Field, Field, and More Field

Lots of field adventures.

On Sunday, Huib and I took Arizona, Rogue and Canyon to Susie’s to get some extra water and land work in.

Canyon cannot go swimming, as he gets hotspots. Also, with his seizures, it’s just safer to not swim. Therefore, I used Rogue for competitive motivation.

We started out by attaching Arizona to a tree, while Huib tossed bumpers into the pond for Rogue. My little red lab isn’t a big swimmer, so she wore her life jacket and had a blast running around. She is not very good about bringing the bumper right back to us, but she at least brought it part way onto the shore.

While Rogue was running in and out of the pond, Arizona barked and whined. We tossed three bumpers for Rogue, before we had the girls switch places.

Arizona did a beautiful job of marking, retrieving the bumper and then bringing it to me. I really don’t understand why she doesn’t show us this same enthusiasm at field class.

While Ari was doing her retrieves, Rogue barked and whined and moaned and groaned. For a dog who doesn’t enjoy being wet, she sure wanted to get back to the water in a hurry!!!

As Ari was about to go for her fourth bumper, Rogue escaped the leash and began running around like a goofball!!

Huib got her, put a carabeaner on her life jacket, and reattached her to the leash. She had pulled so hard, that the ring came off the back of her jacket.

Once Rogue was secured to the tree, we got back to retrieves. Huib had us setup in different spots around the pond, while he tossed the bumper from different distances. Arizona did a fabulous job!!!

Once Ari gave me her eighth bumper, we switched the girls. Rogue was pretty excited, so it took a few seconds for her to sit and pay attention to what I wanted. She sort of retrieved and brought back the first bumper, but then she ran around the pond like a wild dog, dropping the bumper in the weeds on her way around, so we let Ari off the leash to help us out.

She ran right over to the bumper and brought it over to Huib to toss again – GOOD GIRL!!!

Next, we did some land work with Canyon as the motivator.

We put Rogue in the car and tied Arizona to a tree to watch.

Canyon is a HUGE fan of retrieving ducks. He sat beside me, marked the spot and then went for the bird when I released him. On his way back, he stopped a foot in front of me, and laid down to check out ‘his’ duck a bit better – BAD BOY!!!

I got the duck back and set him up for another retrieve. I really need to work on having him hand the bird to me, as he enjoys ‘checking’ it out.

After retrieving three ducks, he went into the car and it was Arizona’s turn.

We have noticed an issue with her not running far enough, so Huib wanted to practice tossing the duck behind him. The first bird was tossed in front of him. When I released her, she went straight to the bird and brought it to me.

Huib tossed the second duck just past where he was standing, so she needed to run past him. Ari had trouble. She doesn’t realize she needs to run past the gunner sometimes.

Huib also noticed that she had some trouble with ducks who did not go high in the air. Luckily, this problem isn’t a big deal because it’s not something she really needs to understand.

Overall, I think our independent training session went well. Rogue was good entertainment and Canyon was his usual steady self, but Arizona was quite good, especially in the water.

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On Tuesday, we had our regular field class. I had to go to Georgina Island to get my status card renewed, so we also dropped in to see my Aunt Dawn for lunch. As a result, we were late getting to class. Fortunately, no one else had come, so Susie and Laura were just chatting when we arrived.

Unfortunately, it was close to 7:20pm, so we weren’t able to get a lot of work in. After explaining the work we did over the weekend, Susie suggested we do some land work.

The first bumper tossed was an easy one, so Arizona quickly got it and brought it back to me. The next one was thrown by Susie, who is one of Ari’s favourite people, so she got pretty distracted. As a result, she forgot where the bumper had landed, so Huib had to go out and direct her to pick it up.

Susie didn’t want to reward her for the poor results, so she had us all walk to a different spot in the field and set up again.

Arizona did a good job on two of the three retrieves, but struggled with the one that she had to run past the gunner to find. Whenever she can’t figure something out, she runs back to us, so Huib usually meets her halfway and they go find it together. Laura worries that Ari is beginning to think she’ll always have Huib to help her, so doesn’t see the reason why she needs to work through the problem on her own. I’m sort of with Laura, Ari is highly intelligent, so why put in the effort if you can do it easier with help? The issue we face is figuring out how to stop the behaviour, while also having her trust that we will be there when she really needs us. I also don’t know how we’re going to convince her to keep working, when she just returns to me and sits until she’s directed to do something.

Arizona is sure keeping us on our toes.

The last three retrieves were so-so. The first one was pretty good, but the last two were both okay and not-so-okay.

Arizona is really good about letting us know when she’s tired and when she no longer wants to do something. No matter what we’re doing, if she’s tired, she gets very uncooperative.

We had had a really long day, without much of an opportunity for her to nap, so it’s sort of not surprising that she didn’t want to retrieve eight bumpers.

When I released her to go for the seventh, she just laid down in front of me, lol!! Huib had to run out to the bumper with her, where she then proceeded to pick it up and run back to me – sort of good girl.

The final bumper was retrieved similarly. The only difference was that she also took a break in the middle of the field, lol!!

I really shouldn’t laugh about her being so lazy, but sometimes you can’t avoid laughing or you’ll just end up crying.

Arizona can be so frustrating and entertaining at the same time.

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On Wednesday, we joined a field training group. We’ve met some of the people at tracking group, so it was neat to see them in a different setting.

Susie and Laura wanted to do a drill with Arizona to teach her that the duck will not always be thrown in front of the gunner. They ended up doing the same drill with all of the other dogs in the group.

Arizona did well with the bumpers that were tossed in spots that she is used to, but she struggled with the ones that went past the gunner. I really hope she figures this problem out before the 16th.

She also got tired of retrieving bumpers after the fourth. I think she might have also been a bit warm, but she still needs to learn not to give up.

Susie says she lacks drive. This is something you really can’t teach her to have, so we’re just going to have to teach her how to get past it. I think we need to find a way of making the work extremely rewarding to her. She is starting to push further in tracking, so maybe it’s just something she’ll figure out with time in field.

We could use an e-collar or train a force fetch, but we don’t want to do this. Both Huib and I don’t feel it’s that important to us, to feel as though we need to resort to non-positive training methods or tools.

When it came to water time, Arizona hesitated some, but she wasn’t as horrible as she can be.

There are some handling things I need to work on, so I won’t be touching her more than needed, but most of the work we need to do before the 16th surrounds water.

Arizona has really improved this year, compared to last, so even if we don’t end up earning her JH this fall, I know it’ll happen next year. She is no longer refusing to pick up any sort of duck and she’s always handing the bird to me, so we just need to work beyond the water and minor land retrieve issues.

Please keep your fingers and toes crossed for us. Just over a week before she begins to try for her JH (junior hunter).

Quiet Week

It has been a pretty quiet week. A nice break before we start our jam-packed September.

On Monday, we went to Victoria Road for their 9pm swim. I felt sluggish and sort of non-floaty. It didn’t seem to impact my speed though, as I swam 500 m in 29 minutes, and then did another 200 m in 14.

I think I need to stop drinking XL coffees before I go swimming. I always seem to feel heavy afterwards, even though I make sure I have it an hour or so before.

My 10 year old navy blue Roots bathing suit has been officially laid to rest in our garbage bin. 😉

It has been looking a bit tired, with the elastic disintegrating, but I thought it would last a bit longer. When I wore it, Huib noticed some balling and a bit of separating of materials, so it’s gone. 🙁

On Sunday, Huib, Rogue and I went to the Cambridge Centre to shop for a new bathing suit. The Bay had a sale on their Roots and Speedo suits, so I was hoping to find one I liked. The Sears in the mall is one of the closing locations, so a lot of their stuff is on sale. Huib and I decided to look there first, just in case we could find something cheap.

We didn’t find any bathing suits, but we did buy some blank cards with beagle puppies on them. Huib also bought me a sterling silver ring that has intertwining hearts on it. I am not a huge jewellery person, but I like it!! I only tend to wear my wedding ring and some diamond studs, so it will take a bit of time to get used to the second ring. I also used to wear a necklace with my engagement charm and promise ring on it, but my last one broke, so I haven’t had a chance to replace the necklace.

At The Bay, we found several bathing suits that interested me. After trying a few on, we settled on two. One was a navy blue Roots one and the other was a black Speedo with teal straps.

Even though the Speedo was in the same size as the Roots one, it was on the tight side. 🙁 From talking to a friend who buys a lot of bathing suits, I learned that Speedos tend to be sized smaller, so it’s really not uncommon to need a larger size than usual. She said that it’s a good brand for swimming in pools because it will last better in the chlorine.

After talking to the store clerk, we learned that we could order the Speedo in a larger size, so I ordered it. It should arrive some time next week.

While I wait for my new Speedo to be delivered, I will wear my teal Roots one. It is also close to 10 years old, but not quite as old as my navy one. The elastic is disintegrating a bit, but it will be okay as a back-up until I get a new one to replace it.

On Wednesday, we tried to wake up for the 6:30am swim. When I went to let the dogs out and then returned, Huib had rolled over and returned to snoring, lol!! I think we’re going to give up on the early morning swim times, as we really don’t seem to ever make it, and then I have trouble going back to sleep.

We went to the 9pm swim. I felt less sluggish, but still did not feel as though I swam as smoothly. I guess I was wrong though, as I did 500 m in 28 minutes!!! That’s a whole minute faster than my best time so far!!! I then did another 200 m in 14 minutes.

For now, we are just keeping track of the first 500 m. Once I can swim 500 m in 20 minutes, then I will add to the distance we track.

Huib says one day when it isn’t as busy at the pool, I should try swimming 1000 m. He feels I can do it easily, if I slow down a bit.

My nose plug snapped, so I had to purchase a new one. I got a wire one this time, as my plastic one did not last very long. Huib also bought some goggles, so the chlorine won’t bother his eyes so much. It will be easier for him to watch me, while he swims on his stomach. So far, he’s been sticking to his back, so that he can watch me, but that position really tires out his legs and arms.

We tried to go swimming last night, but the Westend pool is under renovations until October. Huib didn’t notice any posters announcing the closure when we were there last week, so we were surprised. It means I will have to do the 50 m swims at Victoria Road on Thursdays for now.

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Tuesday’s field class was pretty good. We started out with land retrieves.

Arizona’s first retrieve went well, but then she had some difficulty with the second. The duck was down in a bit of a valley, so when she ran out, she went a bit short and then couldn’t figure it out, so ran back towards me. Huib met her halfway, and helped her figure out where the duck was located. I think the next time this happens, she will not have as much of a problem finding the bird. Huib says that in addition to the bird being down in a bit of a valley, it was also up wind, so she didn’t catch the scent. I think her tracking work will help her overcome the scent issue. It will just take some time and experience.

She did well on her final land retrieve.

Over to the water…

Arizona did not want to go into the pond at first, so taking a bit of a gamble, Huib picked her up and tossed her in. He had to do it twice, but it worked. She swam over to the decoys and thought about grabbing one, so I quickly told her to “leave it,” and she continued onto the bird.

I say, “he took a bit of a gamble,” because Arizona can be sensitive about some things, so you never know how she’s going to react. If things had gone wrong, she could have ended up refusing to enter the water completely, and gotten nervous around us.

Ari’s second retrieve went well. she barely hesitated, before jumping in to get the duck.

I worked really hard on not touching her neck to find her mouth. Arizona did a great job of handing the bird right to me. We will continue to work on this at home.

In order to get in some extra training before our three junior hunt tests, we’re taking Ari to work at Susie’s over the weekend. She won’t be available to work with us, but I’m hoping the extra swimming time will make things less worrisome for her. I think I may also bring Rogue along to provide some competitive pressure. Even though my little red lab doesn’t enjoy swimming, she will do it with her life jacket on.

On Wednesday, we’re also going to join another field group. It will be interesting to see who trains with Susie at other times of the week. I am also thinking it will be good for Arizona to work around some other dogs and people, but who knows, maybe she already knows everyone. 😉

Back in August, we signed up for two courses through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Sadly, we haven’t had a lot of time to work on the courses. One of the courses is a gun dog one that focuses on water training. I thought I would read through the lectures and forums, to see if maybe there were some suggestions on how to work past a dog’s lack of confidence in the water.

I didn’t see any solutions for our particular problem, but I did read about some things to train that might help.

First, the instructor says everyone should teach a “go swim” cue. I guess it can be used to stop dogs from going to the shore to soon, and can also be used to get them jumping in. I’m just not sure how to incorporate the cue into our current release cue, so it won’t be a problem at tests. I’m thinking you can probably not say: “Go Swim… Fetch!!” I would assume that to be not allowed, but maybe I’m wrong. I wonder if it will be enough to just say, “Arizona, Fetch!!,” in an excited voice…

I guess we can try it out on Sunday.

The other thing I read about, was teaching hazards. Training dogs to be comfortable walking on, jumping over, sitting on, etc., all surfaces and stuff. So, I’m wondering if this might be our answer.

I am thinking we might have neglected to train her to be comfortable walking, running, jumping or sitting on enough surfaces, textures or objects… I think we just assumed she’d be okay because she appears extremely brave and curious.

We have a bit of time to try and catch-up her hazard training. Maybe it’s time to make a list of the things she should work around before the 16th.

Just over 14 days before Ari tries to earn the first two legs towards her JH.

Ottawa

This weekend Huib and I headed to Ottawa with Rogue, Canyon and Arizona. Cessna doesn’t like long car trips, so she stayed home with Dad. I think she enjoys her park trips and Tim Hortons’ drive-thru adventures.

Our friend Jess is moving to Victoria, so we wanted to go spend time with her before she goes. Her parents are helping her pack up her apartment, so we stayed with our friend Jason. He has a nice apartment in a really cool area.

The traffic was busy at times, so we didn’t arrive in the city until about 6:00pm. Once the dogs were settled and our bags were out of the car, Jason made us dinner. The rest of the evening was spent chatting, which was quite relaxing.

On Saturday, Jess had a going-away party. I enjoyed meeting her co-workers, friends and the triathlon guides that I had not yet met. The food was also pretty good. 😉 With our three dogs, there were eight dogs in attendance. Jess had her three and then her two friends had their dogs as well. Other than some minor growling when Arizona got too close to a little dog that wasn’t Jess’, the dogs all got along well.

After most of the party attendees left, we went into the living room to enjoy some music. Jason and Peter, Jess’ friend, both played the guitar, while Jess and some others sang along. I think the best part of the whole night was when Jess’ Dad suggested we make up a song – it was hilarious!! I am not very good about making things up on the spot, so my verse wasn’t great, but we all laughed anyway.

On Sunday, Jason went to help Jess’ parents move her stuff out, while she worked. We went to track with our friend, Michelle.

Huib and Michelle laid the tracks, while I hung out with the dogs. Huib laid tracks for Cameron and Canyon, while Michelle laid one for Rogue and Arizona.

Canyon is really coming along with his tracking. Huib thinks that by the end of August, I should be able to take over as his handler. He laid three separate tracks for him, so that they could work on different things within each. Before Canyon got a chance to run them, two different dogs went all over them, so I’m sure most of the treats were missing. Despite the added cross-tracks, he did a really good job!! Huib put a squeaky tennis ball in the glove on the final track, so Canyon could have an exciting reward when he finished.

Similar to last week, Arizona did a nice job. She laid in the shade at a couple of spots, but otherwise I don’t think she ran into any major issues. Ari doesn’t really like the heat, so I think we need to start bringing water on the tracks, instead of just giving it to them at the car.

Rogue hasn’t done a long track in a while, so Michelle laid an awesome one for her. There were three articles and a number of different turns. I didn’t have to help her at all, but I did have to encourage her to keep going near the end. I really should have brought water for her, but I didn’t think she’d need it – Bad Handler!! The first leg or two were in really soggy grass, so Rogue had to work with wet paws, something she hates. We also tracked beside a ditch and then between two culverts. I was VERY proud of my little girl!!

Once everyone finished their track, Michelle did a little drill with Rogue and I. She showed me how to teach Rogue to move in more of a straight line, especially after finding an article. The track always goes straight after an article, so it’s good to reinforce this point with the dogs. I am going to work on this because I find Rogue sometimes porters (goes back and forth over the track) a bit more than I’d like.

After tracking, we said goodbye to Jason and Jess’ parents before heading home. The traffic was really busy in spots, so I’m glad we didn’t end up staying for dinner.

When we got back, Cessna was REALLY excited to see us. I was a bit worried about her because she was limping. Huib thinks it might just be that Dad took her for too many walks while we were away. Her back left leg seems to be the problem. Huib was able to move her leg without her saying anything, so we’ll see how it is on Tuesday. Cessna takes medication for incontinence that conflicts with many anti-inflammatories, so I will need to talk to Bianca if the limp persists. Even if she feels better tomorrow, I will make her relax. She will be sad not to have a walk, but I want her physically healthy before she goes out again.

We had a really good weekend, but I am sure glad to be home.

More Field

Sorry for the lack of entries, but life got a bit busy.

Field class continues to be going well for Arizona. Other than some minor issues during an indoor class, she has been rocking the retrieves.

We have had a lot of rain, so a few weeks ago, we had an indoor class. There were about six dogs present. Susie had us begin by walking our dogs around the room at the same time. Ari was really excited at first, but after a couple of laps, she calmed down and I had her walking really nicely. She had no problems passing the flat-coats or the lab, but every time we passed a toller, she wanted to play, lol!!

After a bit, we were each given a couple of bumpers to practice the retrieve and ‘hold’ with our dogs. Arizona was really distracted at first, but then became unsure. There were some dogs barking and some owners being a bit more firm with their dogs, so I think it made her nervous.

After talking to a couple of other friends who use mainly positive reinforcement with their dogs, I think her reaction was a side effect of our training choices. All of us have noticed similar behaviours in our dogs, they all seem a bit more sensitive to seeing or hearing other dogs disciplined. It’s not that we do not discipline our dogs, it’s that we do it in a less harsh manner.

Once we figured out she was nervous, we stoped trying to get her to take the bumper, and just sat on the floor with her, letting her observe everyone else. After about 15 minutes, I did some level 1 behaviours with her, to get her back “into the game,” and offered the bumper. She took it!!

Susie then had us all line up and send our dogs one at a time to retrieve a duck. Arizona was great!!

Arizona is fine at shows and other dog events, so we aren’t sure if it would be worthwhile signing her up for an actual indoor group class, but we are considering it.

The temperatures continue to be on the cooler side, so we haven’t been able to do any water work yet. Arizona is rocking the land retrieves though.

While we wait for things to warm up, I am working on lengthening her ‘hold,’ and making sure she gets an opportunity to retrieve a variety of ducks. This week, she retrieved two very smelly, squishy ducks. I so badly wanted to refuse to take them, but obviously I had to pretend she was giving me the best gift ever, lol!!

If she continues to retrieve like this, then I think we are going to have a really good field season.

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!!

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.

Final Week

This is the final week of our, Shaping a Competition Retrieve, class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Even though we have been working through the lessons regularly over the past six weeks, we still have a ways to go. I am glad we’ll have access to the course materials for at least a year.

Rogue has progressed from spitting out any object I give her, to calmly holding an obedience dumbbell for at least three seconds.

I will continue extending the amount of time before I mark the behaviour, while also beginning to apply a bit of pressure. By gently pulling on the dumbbell, gradually increasing the pressure, Rogue will learn to hold it firmly until I ask her to release.

Arizona has been retrieving a number of objects for over a year now, but her ’hold’ has greatly improved. She drops things less often and she’s begun to wait for the cue before releasing.

She is also learning some patience and problem solving skills. Shaping is a fun way to train because the dog has to think and you really get to see how their brain works.

Canyon can retrieve some objects, specifically toys, but he is not great about holding or releasing. He has not progressed as far as the girls in this class, but I think it’s partly because he’s not a great ‘shaping’ dog. If he can’t figure out what I want easily, then he gets frustrated and just lies down to wait for further directions.

I really have to think outside of the box with him.

The next session of Fenzi courses begins on February 1st. This time we are going to sign up for two classes: Gun Dog Foundations 1 and Sensational Stays.

Gun Dog Foundations will help us in field. I have always stood firm on wanting to use only positive methods, so this class is exactly what I have been looking for.

Sensational Stays will not only help us in obedience, but also in field because the dogs will learn that stays are fun, or at least I hope they will 🙂

I hope everyone is having a good 2017 so far.

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.

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.”