Look Out Donald!!

Arizona has finally done it!!

She finally retrieved her first duck!! I guess it’s time I get used to being handed one.

Even though the obedience part of our Thursday night didn’t go well in my opinion, our field part sure did. We were SO freaking proud of our little girl!!

Canyon seemed a bit off, and he was really distracted. Whenever I would stop, he’d lie down in order to sniff the ground or continually run to the end of his leash – Grrr!!! If that wasn’t bad enough, Arizona was revved!! She almost took off the tips of my fingers when I was offering a treat and she wanted nothing to do with staying in one spot.

I have a picture of Ari with her mallard to share, but I’m having some trouble uploading pictures, so hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to go back to the older posts and share the pictures. When that happens, I will post a quick message to let everyone know the pictures are up, and I’ll even try to give links to the posts so it will be easy to find the ones with newly added pictures.

We will be taking a break for Christmas, but our lessons will restart in early January.

Back Indoors

It has gotten too cold to continue outdoor field lessons, so we have restarted private obedience and field lessons.

It may take a while, but I would really like to enter an obedience trial some day with Arizona.

Two weeks ago we decided to start taking Canyon to the lessons. He is already six and a half years old, but I would still like to do some obedience with him.

When we arrived the first time, Susie had me work with Arizona and Huib hold Canyon. We started off by having her retrieve her bumper with two duck wings attached – she did well. She is getting really good about not dropping the bumper on her way back, so Susie is now having me ask her to sit before I ask for the bumper.

We have been working on this daily for the past couple weeks and Arizona still thinks she can’t do both at the same time (hold the bumper and sit).

After having Arizona retrieve her bumper a few times, Susie got a small bird out. It is a type of water foul that is like a duck, but smaller. As usual, Arizona went up to it, sniffed and returned to us without it. Susie tried several times to get her interested, but nothing worked, so she asked Huib to release Canyon.

Canyon has never done this before, but he ran directly to the bird and returned to Susie with it. She took it and tossed it for him a couple more times. I am thinking he likes fetch so much that he really didn’t care what he had to retrieve, he just got to play his favourite game.

Susie then asked Huib to hold Canyon again while she tried to get Ari to retrieve the bird. She did it twice!! It wasn’t a perfect hold, she dropped it a few times on her way, but she did bring it to me.

Afterwards, we did some heeling and tuck sits. I need to practice walking in a straight line, so that my dogs don’t get so confused and I need to reteach Canyon to sit because he sits too sloppy for obedience trialling.

Susie appears to really like Canyon and thinks that once I work well with him, it will be easier to teach Arizona, and later Rogue.

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Last night we had another lesson.

I have continued to practice Ari’s hold, asking her to carry almost anything for me. I have also been trying to get her to sit before I ask for the object, but she is still struggling with the concept of sitting while still holding something in her mouth.

We started by having Arizona retrieve her bumper a few times, then Susie tossed a small bird and Ari had her usual reaction to it.

So she put Ari on leash and then I released Canyon. Other than trying to chomp the bird as he returned it, Canyon retrieved it perfectly and even released it several times in a row.

Canyon has a bad habit of refusing to release objects he has retrieved, so I really wasn’t sure how this request would go after he had done it a few times.

Susie then had Canyon return to me and she released Arizona. Ari ran directly over to the bird, picked it up and brought it to Huib – we all praised her excitedly and stopped there.

Next it was time for obedience.

I put Ari’s leash on and worked on getting her to heel. Susie still has me luring her with treats, but I only had Zukes, so it was a bit rough because I dropped treats from time-to-time.

I really don’t like luring so much and I also don’t like giving collar corrections, Susie asks me to do it, so for now I’m doing it her way.

As long as we stop beside a wall, Ari does a perfect tuck sit.

I am having a bit of trouble keeping Ari’s head up though, so Susie has me attaching two leashes to her collar: one goes behind me and is held in my right hand, while the other is much shorter and held in my left. When I ask Ari to sit, I put some tension on the leash in my right hand, so that it will help Ari know where she needs to stay, and the shorter leash helps me keep track of her head position.

I need to buy a really short and thin leash. I bought a really nice leather one last winter, but it’s too heavy, at the moment, so I got another one this past weekend that is quite long, but I thought it would be thin enough, but Susie really thinks I need an even thinner one, so she has let me borrow hers. If you saw my leash collection, you’d think we had our own store.

I am doing a much better job of walking in a straight line. It sure takes a lot of concentration to walk in a straight line, keep track of your dog’s position and follow the directions of the instructor, lol!

Susie then had me show her what I had been practicing with Canyon.

As long as we stop by a wall, Canyon’s tuck sits are improving. I wonder how easily the dogs will translate this to times when we aren’t sitting next to a wall…

I don’t need a second leash with Canyon. He is really good about position when we stop, he’s just not very good about remaining in position while we walk.

At the end of the lesson Susie got the bird out again and tossed it for Arizona, she ran over, sniffed it and picked it up and brought it to Huib – we had a PARTY!!!

We are finally making REAL progress in field.

Susie is going to have me begin every lesson with an activity in leash respect. She feels the goldens need to learn that when the leash is on, they need to respect it and not pull.

We also agreed that starting with field was not a good plan because each time we walked past a spot that had had the bird, both goldens stopped to sniff.

My homework for this week is to continue practicing Ari’s retrieve and holds, while attempting to get her to sit and keep holding until I ask for the object. She also wants me to practice leash respect with the goldens and continue working on the tuck sit and reinforce positioning using a cheese string.

I think I am going to get the clicker out this week and restart the Levels with both goldens because both of them embarrassed me with their lack of an adequate “leave it.”

Waiting Around

Earlier this week Arizona and Rogue had field class.

Here’s a picture of us waiting for our turn.

Arizona, Rogue and I waiting around. I am sitting on the ground with Arizona standing in front of me and Rogue lying beside me. I am wearing a light blue hooded sweatshirt with jeans, a white hat and white running shoes. Rogue is wearing a red martingale and black leash, while Arizona is wearing a martingale with various shades of blue on it and a black leash.

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.***

Field Training: Crazy Labrador!!

Tonight was Rogue’s official introduction to field work.

Last week, we had her with us because she had been at a meeting with me and we didn’t have time to take her home. She seemed to really enjoy herself, so I decided to see how she likes field work for real.

There were a lot of dogs present this week. There was Maverick (the duck toller) and his new little buddy Shelby (also a duck toller), Hank (the chocolate lab), Cassidy (the yellow lab) and her littermate Rainy (who is owned by Susie), Jayden (a female chocolate lab) and her buddy Reba (the fox red lab – darker than Rogue), Arizona, and of course, her buddy Rogue.

We arrived 15 minutes early, so did a couple practice runs with Arizona. Her first run was a bit rusty, but her second and third attempts were great.

No one had arrived yet, so we got Rogue out to practice, and she was TERRIBLE!! She ran right over to the bumper but instead of bringing it directly back, she ran around like a goofy puppy on the way. We gave her two more attempts and each one was worse than the last. We didn’t know what we were going to do.

When everyone had arrived and things were set up, Susie had us take turns working our dogs at their level. She had things set up like we were at a real trial and simulated what would happen if we competed.

Arizona and Rogue weren’t the only two at the first level, WC, Cassie is also just starting field lessons.

Arizona did quite well. She still tried taking the bumper to the “gunner,” but when they didn’t pay any attention to her she started back to me. Each time she dropped the bumper half way back, but then got it again and brought it the rest of the way. Her recall was MUCH better.

Rogue was okay. She ran directly to the bumper, but she didn’t pick it up immediately and on her way back she dropped it a few times. I will need to work on her “hold.” Her recall was good though. And, I overheard one o the other people say she has the drive to do this, so I’m sure we’ll get there.

Once everyone had taken their turn, we went to one of the ponds to work.

At first we didn’t think we would participate, but then we decided to take our turn.

I worked with Rogue first. She was SO excited!! She was very good about sitting beside me and waiting for the release word – “fetch.” She swam directly to the bumper, getting slightly spooked by a log under the water she bumped into on the way, but recovering quickly.

The problem came when she was coming back. Instead of swimming to me, she swam to the opposite shore – *rolls eyes*

Laura was the gunner, so tossed another bumper into the water and I got really excited, trying to coax Rogue to swim back in my direction this time. It worked.

Her second attempt was an absolute write-off. She sat and waited for the release great, and she swam directly to the bumper, but again she took it to the opposite shore. When Laura tossed another bumper into the water, she swam out to it, and again took it to her side of the pond. Then she tossed it again and Rogue swam back towards me, but dropped the bumper just before reaching the shore – Oh, Roga-Monster!

Getting down to the edge of the water was a bit nerve-racking for me, so when it was Arizona’s turn, I had Huib work with her.

Arizona is fine once she gets to the bumper, but she needs to get over the initial panic of not being able to touch bottom as she swims out.

Huib said she sat beside him and waited for the release perfectly. That once she got to the bumper, she did well at remembering who to return it to – Good girl, Airy Berry!!

When Rogue and Arizona weren’t taking part in the action they were not happy. Both girls were SO noisy!! Rogue quivered with excitement and talked constantly. Meanwhile, Arizona whined and at one point she was even screeching – Oh, Airy Berry, you are SO embarrassing!

Rainy and Cassidy didn’t take part in the water work, so once Jayden and Reba had their turns, it was dark so we packed up.

Arizona did well. She is really progressing in her lessons.

And even though we thought Rogue was terrible, Laura said she did pretty well considering it was her first time, so I guess things weren’t as bad as we thought.

Stay tuned for more field work adventures.

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.

Recall? What Recall?

It has been a couple of weeks, but Arizona has returned to group field classes.

It seems as though the entire group is back, Maverick the Duck Toller, Hank the black lab, Butler the chocolate, and Cassie the yellow lab.

Susie wanted to work with Hank and his owner, so she had us work with Chad (Maverick’s owner) and Laura.

Arizona did well at going to the bumper with the wing, but she forgot to come back. It’s like she’s forgotten what the whistle means, and any other form of recall we have tried to teach her, lol!

Instead of coming, Ari thought she would parade her bumper around Laura and Chad.

Despite trying a number of methods (e.g. with a tracking line on or off), Arizona was just not in the mood to return to me after fetching the bumper.

It was actually kind of embarrassing. I am not really worried about Laura seeing this mess, but Chad seems to be really into perfection and he hasn’t seen Ari work well yet, so it was hard to have him see her lack of recall.

Arizona is still not so sure about picking up a dead duck, so we’re trying to introduce it to her slowly.

Arizona laying in the grass with a dead Mallard in front of her. She's wearing her leash that has various shades paw prints on it.

It seems as though everyone in field uses an E-collar, and both Chad and Laura suggested we try one out, but Huib and I refuse to even consider it. We aren’t in a rush to get titles, so if it takes Arizona another year of lessons before she gets her WC (working certificate) then that is fine with us. We refuse to use a shock collar, even if Arizona is a brat!!

Hopefully next week goes better.

A Lesson Without Susie

Susie was away this week, so Arizona had her field lesson with Laura and Diane instead.

She did very well.

When Laura tossed the bumper with a wing attached, Arizona went straight to it, picked it up and after parading it around Laura, brought it back to me. We did this a few more times and then took a break to watch Diane work with Butler.

Butler is a 7 year old male chocolate lab. I think he has his Junior Hunter title and maybe even the next level, but I am not completely sure. He has been dealing with an ear infection, so Diane hasn’t wanted to work too much on his water retrieves.

When Diane was finished, we did a few more practice sessions with Arizona. It seems as though her limit is three tosses in a row though, because we tried to do a fourth and she was a lot more sloppy with her pick up and even more with her hold. She dropped the bumper several times on her way back to me and even on the return she was slow.

Despite the poor end, we were glad to have Laura and Diane see that Ari can actually retrieve. Until this session, I think both ladies were a bit unsure as to her abilities.

Group Training

Arizona in the grass wearing a pink leash paw prints in different shades of pink and brown

This was Arizona’s second group training class for field work.

There was a duck toller named Maverick, a black lab named Hank, a chocolate lab named Butler and two other golden retrievers named Striker and Buck.

Arizona was the youngest dog in the group by at least a couple of years, so she was also the goofiest. The other dogs all seem to have at least their first field title, so they were a lot more serious about following their owner’s direction.

Side view of Arizona lying in the grass wearing a pink bone shaped ID tag on her collar

This was Arizona’s first night seeing real ducks and was not going to pick one up. She had a bit of trouble settling enough to sit and she was overly excited to meet all of the humans when I gave her the cue to retrieve, but Susie didn’t seem worried about her progress, so we’ll just keep working away.

Once Arizona had her turn to attempt retrieving her duck wing attached to a training bumper, we stayed in the background and let her watch the older dogs work. She seemed quite interested and every time someone said “mark,” Arizona immediately stopped whatever she was doing and looked out towards where the duck would fall.

Susie sent two other training bumpers and duck wings home with us to work with. She is thinking that Arizona needs to practice with different equipment and also have a variety of people tossing it for her.

Next week we’ll attend group training again, but then we’ll have to take a couple of weeks off for other engagements.

Growing Up

It’s hard to believe we have already had our Wild Child for 3 months, but it’s true!

Arizona hanging over the edge of the big jet tub, playing in the bubbles. She has bubbles around her nose and under her chin.

Arizona is maturing and growing quickly, but she’s still just as crazy as ever.

Hmmm….what’s been happening with her since the last time I wrote…

Ari is now 19 inches tall, 18 inches long, has a 22 inch girth and weighs 38.5lbs.

She is also teething, so we really have to watch what she puts in her mouth. She seems to think everything is chewable. So far she has redesigned our front door mat, added some artistic touches to a few baseboards and created handfuls of wood chips, doing her beaver impression on fallen tree branches in the backyard.

On the training front –

We have started field lessons, so our homework right now is to work on having her sit in one spot until we give her a release word, to not just come when we whistle and to walk on our left side.

We are working with Susie Bell of Pinebank Labrador Retrievers. Susie is a Labrador Retriever breeder who teaches both obedience and field work. With our schedule and my visual limitations, we have decided to do private lessons, so we meet with Susie every 2-3 weeks.

Our work with Arizona is slow going, but she’s getting there. we really want to avoid luring and forcing her into position as much as possible, so it’s taking longer to teach her to sit and heel then it could.

Ari is a bundle of energy, but she is extremely curious and confident, so it’s been a learning experience for us and a lot of fun at the same time. I had hoped to be further in her basic training by now, but with her energy and independent-mindedness, I needed to take a step back and let her mature and let me enjoy her without the frustration. I did this with Rogue and even though her training took longer, I think that in the end she became a better companion for us, so I hope the same can be said for Ari when she’s Rogue’s age.

we finally got Arizona’s CKC paperwork in the mail this past week. She is now officially registered as: Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

She will make her conformation debut next weekend at the Elgin County Kennel Club show, which also happens to be the Purina National. Arizona is still considered a Baby Puppy, so she will only show on Sunday. Canyon is also entered, but he shows on both Saturday and Sunday with Huib and then again on Saturday with our friend Kira, who will make her debut as a Junior Handler.

I am not so sure Ari will do well in the CKC conformation shows, because she’s from a working line, so I talked to my friend Amy who has Dalmatians and I think we’re going to try and show our dogs together in the US starting in February. I just need to ask Arizona’s breeder for full breeding rights, so that I can register her with the AKC – wish me luck!

That’s probably about all I have to update everyone on for now with Arizona. I have some entertaining antics to share, but I will try and put them together in a separate post.