Archive for November, 2008


We may have found something that Cooper is good at, wants to do, AND that we want to do with him. There’s lots of stuff that fit the first two categories: underwear stealing, private part grooming, playing keep-away with the tennis ball, etc., etc. And there’s stuff that fits the third category: walking with our dog nicely on a leash, having him come when called, delivering the tennis ball to hand, etc. Riding in the car fits all three. Hiking in the park does, too, as well as boating. We wondered: what else?

So when the opportunity came up to take a beginning tracking class from Jill Jones, we jumped on it. It started with a half day of lecture and explanation — the requirements for the various tracking tests available (TD, TDX, VST), how you get certified to take a tracking test, the very strange method of deciding who can take a test (choosing by lot from the group of entrants, rather than first-come-first-served), how to choose a harness, how long the long line leash should be, how to handle the leash (and later, the long line), how to lay a beginning track, the importance of wind direction, obstacles on the course, all kinds of stuff.

The afternoon is where the fun came in. Handlers paired up — one would lay nine very short, straight tracks, and the other would run their dog. Then the two would switch. The photo above shows my partner laying down the glove and treats at the end of the first track — only 5 paces long. Cooper was raring to go, as you can see.

The left-hand picture below shows Cooper pulling me down one of the longer tracks (about 40 paces). That’s how Jill wanted us to do it — she kept reminding us, “Don’t run with your dog. Make him pull you!” OK, so I “made” Cooper pull me, but believe me, this is the only situation he will be allowed to pull me. And it makes me realize how important getting an official harness will be. When he’s got his harness on, he can pull. When not, definitely not.

The last picture shows Cooper bringing back the glove he successfully tracked. A few dogs, like Coop, picked up the glove. Most were content to simply eat the treat that had been placed on the glove — who cares about the glove.

Note that my hat and scarf are missing from the two pictures below. They came off after running the first track. All that running — “making” your dog pull you — keeps you warm!


(Note added later: The next evening after work, we tried the routine at a local park, in the dark, in the rain, at 70 paces. Cooper did just fine. Found the treat and retrieved the glove.)

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We found a wonderful place to take the dog, just at the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia rivers. There are trails through meadows, brush, grasses, marsh, and riverbank. And depending on how high the ocean tide is (which pushes back on the Columbia), how much rain there’s been, and how much water has been released from the upsteam dams, there are river inlets and ponds to play in.


The area is open to horses, trail bicycles, dogs, people, and during certain months of the year (now), duck hunters. It’s a popular place, so I wouldn’t say that it’s a good place to field train your dog, but it is a wonderful place to hike and watch your dog romp and jump and run and tumble. And because I live in a little city house in an urban neighborhood, a place like this is a treasure.

Today was beautiful in an autumn sort of way. Gold and red leaves on the trees, dramatic clouds, barely ruffled water reflecting everything, hide-and-seek sun, upper 50s, geese flying overhead.

I did have one minor moment of projected panic. Our first dog, a Malamute named Kayak, loved horses and cows. When she’d see a horse on the beach, she’d run after it as fast as caninely possible. She didn’t want to attack it, but she did want to do her happy dance around its feet. Didn’t make the horses, or their people, very happy.

So, when we came upon some horses today, I wondered what Cooper would do. He looked at the horses and sniffed the air. I called his name and held up a bumper. He looked at me (good boy!), I threw the bumper in the opposite direction from the horse. Thank god… he chose the bumper. Left the horses totally alone.

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Today we had the great good fortune to test our theory. Back when we were looking for our next dog, we wanted one who could go boating with us. We’ve had several boats, and if you’ve also been looking at the boat blog, you know that Russ has been building our next boat, a cabin cruiser. We figured that a dog with “water” in it’s name would be a good choice, so we looked mostly at Portuguese Water Dogs and Irish Water Spaniels, plus Poodles and Labrador Retrievers, among others.

Annie, who has a sailboat and a sweet little IWS girl, Stella, invited the three of us along on a boat ride up the Columbia River to Government Island. We don’t yet have a life preserver for Coop, so in the picture above, he’s wearing a red harness with a large handle along the back for somewhat easier retrieval, should there be a “dog overboard.” (There wasn’t — Coop was really good and generally calm, even when the motor started up.)

It was a fun day. Warm and sunny, especially when you consider that it’s November in the Pacific Northwest, and calm (we had to motor, rather than sail). We got to the island, ran up the boat ramp, persuaded Cooper not to go down the cliff (he wanted to get to the beach already!), and took a short hike to the level, sandy beach, where we threw sticks into the water for the pups to chase. (In the first picture below, Cooper is the one on the left with the stick. He generally always got to the stick first — I think because he has longer legs and is a stronger swimmer than Stella, who is on the right.)

And at the end of the day, after drying off in the sun, we were heading back toward the boat (darn it that we didn’t have a camera ready!) when Cooper jumped off the dock! If you’ve read earlier entries, you know how disappointed we were that Cooper wouldn’t jump off the dock at the dock diving events we’ve tried. His father, Balloo, was such a talented dock diver, that we had high hopes for Cooper. And now, when we don’t want him to, Cooper goes and jumps off the dock. Apparently, there was stick in the river that he just HAD to have.

In the middle picture below, you can just make out Mt. Hood, just right of Cooper’s nose.

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