Archive for July, 2011

Last weekend, my friend Janice and I took our dogs (Enzo the Poodle and Tooey the Irish Water Spaniel) up to British Columbia to take a beginning retriever workshop. I had a wonderful time, and learned a lot.

Mostly, I learned that I need to be the pilot of our retriever team. And that I need to remind Tooey that she is the co-pilot. You’ll see some of the methods we learned in the videos below.

Basic things to work on:

  • Stay steady on the line: Tooey is not nearly as bad as Cooper at this, but still, I don’t want it to get to be a real problem later. So we worked a lot on heeling to and staying steady at the line. It’s not simply a matter for correction, it’s also a matter of our relationship and her respect for me as the pilot. You’ll notice that the correction is physical and dramatic, but done without resorting to an e-collar (thank God).
  • Enforce the Recall: When I say “Here”, Tooey has to come. If she’s within 10 feet or so, I have to go get her and remind her to come. The correction here is also physical, dramatic, and done without an e-collar.
  • Teach Hold again: I was very, very happy to see Tooey picking up ducks again. But she seems to have forgotten that “Hold” means to not drop the duck. This isn’t on the video, but I was shown a method for re-teaching the Hold. Tooey responds to treats, so I will be incorporating that into our Hold lessons.
  • If, after the Recall and the Hold are solid, the Fetch is not good, then I’ll teach that again. (Not sure how I’ll do that, but I’ll worry about that when/if I get there.)

The first video covers on the land work, and the second covers water work.

The pro, Anne Everett, is making her own video, so I have edited out all the instructions and comments she made to other participants and to the gallery. If you want to contact her for more info, go to her website.

And just some side notes: This workshop was Lab-free. There were Goldens (Anne raises Goldens), Tollers, Poodles, Flat-coats, an Airedale, and one Irish Water Spaniel. It was useful to see all these “exotics” at work, and to get specialized help for dogs who are not the-ubiquitous-at-hunt-tests Labrador Retrievers. And also, most of the participants were women, which I found refreshing.

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Cooper is a versatile boy. I have tried teach him how to make espresso coffee, but he is limited to drip only. Cinematography might be a new venue for his talents. I recently built a new collar out of steel and neoprene that is a camera mount for the GoProHD video camera.

In the video that follows, I felt it necessary to slow it down to half speed because Cooper’s motion is so quick, that the visual shakes would be too disturbing to watch at regular speed. Even then, when he shakes off the water, be prepared for some visual disturbances.

Cooper wearing his stylish GoProHD video camera

We spent this morning at St. Louis Ponds with the Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club at their monthly club training day. After a few drills, I stepped over to one of the ponds with Cooper and his new camera to record a bit of video. In fact, it is the very same pond that is in the photo at the top of blog, the one with Cooper leaping into the water.

Patrice and Tooey are away this weekend in Canada at a Retriever workshop on Vancouver Island, so us boys are staying home and doing boy things with our toys. Over time I will adjust or modify the collar to help stabilize the image a bit. But I think Cooper has a future in producing some bird hunting videos.

Now if I can get him to perfect those espressos . . . .

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If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that Cooper has had a very rocky time staying in the Sit-Stay position. He is SO tempted to run after and retrieve anything moving, even when we’ve told him to stay. And it’s just gotten worse over time, especially at hunt tests.

I really want him to pass one more Senior retriever hunt test, so we are going back to the beginning and working on Sit-STAY in the living room.

And, coincidentally, I just got a new little video camera that needs to be tested out, and voilá: a marriage made in, well, somewhere (probably not heaven). So, here are early attempts at video-ing an early attempt at training stay. (I know my photographer husband, brother-in-law, and friends will be kind, right?)

We’ve been working for a couple of weeks at just staying in a sit while I go put the food bowl down across the room. Then I added a tennis ball rolling across the far side of the room. Then I added a tennis ball rolling past Cooper.

Then day before yesterday, I tried a small bounce of the tennis ball. That didn’t work. He broke his stay and went after the ball. So yesterday, I went back to just rolling toys across the room, with some success.

Take a look:

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Good news! Tooey’s a chick. (Well, we knew that.) To be less cute about it, Tooey has a CHIC number.

That means that she’s taken all her pre-breeding health tests, and that that fact has been published by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). These tests are specified by the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America to help breeders make sure that the dogs and bitches they use for breeding are healthy.

Having a CHIC number does not mean that the dog is healthy enough to be bred. Take Cooper, for example, who also has a CHIC number. He’s had all the tests. But he also has a number of disqualifying health issues, like a cataract and mild elbow displaysia, not to mention SLO. So he won’t be bred. (Poor boy. He’d really like to be.)

Tooey, on the other hand, is beautifully healthy:

Next step: Deciding who the lucky dog will be.

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How to spend $75 in 3 minutes:

  1. Take your dog (whom you been training to be steady at the line for many months) to a Senior hunt test.
  2. Watch your very excited dog zoom out to the start line in nowhere close to the heel position.
  3. Call your dog back to the heel position at the start line. Tell him, “Sit.” Then tell him “Sit,” again.
  4. Watch the first bird go down while your dog jumps forward 4 feet.
  5. Watch your dog break and race out as the second bird goes up before the judge releases him to go.
  6. Watch your dog retrieve the second bird before it even bounces the first time.
  7. Watch your dog come back with the second bird and proudly deliver it to your hand.
  8. Leash your dog, say “Thank you, judges,” walk back to the car, and drive home.

For an additional $6, you can then pour yourself a very nice glass of McCarthy’s Single Malt Whiskey, even if it is 8:30 in the morning.

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Just the other day, I wrote a blog entry about our new regime to help Cooper learn what staying Steady means.

Today, Russ was able to take a picture of one part of our training. To do that, he had to step away from his normal place, which is with Cooper on his left, with Cooper’s head at Russ’s knee. You can just imagine he’s standing there, can’t you? Yes, I knew you could.

Throw the bumper! I'll stay steady, I promise!

The rules for this particular part of the game are that:

  1. If Cooper is sitting, with all 4 feet on the platform, then I will blow the duck call. If he moves a foot off the platform or starts making noise, I stop blowing the duck call, Russ heels Cooper off and then back onto the platform, and we start over.
  2. If Cooper is still on the platform with all 4 feet and is quiet, then I will throw the bumper. If not, then I don’t throw it, and Russ heels Cooper off and then back onto the platform, and we start over with #1.
  3. If Cooper is sitting (again or still) on the platform with all 4 feet and he is quiet, then Russ will send him for the bumper. If not, then I go out and pick up the bumper myself. Russ heels Cooper off and then back onto the platform, and we start over with #1.

Oh, this is hard.

We moved on to requiring that he also be quiet today. He’s done well in the past couple of days with staying on the platform, even up to being able to retrieve 8 bumpers out of 8 throws. But we noticed that he’d increased the amount of “vocalizing” — doing this whine/bark that says, “I want to go NOW! Send me NOW! NOW!”

Can’t have that. Cooper needs to be quiet at hunt tests, and besides, he’s not in charge of deciding who gets to go when. So we added the quiet requirements.

We’ll keep doing some version of this every day. Let’s hope some of this sinks in deep in by Saturday, when Cooper is entered in a Senior retriever hunt test.

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I took Cooper to a private lesson with Joan at Dog Days last weekend, and as part of our work that day, I described Cooper’s problem with staying steady at the line in hunt tests.

She said, “Oh, that’s just Stay.”

My thought, “Oh, yeah, right. Just Stay…”

But nevertheless, Joan did demonstrate to me that Cooper doesn’t really know that “Stay” always means Stay. She asked me to put him in a Sit-Stay and walk away 20 feet. After I did so, all she had to do was wave one arm, and Cooper moved.

This is the dog, who when told to Stay during field practice so Russ can walk out 50 yards to place a bumper, will stay butt solid on the ground until Russ returns. However, this is also the dog who so far cannot then stay at Russ’s side and wait to be sent for the bird during hunt tests.

Obviously, there is a gap in Cooper’s understanding.

So, we’ve started a new regimen. At the moment, it has 3 parts:

Part 1

Cooper must Sit-Stay before getting to eat. I mix up his bowl of food and put it on the table. Then I take Cooper across the room, I turn to face his mat, and tell him Heel, Sit, and Stay. When he’s got that, I go to the table, get his bowl, and put it on his mat. Then I return to his side and wait for a bit (this time is gradually increasing as we progress). Then I send him to his food.

The first couple of days that we tried this, of course he broke before I’d even returned to him — I had to rescue the food bowl before he could get to it and take him back to where I’d placed him. Now we’re up to about 15 seconds of waiting after I’ve returned to him.

Part 2

Cooper must Sit-Stay before getting into the car. (He loves riding in the car.) I put him in a Sit-Stay at the edge of the front porch, go to the car and open the back, and then I open his crate. Then I return to Cooper’s side and we wait. After a bit, I send him to the crate. Same issues as staying for the food bowl, and about the same rate of success.

Part 3

This training happens only in the field. It requires two people, bumpers, and a raised (3″) platform that is just barely big enough for Cooper to sit or stand on.

Russ places the platform so that it is squarely under Cooper when Cooper is in heel position. I go out 30-40 yards with the bumpers. When Cooper is sitting, Russ signals for the bumper, and I blow the duck call and throw the bumper. Then, if Cooper still has all 4 feet on the platform when the bumper lands, Russ sends him for the bumper. If a foot is off the platform, I go out and get the bumper myself.

This is hard.

At first, Cooper could not stay on the platform at all. Then he could keep 2 or 3 feet on the platform. Then he could keep all 4 feet on the platform for about 2 bumpers out of 8. Now we’re up to a pretty reliable 6 bumpers out of 8. When we get up to 8 bumpers out of 8, then we’ll up the criteria so that Cooper has to be with all 4 feet plus butt on the platform before he can be sent.

After that (whenever that is), we’ll have to figure out a way to “fade” the platform. I’m sure I can get Joan’s help with that.

Oh, and Tooey?

She’s very motivated by food and by riding in the car, so we are doing Parts 1 and 2 with her also. These seem harder for her than for Cooper, but she’s having gradually increasing success also.

However, Tooey is not so motivated by getting to retrieve, so Part 3 wouldn’t work for her. What we need to figure out for Tooey is seeing how we can get her to enjoy retrieving. But that’s another story for another post.

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