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Archive for August, 2009

Tooey had a taste of river water at a local park in Portland early this morning. As far as we know, this was her first exposure to water (other than baths, and they don’t count). We were curious to see what she’d do.

down to the river -- where's the squeaky Wubba toy?

down to the river -- where's the squeaky Wubba toy?

083009_water entry3

nice water entry

oh, there's the wubba

oh, there's the wubba

bringing it in

bringing it in

happy wet dog

happy wet dog

doing it again

doing it again

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Tonight, the DVD in the Netflix envelope was broken. There goes tonight’s plans. But wait, isn’t there a hunt training DVD we can watch?

082909_tv training

While Cooper is off a hunt school, Tooey is learning the “Back” command in the comfort of her new home.

I wonder what she’d do if we put on “Best in Show”.

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Took Tooey to the vet yesterday for an initial checkup. She weighs just over 53 lbs, has a microchip, and checks out perfectly healthy. The vet gave her the required rabies shot (in the Portland area, the main danger is from rabid bats), as well as some advice about what to look out for in regards to:

  • feeding raw meat,
  • checking for potential infections after Tooey’s heats,
  • determining proper claw length, and
  • possibly avoiding unnecessary vaccinations by using titers (blood tests) to check for immunity.

It was a busy visit, and afterwards, Russ got another great photo of her:

Tooey at 8.5 months

Tooey at 8.5 months

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This post goes back in time a bit, to last Saturday. Because Andy and we (and Tooey) were all going to be staying at Colleen’s house, Andy volunteered to bring Cooper out for the day, so we could visit. Such a kind offer, and we took advantage of it.

We spent part of the day in Colleen’s very large yard, letting Cooper and Tooey meet and run around. At first, Cooper was being very ungentlemanly, pushing Tooey around, trying to show her who was boss. Tooey tried to signal that she was perfectly willing to let Cooper be the top dog, but it took him several minutes to get the message.

But that lasted only a little while, and soon they were running and playing together. It was a joy to watch.

082209_Cooper-Tooey race

Cooper (in front) and Tooey (in back)

Tooey chases Cooper

Tooey chases Cooper

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Introducing Tooey (aka Stanegate Second Thoughts):

Tooey -- (c) 2009 Russ Dodd

Tooey -- (c) 2009 Russ Dodd

Tooey was born on December 9, 2008, so she’s still a puppy. You can see her pedigree at IWSdatabase.com.

So far, she seems like a very sweet girl, very motivated by food (so much easier to train when they’re motivated by food), a snuggle puppy, and constant companion. She’s housebroken already, and willing to be up on the grooming table to be combed and trimmed (a good thing for an IWS).

We’re working on car sickness. While we were driving the 200 miles to home last weekend, she soaked my pants leg and two towels. This morning, after just a couple of days of working on it, she voluntarily hopped into the car and we drove several blocks while I was throwing her pieces of kibble. We got back home with a dry mouth — so that’s progress!

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Duck Dog -- (c) 2009 Russ Dodd

Duck Dog -- (c) 2009 Russ Dodd

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Today we finally got to see Cooper work. The question in my mind is: Has this month of missing him been worth it?

082109_marking duck

marking where the duck falls -- out about 90 yards

082109_Drive

going out to get the duck

082109_Duck to Andy

bringing back the duck

082109_Hold

holding the duck

I think all of us would say, “Yes!”

082109_Success

celebrating the retrieve!

And now for a little commentary. Some parts of what we saw are not amazing: Cooper has always loved birds, so his being willing to pick up a duck is not amazing. For some dogs it is — as one of my fellow bloggers points out, ducks are oily and they stink. Not all dogs think ducks are wonderful at first –for them it is an acquired taste. Cooper has never had this problem.

Also not amazing is his willingness to go find and carry the duck (or a ball or a toy). He’s always loved going and getting things and carrying them around, starting with the newspaper the morning after we got him at 9 weeks and continuing with the tennis ball from the flyball box.

But here is what IS amazing:

  • Cooper marking the duck. He’s never been interested in looking out to find something. He’ll quarter back and forth, searching for something on the ground, and if we’re throwing a toy or ball, he’d look at our throwing arm. But looking OUT THERE for something is new.
  • Cooper bringing the duck back to Andy. He’s always been much more interested in coming in close enough to show us whatever he went out to get, but then running off and doing some victory laps with it. Seeing him bring the duck back to Andy and sitting at Andy’s heel with it was a real joy. (Although, once he veered off and tried to bring it to me and then to Russ — we had to turn our backs, and Andy had to call him over. But only once.)
  • Cooper letting Andy take the duck. Before this, assuming we could get Cooper to come within arm’s reach with whatever it is he’d gone off to get, Cooper would turn his head or generally resist giving us the thing. Andy is very persuasive, slowly petting Cooper’s head several times as Cooper sits at heel, and only then gently reaching over Cooper’s head and down over his nose to take the duck.

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Finally, finally we got to go up north and see Cooper. All three of us were so heart-so-full happy that words fail and pictures can only hint at it.

082109_Hello_Trice082209_Coop and Russ

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Talked to Andy again today. It was just a short call, just passing on some details.

But it turns out that it took Cooper only three days to figure out that things have changed. When Andy comes into the kennel to get Cooper, it means that Cooper is going out on the truck.

Another IWS on Andy's truck

Another IWS on Andy's truck

Oh, joy! Much leaping and dancing. No more of this practicing in the yard with the bumpers. No, now he’s getting onto the truck, leaving the kennel, and going out into the field to work with ducks.

This is the part we knew he’d love. To hear that he’s dancing in his kennel when he sees Andy makes me feel (mostly) glad that we sent Cooper to hunt school.

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Got a message from Andy at WaterDog Kennel last night — he thinks that he’ll be ready to show off Cooper’s new skills to us late this week or early next week!

Hurray! I can hardly wait to see him.

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When I was so sad about missing Cooper while he’s off to hunt school, Colleen suggested that I might want to have another dog in the house. She said, “I have a young girl (IWS) that would love to come and visit while Cooper is gone! She likes going on adventures.”

At first we discounted the idea, but then, the lonelier we got, the better the idea sounded. A few emails went back and forth, and we agreed to go see the pup at Colleen’s later this month.

Tooey_2_cropped_090807

In the meantime, Colleen has been sending us pictures. This one was taken today while she was on the grooming table. How nice — I won’t have to train a puppy to tolerate being on the table. And she’s been through the AOCB‘s training program — another plus.

The pup’s registered name is Stanegate Second Thoughts. When we see her, she’ll be about 8.5 months old, still a puppy, but just in time for adolescence!

Tooey_1_cropped_090807

You can see she looks a lot different than Cooper — broader nose and a tendency to bleach blond from being in the sun. And Tammy says that she’s very sweet, more like the companion dog we were looking for in the first place.

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Andy, the hunt trainer, called tonight with good news.

The very best news is that Cooper’s spirits have improved. He’s been sad and moping in his kennel — I’m sure he’s been lonely for his family. But now, he’s begun to play through the fence with Joey, the Irish Water Spaniel in the next kennel.

That is such a relief. Having heard about low spirits and not eating well, I was wishing we hadn’t sent Cooper away. I mean, how can you tell a dog that he hasn’t been abandoned?

The next piece of good news is that Coop has “finished his force,” says Andy. That means he’s learned to fetch the bumper off the ground, hold it gently while returning to Andy, and give it back to Andy’s hand.

Next week, Cooper will get to go out into the field, and learn it all over again with ducks. He’ll pick that up fast. Andy says that Cooper is real enthusiastic about retrieving and eager for the training, so he might have the trained retrieve with ducks down by week after next.

And that means we’ll get to go see him. I can hardly wait!

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Cooper’s new flyball title is shown in the NAFA database. His 308 points earms him a solid Flyball Dog Excellent (FDX), and puts him more than halfway toward his Flyball Dog Champion (FDCh). It also puts him 6th in the rankings of Irish Water Spaniels. Woo hoo!

NAFA_database_IWSYou can see it for real by going here: http://nafadb.flyball.org/public.shtml, clicking “Breed Analysis”, and scrolling down to “Irish Water Spaniels”.

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I talked with Andy this morning. He reports that Cooper is doing well with the force fetch and will learn more about holding next week.

Like all sports, there is jargon to be learned. Force fetch? Holding?

Another, nicer name for “force fetch” is “trained retrieve.” Basically, this means that the dog should go get the thing that the handler wants the dog to get, bring it all the way back without dropping it or damaging it, come sit in front of the handler with head up, and give the thing “to hand” instead of dropping it somewhere.

“Holding” is a part of all this: Taking whatever the handler wants the dog to fetch, and keeping it in the mouth without chewing it, mouthing it, or dropping it, no matter what.

(On this note, Russ has a friend whose Lab liked to pee on the way back from fetching a bird. She’s go get the bird, bring it part way back, pee — while still holding the bird, and then bring the bird back to hand. Odd, but she didn’t drop the bird, so no one could criticize.)

Going and getting something — now that’s always been easy for Cooper. Bringing it straight back has been harder — witness Cooper’s desire to go running off into another flyball lane after having grabbed the ball.

Bringing something back “to hand” has been even more erratic. It means gently putting the thing in the handler’s hand, without argument, without hesitation, and without doing several victory laps first.

Cooper has brought a ball or bumper back to hand once in awhile, when it serves his purpose, which is generally to keep one of us playing the game. But often his purpose is to just have the thing for himself.

I can see his logic: “I went to get the thing, therefore the thing is mine.” But success in force fetch means giving it back to hand, every time, no exception, no matter what.

Andy predicts that Cooper will have it down, using bumpers at the kennel, by early next week. Once that happens, the real fun will start: Going out to the field to learn to do the same tasks, but this time, with ducks.

That’s when I think Cooper will really begin to enjoy himself.

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