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Archive for September, 2013

Now that Tooey’s puppies are in their new homes and she is getting back into her daily routine of being a superb companion animal, I thought that I would share a few images of Tooey from this last week.

Autumn weather came right on schedule to the Pacific Northwest. Not only does that mean rain, wind, sun, cooler temperatures, but it also means that bird hunting season is around the corner.

Basking in the cool showers in her back yard as only an IWS can enjoy.

Basking in the cool showers in her back yard as only an IWS can enjoy.

I have several hunting-related art projects underway that require having the right props to work from. Ms. Tooey is both helpful and critical of my endeavors.

Tooey confirms that this is indeed a rooster pheasant flying through the dining room

Tooey confirms that this is indeed a rooster pheasant flying through the dining room

Before I made delivery on a couple of retro-style metal signs with dog portraits (Boykins in this case), Tooey confirmed that these met her standards. I have ascertained that her look implies that my next series must include and Irish Water Spaniel.

"Say, that looks just like Scarlett" - Tooey has a good eye detail

“Say, that looks just like Scarlett” – Tooey has a good eye detail

Tooey has another weekend of AKC Obedience trial scheduled in a couple of weeks, and that coincides with the opening of the upland bird hunting season in Oregon. So as soon as she leaves the ring (with or without a title) we will be heading to the field for pheasants, chukar, and maybe quail.

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Well, actually, she has all four of her curly brown legs. But what she also has is the 2nd qualifying score in Novice Obedience, which she earned today. A dog needs three qualifying scores, given by at least two different judges, to earn the Companion Dog (CD) title, so now Tooey is 2/3 of the way there.

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Her strongest exercise is still the Recall — she stays in position until called, comes briskly when called, comes in squarely to my front, and then finishes with a sweet heel. And she also does a solid Stand for Exam — her feet stay put from the time I leave her, while the judge is touching her head, shoulders, and back, and stays there until I return to the heel position.

Her weakest exercises are still the ones involving heeling: On-leash Heeling, Figure 8, and Off-Leash Heeling. Her On-leash heeling was a bit better than acceptable. She was behind me most of the way, but the leash never got tight, so that means that she probably never got more than three or four feet behind me. She sat when I stopped every time, which was great.

The Off-leash heeling was scary, probably at the very bottom of the acceptable range. As the exercise progressed, she got farther and farther behind — I couldn’t see her, but I think she probably got as much as eight feet behind me. But she did follow me all throughout the pattern, even doing the about turn back where I had done it, even though I was many feet ahead of her by the time she did it.

And she stayed put for the Long Sit and Long Down. During the Long Sit, she kept a close eye on the doings in the adjacent ring, but she didn’t move. And at one point (halleluia!) during the Long Down, she even put her head down on her front paws and relaxed.

The Mt. Hood Keeshond Club Obedience Trial went two days — yesterday and today. I was very happy that I’d entered her only for today. Today we had a woman judge, whereas yesterday’s judge was a very large man. He was judging in the adjacent ring today, and when Tooey caught sight of him, she kind of backed up in a kind of a “Whoa!, what’s that?” kind of a posture. He was a perfectly nice guy as far as I could tell, but Tooey isn’t sure she likes large men. Thankfully, I learned this lesson in Puyallup last June. Until I can find more large men to practice around, I think we’re going to stick with women judges.

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Chris came down to see the puppies, planning to take home a Faethe x Joey puppy. She has Joey’s brother, so a Joey puppy would make a nice symmetry.

And while she liked the Joey puppy, she was just won over by Ms. Yellow, the last (but not least) Tooey x JJ puppy to go home. But the Joey family connection is still there, since Joey is Ms. Yellow’s grandsire (JJ’s sire).

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Fortunately, Chris is friends with the owner of another Tooey puppy, Pax (Mr. Red from Tooey’s first litter). So they will be able to share the joys and challenges of having an IWS from the same mom.

And it looks like Chris’ house comes with ready-made company, a mini-wire Dachshund, Mike. They’ll be about the same size for only a little while, and then watch out!

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That makes three Tooey puppies in Canada — Pax from the Tooey x Cork litter, and Ivy (Ms Lavender) and Ms Yellow from the Tooey x JJ litter. With the Sorcha (the first Ms Yellow) in Australia, that makes Tooey a real international producer.

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For the last two weekends, Cooper and his hunting partner Scarlett have been helping the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) with training new pheasant hunters. The ODFW has an Adult Pheasant Hunt for new hunters that is run near Portland at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area. For a very modest fee, people interested in learning how to hunt pheasants over dogs can spend the day being trained how to handle and shoot a shotgun safely, practice with clay targets, and then have an afternoon chasing pheasants with the assistance of trained bird dogs and their handlers. Cooper and Scarlett (plus Norm and myself) helped new hunters understand the techniques of working with bird dogs and strategies of pheasant hunting. For a mere $42 one gets the opportunity to learn to shoot, have lunch, work with a spaniel, and possibly take home some fresh pheasant.

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Scarlett and Cooper waiting for the new hunters to get their orientation

The first success of this past Friday afternoon was when Scarlett put up a nice rooster pheasant, and one of the new hunters dropped it on his very first shot. (He is hooked now.) Scarlett moved out about 80 yards in the cover to locate the bird and brought it back to Norm.

Scarlett brings in the first rooster pheasant

Scarlett brings in the first rooster pheasant

All the crops you see in the above photos are to support wildlife habitat and will be left in the fields and flooded over the next month. Thousands of ducks and geese will eat themselves fat on their way to California. (This is where the money goes from hunting licenses.) But for the next few weeks, the cover is nice for upland birds such as early season pheasant. On Friday, it was a bit too hot for the dogs to work for long stretches, and they consumed lots of water while looking for birds. But it was a great practice session for the dogs before Norm and I head out after our own birds later this this Fall when the season opens and the weather turns cool.

Cooper did not locate any birds in the crops, but one rooster was spotted walking along a canal. So I sent Cooper in pursuit and he tracked it down in the cover and got a nice flush. The new hunter working behind Cooper waited until the low flying pheasant was high enough to safely shoot over Cooper’s head, but by that time, the bird was just a bit too far for the new hunter to successfully drop. Cooper was steady to the flush and shot, but sitting on the bank of a canal might have influenced his decision to not chase a bird.

Cooper and a novice hunter scour an oar field for the elusive pheasant

Cooper and a novice hunter scour an oat field for the elusive pheasant

Cooper and Scarlett were great ambassadors to a group of novice hunters. Even those who didn’t succeed in bringing home some fresh pheasant will have some good memories of working over an Irish Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel.

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There are so many dogs in rescues and shelters who need homes, I’m told. Why, I am asked, didn’t I get one of those instead of buying a purebred dog?

Well, here’s one way to think about it:

Ask the same question to a car enthusiast: Why didn’t you just go down to your local used car dealership and get some car there? Why do you need a new car of a particular make and model?

Or, how about asking a guitarist: Why did you have to buy that particular guitar? Couldn’t you have gotten a used guitar from Craigslist?

To a woman who needs professional clothes for work: Why did you have to go out and buy new clothes? Can’t you go to Goodwill and get your clothes there?

Of course these folks can get a used car, a Craigslist guitar, or Goodwill clothes. And sometimes, those are excellent choices for a lot of reasons: getting used things is “green”, it recycles good stuff to new uses, and it keeps stuff out of the landfills. But most of all, sometimes you can get well-made, workable, second-hand items that fill the need you have.

But often, you can’t.

And even though dogs are living beings and not inanimate objects like cars, guitars, and clothes, the principle is the same.

I know because I’ve taken both paths.

Before I got my purebred Irish Water Spaniels, I had a Malamute-mix and a German Shepherd-mix. Both I bought from backyard breeders. I didn’t know any better about why I shouldn’t do that. But now I do, and I won’t do it again.

One of the dogs turned out to be a dearly loved, sweet companion, and the other turned out bad — really, frighteningly bad. It was all luck — we had no knowledge about the breeds, about the mixes, about the parents, how the mother was housed, fed, or cared for, about the environment the puppies had been initially raised in, about what they’d been fed or any training or socialization they might have been given (or not). And the people who bred them weren’t responsible breeders who cared about any of that or who could give us any ongoing information and support.

We did a bit better with our third dog. She was a sweet Chow-multi-mix rescue from our local shelter. The shelter workers helped us pick her out, and she was a calm, placid companion for us for several years. But she also had some issues and problems, and we had no one who had known her from puppyhood to help us figure out what was going on. And since she was a mixed breed, we couldn’t really research what might be typical for her breed.

Like the car enthusiast, guitarist, and professional, when it was time to get a new dog, we had specific requirements.

We decided we wanted a water dog. A puppy who would grow up to be a size down from our previous dogs. A dog who would go for walks and hikes, and who would love the water and go with us on our boat. We wanted an active dog who would play and retrieve a ball, and one who wouldn’t shed as much as our previous dogs. We didn’t want a protection dog or a lay-about dog or an ordinary dog.

Researching on the web, it quickly became apparent to me that there were three purebred breeds that would be right for us. At the same time, it became equally apparent that getting a mixed-breed would much less predictably get us what we wanted than getting a specific kind of purebred dog. And getting a dog that wasn’t right for us would be frustrating for us and sad for the dog.

I’ve told the story of how we got Cooper throughout this blog, so I won’t go into that again.

But I do think it’s important to stress how valuable and helpful it has been to stay in touch with the breeders of our Irish Water Spaniels. When the dogs have health or behavior puzzles, I have people to ask advice from, people who knew our dog from his first moments, who know our dogs’ parents, and can tell us how their parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents behaved. People who have such long experience with Irish Water Spaniels, that they can tell us what is typical and what isn’t, and what kinds of behaviors to expect. They can tell us what kinds of medications to avoid, what kinds of foods are best, and what health problems we might see.

Staying in touch with our dogs’ breeders has expanded our social universe in ways we’d never had predicted. Plus we get to have the fun of sharing pictures and stories with people who actually want to hear about our dogs as many times as we want to share them.

I had none of this with my three previous dogs, and I couldn’t have had, because none of those dogs were purebred dogs bred by responsible breeders.

I have now co-bred two litters of Irish Water Spaniels. I hope I can serve these same functions for the people to whom I have entrusted my puppies, people who specifically chose purebred Irish Water Spaniels, plus my co-breeder and me and our puppies in particular, because the breed and the puppies meet their new people’s own specific requirements.

(written in response to this article: http://caninechronicle.com/world-news/september-chairmans-report/)

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Ms. Lavender has been determined by her people Ron and Mary-Lynn to be, “Hands Down… the Best Pup!” They say that Ivy is a very sweet and affectionate dog, who works hard to please them.

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Even so,  she’s a puppy, going through a chewing stage, so she has some toys and a puppy Kong to satisfy that urge to chew (when she’s not sleeping, that is).

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Like several of the other puppies, it sounds like she’s doing a great job with her crate training. Except for the first night, they report that she hasn’t cried, and only wakes them up once during the night to be let outside.

Like Louie, Ivy now lives with people who have a shop, but it’ll be a few more weeks until they let her hang out there, until they think she’s ready to tolerate the noise and activity.

But maybe best of all, Ivy lives with a view of the water. If she’s anything like her mama, she will love the water.

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Louie (who was Mr. Teal when I last saw him) is now home with Donn and the other two dogs: Rio the IWS and Caesar the Standard Poodle.

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Rio getting acquainted with puppy Louie

Louie apparently learns really fast when it come to food (so-o-o much like his mom Tooey). Donn reports that when he first used the band saw to cut up frozen tripe, Louie took off. But now he comes running when he hears the saw — that means it’s time for something good to eat!

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Louie munching on a strip of tripe

Louie must be really comfortable around power tools now — right under the table saw seems like a good place to feel right at home and take a nap.

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Time for a nap

Louie also takes to his crate with no problems, and he’s learning to play and get along with the other two dogs. Sometime this week, he may even get a chance to get into a puppy pool, since it’s going to be hot where he lives.

Louie is going to be a happy dog in his new home. Donn says that Tooey did a good job. That she did.

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Linda reported that Finn (f/k/a Mr. Green) got to her safely and that he seems to be enjoying his new home and toys!

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Cosmo the poodle is not sure about Finn yet, but Cosmo is reportedly being a gentleman with the new puppy.

I am looking forward to more pictures in the future, which Linda says will follow when she can slow him down long enough to get them.

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Finnegan, the former Mr. Red, had quite a trip today. His plane landed on time, but then the poor puppy had to wait in his crate in the plane on the tarmac for more than an additional hour. Lightning kept the plane away from the gate, and Finnegan and Mary had to wait, wait, and wait some more to meet each other.

But once Finnegan and his people met, it was love at first sight.

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Finnegan and Mary meet at the airport

After a nap, some play with a new ducky, some dinner, and some cuddling, it was time for another nap.

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I think I’m going to like it here… snore…

I think he’s gonna love it there, too.

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Ms. Pink landed safely again in Missy’s arms today. Missy was right there to catch Pink when she was born, and she was right there to catch Pink again at the airport.

It’s not a great picture technically, having been taken with a cell phone in fluorescent airport lighting by a cargo clerk, but I think it shows clearly how happy they are to have found each other again.

20130905-194054.jpgWhen they got home, Autumn (f/k/a Ms. Pink) got her first chicken neck and a meeting with Missy’s other dogs. Latte the Poodle loves Autumn already, and Jade is adjusting. No word yet as to how Rugby, the boy IWS, feels about the new addition.

But I’m confident that Autumn will have a full and happy life ahead of her, in the show ring, the obedience ring, in therapy work, or whatever she and Missy decide to do. And I do fully expect that Autumn will make her opinions known as what she should do in life.

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Some new photos from Sept. 8:

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Mr White is going to give his people a ride in life. They waited over a year to find their perfect puppy, and now, after just a couple of days, they say he’s just about made himself King of the house.

They’ll let him get away with this for a few days, they say, while they just enjoy him and try to decide on a name. Maverick? Liam? Rory?

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This is his “adorable” look

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This is his “I don’t know what got into me!” look

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People love to comment on my blog posts using Facebook, and I got quite a few about yesterday’s post on Tooey’s string of NQ’s in last weekend’s spaniel hunt tests. But I want to save them here, so here is a screenshot from FB this morning:

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I woke up this morning still feeling disappointed and sad. I thought I’d be over it in the morning. But no. Maybe it’ll help if I write about it.

First, two non-dog stories. (They will relate. Really.)

Related stories from life

I bought my first car when I was a college student. It was an inexpensive 1960-something BMW 1800. It was a beautiful little box of a car that was fun to drive, but one that needed a lot of work. I had a lot of help working on that car, and I spent a lot of time and a lot (for me) of money every time something broke, which was often.

Finally, something big broke. I don’t remember exactly what it was now, but it was something like the engine gaskets blowing. Fixing it involved removing and rebuilding the engine. That meant spending a lot more money and a lot more time.

So for the first time, I faced the thought of maybe getting rid of that car and getting something else. But I had already spent so much time and money on that car, I hated the thought of giving it up and then paying for something new. But it became truly a matter of throwing good money after bad, and finally, I had to switch to another car.

Next story.

When I was teaching composition at a university, my classes were mostly made up of students just out of high school. Many of these students were used to getting an “A” just for showing up and putting in some effort, regardless of the quality of the work. But that was not my standard. Doing all the work at acceptable quality would earn a student a “C” (for Average) in my classes. A “B” required good work, and an “A” required superior work. For “A’s” and “B’s,” effort was required, but not sufficient.

After teaching for several quarters, I realized that, effort being equal, “A” students usually also had some writing talent to a degree that the “B” students did not. That’s like the real world of work for which I was trying to prepare my students, a world where effort and talent (and luck) combine to create superior work. I even told one class a story on myself, that no matter how hard I worked at it, I could get much better at basketball, but I would never be good enough to be in the WNBA. (And for the record, over half my students got “A’s” and “B’s” by the end of the term, with very few “D’s” and I think only one “F”.)

So, back to life with dogs.

What happened this weekend

I had entered Tooey in three Spaniel Hunting Tests that took place this past weekend, hoping to get that last pass needed for her to earn her Junior Hunter Upland title. After a lot of work and a couple failures, we came into the weekend with three passes, just needing that fourth pass for the title. But to my great disappointment, she NQ’d (not qualified) all three tests.

On the first day, she didn’t seem to even realize that she was out to find birds. For all the world, it looked like she was just out for a stroll in the field. So she was out of the test.

On the second day, she trapped one bird, flushed another and retrieved it during the land portion of the test, and so was invited back for the water portion. There, she was happy to go out to get the wet pigeon, but instead of grabbing the wet pigeon in her mouth, she simply pushed it to shore and then refused to fetch it up when Russ asked her to (several times). So she was out of that test, too.

On the third day, she flushed two birds and retrieved both, but it appeared to judges that she “wasn’t having any fun” and was requiring too much encouragement, so they did not invite her back for the water work. She put in some effort, did only OK work, and her unfortunate luck was to have two judges who didn’t choose to see if she might do better at the water or not. So for the third time out of three tests, she was out.

I don’t know how to think about all this. Right now, I’m not exactly thinking. Mostly, I’ve been feeling disappointed and obsessing about the things I can’t change, like our bad luck at having judges for whom doing the minimum work was not enough to be invited to go on to the water work. Disappointment for a while is okay, but obsessing is not good. If I can change my thinking to something more positive and productive, I think I’ll be happier.

How to think and what to do?

So, some thoughts:

Tooey just had puppies 8 weeks ago. He coat is falling out — I’m assuming because of fluctuations or changes in her hormones. This happened with her previous litter of puppies, too, and it took several months for it all to grow back. If the blowing coat is a hormone issue, then it’s possible that those fluctuating hormones will affecting her brain for a while as well, making this situation not so much of a training, effort, or talent issue, but a health and time issue.

One of the joys of working with Cooper to do hunt tests and hunting is that he loves it so much. Maybe I could find that thing that Tooey loves and do that with her. She loves being in Conformation shows. I’d like to think I would come to love that, too, although I doubt it — Conformation shows, unlike hunt tests and obedience trials, are winner-take-all. I find that discouraging. Probably I will show her once a year in the Field Bitch class at the IWSCOPS Specialty now that she qualifies, just like I have been with Cooper. That one show per year will no doubt be fun, but by itself is not enough of an activity.

Tooey also loves chasing squirrels and rabbits, so maybe Coursing would be what she loves — it’s a field sport and videos on YouTube make it look kind of fun. She also likes doing Obedience work when it’s just me and her, so I could keep going with that, finding ways to build confidence so that she can also love doing it in public, too.

But I don’t know how to think about Tooey and Spaniel hunt tests. It’s like my old car. We’ve put so much time and effort and money into it, and she only needs one more pass to get that JHU title. I hate to give it up now. It’s just that I know full well that time and effort are necessary, but not sufficient. The work also has to be of high enough quality. Plus Tooey is not a field-bred IWS like Cooper. Her parents were fabulous show dogs. Perhaps spaniel hunt tests take a talent that Tooey just doesn’t have.

Tooey did get her retriever Junior Hunter title after many attempts, and I think that was because she came to enjoy doing it with Russ. And, in my opinion, she was helped by the fact that retriever Junior hunt tests are relatively straightforward: See the bird go down, go out pick it up, and bring it back to the handler. It takes time, effort, and training for the dog to learn to see birds go down in the distance, fetch and deliver live and dead birds, go around or through obstacles, and handle the excitement and pressure of lots of other dogs and people, but relatively little decision-making on the dog’s part is required.

In contrast (in my opinion — I suspect others will disagree), spaniel tests are harder in this respect. In addition to seeing birds go down, retrieving live and dead birds, delivering them to the handler, and dealing with crowds and dogs, the dog also has to make decisions all throughout the test. Neither the dog nor the handler knows exactly where the birds are, so the dog has to learn where birds typically hide and go look there. (Theoretically, the person planting the birds for the tests actually hides them where birds in the wild would typically hide.) The dog also has to learn to use his nose and the wind to decide where to look for birds. And the handler has to be able to help the junior dog by sending them into areas where the handler thinks birds would hide.

So, to keep competing in Spaniel tests, more training would be involved. Tooey likes ducks, pheasants, and chukars (and actually hunts these birds quite well during our actual hunting trips), but she despises pigeons, especially wet pigeons. I have a suspicion that her first retriever trainer did his initial fetch training using pigeons and an e-collar on Tooey, and now she’s carrying a grudge against pigeons.

So, since in our area clubs typically use pigeons in Junior tests, we would have to re-train her to fetch wet and dry pigeons. Given my choice (and assuming we decide to continue with this) I’d prefer to condition her to actually like pigeons, but that’s a much longer process than using an ear pinch or e-collar to force-fetch her to pigeons. And I’m not sure that fourth pass is worth having to use these aversive methods. On the other hand, there is no deadline for her getting a fourth pass, so longer might not be a problem.

Fortunately, I don’t have to decide anything about Spaniel tests right away. The next ones won’t be held until Memorial Day weekend of 2014. And for sure I will continue to work in Obedience in the meantime.

Hmm… Maybe Tooey would like Nosework — I’ve heard that most dogs who try it, really enjoy it. Maybe I could start with the typical nosework scents, and then add in the scent of pigeon?

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Note added later in the day: I remember having these same feelings of discouragement after Cooper NQ’d several Novice Obedience trials. But, you know, he got better at it. We just kept training, and he got better at it. We started to add Rally Obedience to the mix, so it wasn’t all regular Obedience work all the time. Maybe that perked his interest, maybe he just decided to go with the flow, maybe he gained confidence, or maybe continued training just started to sink in after a bit.

So maybe, maybe the same will happen for Tooey. We can keep training lightly to reward her for finding pigeons, and do something else for a while.

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