one complained, so I guess they also liked the idea.

The girls should have also worn boots, but I know they don’t like them, so I let that go. Maybe I should purchase some paw balm.

When we got to Second Cup, Laura was not far behind. She told us where she had laid the tracks and we headed over to the University of Guelph campus.

Rogue was up first.

I put her tracking harness on over her coat, clicked the line to her front ring and gave her the okay to jump out of the car. We walked over to her track, which was on Johnston Green, near War Memorial Hall. When we were a few feet from the scent pad, I asked her to “wait,” and clipped the line to her back ring. After a moment, I said “Check it out!!” She sniffed the area thoroughly and then started pulling me in a straight-forward direction, so I said “Find!!,” and we were off. She missed the very first article, a stick, but found the other three articles, a piece of leather, another stick and a leather glove. She did her corners well, turning one without even stopping to double-check.

I was worried about her enthusiasm and wasn’t sure how she’d do since we had not tracked in a month, but Rogue did an amazing job!!

Arizona wore her coat under her harness as well. Huib said she was a good little worker. She found all of her articles, a piece of leather and a glove. She worked her corners nicely, and only got distracted near the end when they came upon a bunch of squirrels having a discussion in a tree. Huib said he couldn’t blame her for getting distracted because the squirrels even distracted him.

Canyon will start learning to track in the spring, it really isn’t a good time to begin his lessons. Instead, he hung out in the car, watching the girls from a distance.

Winter tracking is good because you can see your foot prints and see exactly where the higher traffic areas are. So, when your dog has difficulties, you are able to figure out if maybe it’s because a lot of people walked in that area.

Rogue followed a few ‘cross-tracks,’ but easily figured out they were not part of her track. We were able to see that they were cross-tracks because of the boot prints in the snow.

Winter tracking also gives you an opportunity to see if your dog is using their sight more than their nose. Rogue and Arizona both use their noses more than anything when they track – which is a good thing to know.

I hope everyone is staying warm on this chilly winter day.

I am off to drink something warm and climb under a blanket and read a book.

Where Have we Been…

I know, I know, it has been a while since I last posted an entry. I really want to get back into regular blogging, but I am having trouble coming up with things to say.

My Web Wizard cannot seem to figure out how to fix the issue with me not being able to post pictures here, so I am going to try and use Instagram and share the link – it might take a bit though, the iPhone app is pretty confusing with a screen reader.

What’s been new with the ruled by paws crew?

As mentioned in my last entry, Rogue was attempted to earn her UTD (urban tracking dog) and TDX (tracking dog excellent) titles.

Unfortunately, 2016 was just not our year for tracking.

She did a really good job at her UTD test, but missed the first article – a knitted mitten. I saw some great work though. It was a pretty rough track and she wasn’t working in the most optimal conditions.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but Rogue absolutely hates being wet. This makes it pretty difficult to work with her at times. She will do absolutely everything possible to avoid puddles, even stopping dead in her tracks, refusing to move until i force her to continue.

So, when we got to the test and it was not looking like the rain would stop before her turn, I took a deep breath and crossed my fingers.

We walked up to the ‘scent pad,’ I asked her to “Check it out.” She sniffed the area thoroughly, probably hoping for even a tiny treat. Then, when I felt she was pointed in the right direction, I said “Find.” She took off and we followed. The first half or so of her track was covered, I mean covered, in goose poop. I had to constantly ask her to “Leave it.” Despite the distraction, she followed her track quite well. There were a few spots where she had to work a bit harder to find the track, such as at corners, but I felt she did a good job overall. When we were nearing the last corner, the judge came up to us to say we were welcome to finish, but that she had missed the first article, so she would not be getting her title. We were sad, but we felt she needed to finish, so she would be able to feel as though she had done what I asked.

In early November, Arizona attempted to earn her TD, while Rogue tried for her TDX – neither were successful. When Arizona had her turn, she did the first 30 metres well, but then got distracted by the cow manure in the field. Even though Huib tried to refocus her, she continued to go back to the different piles she found, and even did some rolling. We are hoping with some time and maturity, she’ll be able to try again.

Rogue had a pretty tough track. Laura, our instructor, said the judge was a bit sad to see which track we were assigned. Rogue approached the scent pad, figured out which direction the track went, and then did about the first quarter to a third really well. She got stuck when we were supposed to turn into a field of corn stalks. The corn had been harvested, so the stalks were about ankle high. From her behaviour at that spot, I think she knew we had to turn, but felt it was too dangerous for me. If we had to fail, I’m glad to be able to say that we failed because she felt she had a guiding responsibility. I am going to work with her throughout the spring and summer to teach her that it is Huib’s responsibility to keep me safe when she is on the tracking line, and that she is only expected to follow the scent.

On November 17th I had my convocation. Huib went with Rogue and I. He walked with me in the procession with the other students, but when it was time for me to go up onto the stage and receive my degree, Huib walked me to the stairs and then ran to the other side to meet back up with us. Rogue did a great job of listening to my directions, so I think we probably looked pretty smooth walking across the stage together.

The rest of 2016 was pretty uneventful. I had a good birthday at the end of November and Christmas was quiet, but nice.

We had some friends and family come over on Boxing Day for dinner, but otherwise we didn’t do much.

Goals for 2017?

Most of my goals for this year surround the dogs and performance events.

I want to continue taking classes through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I took an obedience foundations class in October and right now we’re doing a competition retrieve class using shaping. I found the obedience class a bit lacking, but we’re enjoying the retrieve class.

I have tried to teach Rogue how to retrieve for a while, but this class has helped her progress further than I was ever able to do so on my own.

Arizona has been able to retrieve things for more than a year, but I find the class is tightening up her ‘hold,’ which will help us in field.

I also want to continue working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels Training Program. I have been casually doing them for a long time, but I never really started with Arizona.

In an effort to improve our obedience lessons with Susie, I decided to restart the Levels with Rogue and Canyon, while also working on them with Arizona. We have been doing short sessions, three times a week, for about two months now and I am seeing huge progress.

All three dogs are working on level 2. Each one is at a different point with the 14 different behaviours found in the level. Canyon tends to lag behind the girls a bit, while Arizona shines in some areas and Rogue in others. It has been a good experience for us all and I hope to continue this through the year.

Performance wise?

I want to enter Rogue in another TDX and UTD test. I also want to try field with her.

With Canyon, I would like to return to conformation, maybe even showing him myself. I would also like to do some tracking and enter an obedience trial with him.

I hope to continue doing field with Arizona, trying for both her WC and JH this year. I would have liked to also try for her WCI, but I need to make sure she has a really solid ‘stay.’ Arizona has progressed a lot in her levels work with me, so maybe we can try entering an obedience trial in the spring. Huib wants to track with her some more, maybe trying for her TD in the fall because the summer months are way too warm for her.

A personal goal?

I want to earn my PhD. The application is due in mid-February, so I’m going to start working on that this week.

To try and improve my chances of getting accepted to a PhD program, I am submitting abstracts to different conferences. So far, I have been accepted to present at the International Working dog Conference in April being held in Banff.

I also want to continue working on improving my physical health. I started walking on the treadmill three times a week, so I want to continue doing this, see how it goes and where it takes me.

The ruled by paws crew would like to wish our readers a safe and happy new year!!

Update on Tracking

Our winter wasn’t as cold or snowy as most, so we did get some opportunities to track. We didn’t really do any field tracking, but focused more on urban tracking.

In urban tracking the dog is learning to follow scent on short grass and pavement and in high traffic (or highly contaminated) areas. We tend to practice in school yards, on the University of Guelph campus or in local parks.

Rogue is loving it! And, she’s doing fabulously. We try to lay a track a few times a week and then we attend a private Friday or group Saturday tracking session, depending on Laura’s schedule.

If all goes well, we will be entering an urban tracking dog (UTD) test in June that is taking place in London.

I am trying to get Rogue to spend more time exploring the ‘scent pad’ by putting more food on it and by introducing a start cue “are you ready to track?” in an excited voice, and then once she looks at me, “FIND!!”

Some people ask their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down’ before releasing them to start, but Rogue is usually quite revved up and she really doesn’t enjoy either of those cues. I know, you’re wondering how a service dog can succeed while disliking ‘sit’ and ‘down,’ well it’s because I try not to ask her for them unless we actually need to seriously do it.

So far we’ve done 2 to 3 hour old tracks between 200 and 300 meters long with a variety of surface changes and different numbers of turns. Rogue seems to be struggling with wind, with harnessing her enthusiasm, and, at times, with highly contaminated areas. We have a couple of months to go before the test, so we’re going to try and practice at least a few times a week, in different places, on different ages and lengths of tracks.

I really think Rogue can get her UTD this spring/summer, and then we’ll work towards possibly getting her TDX (or Tracking Dog Excellent) title in the fall.

Arizona has also started to track. We are practicing on short grass and pavement for now because it’s convenient, and it will help her in the end when she actually starts training for her TD, which is the first level of field tracking.

Arizona has a bit of trouble starting, but once she gets into the zone, she’s awesome! Huib has chosen to track with her on his own, and says she seems to be a more methodical tracker than Rogue.

The club here in Guelph hosts TD and TDX tests in early November, so I think we are going to try and enter both Arizona and Rogue.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so stay tuned for more tracking news.

Field and Obedience

I apologize for the long absence, it’s been a really busy few months.

Over the past few months, we’ve been doing weekly field and obedience lessons with the goldens, and sometimes with Rogue as well.

We’ve made a great deal of progress!!

We’ve been working on: heeling, sitting whenever I stop moving, walking in a figure eight pattern, stays, recalls, and having the dogs pay attention to my body language because in obedience I cannot talk to my dog.

I still need to work on their heeling and sit-stay, but overall the goldens are doing really well.

Rogue has a great stay, but she seems to be confused about heeling, when I’m usually asking her to lead out when guiding, so Susie has suggested Huib work with her and I continue to work with the goldens. Huib has said he’ll do that and I think it’ll b a good challenge for him and a great experience for Rogue.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll start focusing on field and our obedience lessons will reduce to once a month.

In field, Arizona is doing fabulously!! She no longer hesitates about retrieving the duck, and rarely feels the need to visit the ‘gunner,’ choosing to return to me as soon as she has picked up the duck. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working on her ‘hold’ because she often drops the duck in front of me instead of giving it directly to me. In order for her to obtain her JH (or Junior Hunter), Arizona needs to be able to put the duck in my hand. For her WC (or working certificate) she can just bring the duck back and drop it near me. In order to reinforce the need to give the duck right to me, I’m starting to ask her to ‘sit’ as she approaches and then continue to ‘hold’ the duck until I say ‘give.’ She’s doing it really well at home, we just need to continue practicing it outside of the home.

Canyon has also been progressing well in field, but with his seizures Susie has suggested we not go for titles because he could have a seizure while swimming. We had been hesitant about the water portion of the test for other reasons, mainly because he tends to get hot spots after swimming, so when the seizure issue came up, we fully supported the decision not to work towards the titles.

The incident that highlighted the seizures as a potentially life-threatening concern, was that last night while Canyon was waiting for Arizona to finish her land retrieves, Canyon had a seizure. Usually his seizures only happen when he’s at home and relaxing, not when we’re out and he’s eagerly awaiting his turn. So, once this happened, we realized that his seizures could create a life-threatening situation.

Canyon still really loves field though, so we’ll give him the chance to take part in the lessons, avoiding the water portion.

Rogue does not hesitate to retrieve the duck, so I am working on her ‘hold.’ Currently, Rogue will run over to the duck, come back and toss it at me. I don’t think it will take too long for her to catch on to what I really want her to do. I am going to start by asking her to help me carry things through the house, like I did with Arizona when I was teaching her to carry things. I think in the end, this training will add to her actual skill set as a working dog.

With the warmer weather approaching, our field lessons will now turn into group ones and become our Tuesday evening activity.

Well, that’s what we’ve been up to in field and obedience. I will keep you all posted on our progress and hopefully I’ll get back to regular blogging soon.

Biting My Tongue

Do you ever wish you could push aside politeness and just say whatever is on your mind?

I feel this way a lot, but like a good girl, I continue to bite my tongue.

Yesterday we went to see Huib’s former co-worker. We had been out shopping and decided we’d drop in since we were in the area.

At first, the conversation was great. We all caught up and Huib and his former co-worker chatted about work related stuff.

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Do you ever wish you had listened to your dog? I sure do.

While we were chatting, Rogue had two accidents in the middle of the co-workers office – how embarrassing!!

In her defence, she had tried to tell me she needed the grass before we had entered, but she’s not usually one to relieve herself when not at home, so I ignored her – which turned out to be a bad decision.

Just a quick aside to show everyone that service dogs, and especially their handlers, are not perfect.
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Now back to my story.

Another staff member then came over and the discussion turned to my dogs and how I trained Rogue myself.

The woman told me that her kid has chronic pain issues and the doctor suggested she look into a dog. The kid would use the dog to protect the painful side, making space around them when out in public, and the woman thought the dog could also provide companionship since the kid has some anxiety issues. I thought this was an interesting idea, until the woman started talking about how she felt a therapy dog would be what the kid needed.

I didn’t know how to step in and explain the differences between therapy vs. service dogs. Terminology is a big part of my thesis research, so this was a great example to show that the confusion is real. People really do not know what the difference is between all of the different types of dogs.

Then, to add to the frustration I was feeling, Huib’s co-worker started talking about how her pet dog had been ‘certified’ as an emotional support dog for her kid. Again, I didn’t know how to step in and clear up the confusion.

If it wasn’t bad enough to hear that someone had their dog ‘certified’ as an ESA, she then went on to explain that the dog seems to be more stressed at times than her kid. What the…?

Why would you make your stressed out dog do something they don’t feel comfortable doing? And, who ‘certified’ this dog to do this job?

Boy, was my tongue ever sore by the time we left and got back into the car where I could vent.