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.

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!!

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.

I Just Wanted to Enter

Let me begin by saying, I didn’t want to cause any problems for the Canadian Kennel Club, I just wanted the same opportunity as others to enter a tracking test with Rogue.

Over the past couple of months Rogue and I have ramped up our tracking practice. I have been trying to get us ready for the upcoming tests that happen in October and November.

I knew we wouldn’t be quite ready for October, so I had my eye on entering the tracking test being held in Guelph on November 8th. Not only do we live in Guelph, so the trip to the test wouldn’t be too long, but it also gives us a better chance of comfortable weather and more practice time.

I talked to my instructor, who also happens to be our area’s tracking rep, about my plans to enter the test. She said she would talk to other judges and see how the rules work for my situation. After talking to other judges, she suggested I talk to the CKC because there is a rule in the book that says people cannot have help on the track, so taken literally, this would mean I could not have a guide.

I called the CKC and the woman I talked to seemed quite willing to help me. She read through the rule book and also didn’t know what should happen. She suggested I talk to my area’s tracking rep and also gave me the email address for the Tracking Council.

I emailed the council and cc’d my instructor, so she was aware of what I had done.

It took a few days, but I finally got a response from the CKC rep for my area and he seemed to understand that it was against the law in Canada to discriminate based on a persons disability. He cc’d the head of CKC events in the hopes that she would be able to clear up the confusion.

The woman emailed back and said that “the issue” was on the agenda for the council conference call that was happening in early October, but then went on to say that she would let us all know if any decisions were made and changes implemented at their general meeting in December.

I wrote her back and said that I wanted to enter a test in November and asked if it would be possible for a temporary amendment to be put into the rules, so that I can be accommodated. She wrote back to say that unfortunately it was not possible because the rule book says no one can have assistance on the track, so it was up to the council to make the changes at their general meeting.

This response was not acceptable. The council cannot decide wether to accommodate a person with a disability, they need to accommodate them because it is the law in Canada.

So, I went to Twitter and Facebook, asking my friends and family to share our story.

Remember, I didn’t want to cause an issue, I just wanted to be given the same opportunity as a sighted person.

About two and a half to three hours later I got an email from the CKC.

After some digging, they located minutes from a 2009 meeting that put forth a policy allowing individual judges to make modifications when needed, such as for persons with disabilities. The policy was supposed to be written into the rule books of the various CKC events, but some rule books are still missing this policy.

The woman apologized and said that she would make sure the judge of my event is aware of the policy.

So, I went back on Twitter and Facebook, thanked my friends and family for their help and announced that I would be entering a tracking test on November 8th with Rogue.

Maybe some people would push this further, wanting to make sure the CKC does not do this to someone else, but I just want the opportunity to participate in dog sports like everyone else. I don’t want to cause any drama or problems.

Thank you friends and family for helping me achieve my goal, and thank you CKC for finding a solution to our dilemma.

8 days until we can submit our entry (fingers crossed we get in), and 47 days until Rogue and I try for Rogue’s Tracking Dog (TD) title.

Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

She Did What?

Last night, Arizona returned to field training. She’s been off for three weeks, first because of the hot weather and then because she finally had her first heat.

We have continued to practice retrieves over the past few weeks, but you never know what is going to happen at the group training.

Susie was away at the cottage, so Laura worked with us while Dean and Maverick worked alone in another area.

We first attempted to do some simple land retrieves. Laura went out into the field while I got Arizona to sit beside me and ‘mark’ (or look out to see what’s happening), then Laura made a duck call and tossed the bumper with the wing attached. I then let go of Ari’s collar and said ‘fetch’.

Arizona ran straight over to Laura, then to the bumper. She then brought the bumper to Laura instead of bringing it back to me. After getting her excited about the bumper again, Laura got her to pick it up again and I called her back. She came. This same sort of cycle happened a few more times, with Arizona going to a shaded tree behind me to wait for me to coax her out again, so we knew it was time to try something new.

Even though it was 6:00pm it was still quite warm.

As part of the Working Certificate (WC) test, the dogs have to do two land retrieves and two water retrieves.

We’ve been working on the land retrieves for months, not wanting to introduce the water retrieve until Arizona was working perfectly on land.

With the hot weather we decided to try some water work.

I walked to the edge of the pond while Laura walked part way around it. I had Ari sit and ‘mark’. Laura did the duck call and then tossed the bumper into the water. As I released Arizona’s collar, I said ‘fetch’.

She ran into the water and swam directly to Laura, ignoring the bumper. So Laura tossed another bumper into the water, hoping that would entice Ari to go for it – not happening!

I had Rogue with me, not a usual occurrence, because we had been at a meeting and Huib picked us up with just enough time to get to training.

Rogue had been watching Ari “have fun” and she wanted to “have fun” too. She was excited while watching her do the land retrieves, but the water work had her whining loudly. Rogue does not like the water, so to us this was pretty strange. But, since Ari wasn’t retrieving the bumpers and they needed to be brought back in, we decided to see if maybe Rogue could create a bit of competition.

With Ari’s refusal to retrieve we have been told to try a force retrieve (pinching her ear), and with her sometimes slow recall we’ve told to try a shock collar. Both of these methods are not ones we’re willing to consider though, there are so many other options out there.

Like a little bit of friendly doggie competition.

I let Rogue off the leash and she bolted directly for the water. She ran in and as soon as she realized she could no longer touch the bottom she started to panic. This didn’t stop her though, she wanted to get to that bumper, so after a few false starts, she finally stopped panicking and swam out to the bumpers. She brought the first one in and dropped it at Huib’s feet. Then she turned and went back into the water for the other.

While she was doing this Arizona swam along side, only trying to get the second one off her.

We then spent 20 minutes tossing the bumpers into the pond and having Rogue and Arizona compete for them, returning them to Huib for treats.

Once Ari seemed to be getting the hang of it, I held Rogue and Huib worked with Ari, tossing the bumper a short distance from where he had her sit. She ran into the water without an issue, but it took a few attempts before she finally started swimming out and bringing the bumper back to Huib. A few times she gave up, so I would let Rogue go out a few times, before holding her again.

We worked on water retrieves for probably 30-45 minutes total and by the end I think both girls had a pretty good grasp of the concept.

We then decided to try some land retrieves again. Arizona did two almost perfect retrieves, just taking it back to Laura at first, but then turning to bring it back to me in the end.

Laura thinks that because we’ve been working so much with her bringing the bumper back to the person who threw it, that when she’s at field training and the “Gunner” throws it, Arizona thinks she needs to return the bumper to whoever tossed it.

While this was happening Rogue stood with me watching intently.

Once Ari was finished, I decided to do a couple practices with Rogue and she was freaking perfect!

Rogue has never done field work training, she’s only watched us work with Arizona. Just like in conformation, where she learned by watching Canyon, Rogue has learned field by watching Arizona.

I think I might start bringing Rogue with me to group field classes, maybe she can get her WC. I think we are also going to start bringing Ari to rogue’s tracking lessons so we can do some field work afterwards.

The ability to do whatever activities with my dog is one of the highlights of deciding to owner-train, rather than go to a program for a guide dog.

I think Laura had just as much fun as we did watching Rogue figure things out, and teach Ari about water retrieves.