Archive for the ‘dog behavior’ Category

Going through the archives of our photos of Cooper brings back many fond memories. But of course, what we remember when we see the photos is an animated, happy dog, full of joy. But for the readers of The Cooper Project who never met the boy, just seeing a static photo limits comprehending the energy of that amazing dog.

Back in 2012, I made a short video of Cooper and Trice practicing staying steady at the line while she shoots at mythical ducks. This video pretty much sums up all the excitement Cooper exuded in life. And so today, I snagged a few seconds of that video and looped it into this animated image. See if you can count the number of tail wags and notice his wagging is in sync with his tongue.

One happy camper . . . .


And when he was finally released and left the line, heading for the duck, he wasn’t going let a video camera stand in his way… Click the animated image to open the source video and see what I mean.

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Yesterday afternoon, while walking leashed down the sidewalk, Carlin was attacked by an Alaskan Malamute. The Malamute, twice Carlin’s weight, charged down the adjacent driveway and jumped Carlin.

When Russ or I have walked the dogs around the neighborhood, we’ve seen this dog loose in his yard before, and always walked down the other side of the street. But yesterday, Carlin was being walked by our dog walker, who doesn’t live in this neighborhood, doesn’t often walk down that street, and had forgotten about that Malamute.

The dog walker brought Carlin right home, and reported the incident to us. At first, we didn’t see any damage beyond a broken nail. But by this morning, it was clear that something was wrong with Carlin’s left ear. Yesterday, he winced when it was touched, but this morning, he screamed. Closer inspection revealed some yucky fluid in the ear. So, off he went to the vet.

The vet sedated him, and went investigating. What they found was an infected 4mm puncture wound in his ear canal. He’s being treated with antibiotics, pain medication, and ear drops.

When Carlin got home from the vet, he walked loopily into the house, got his favorite nylabone, lay down, and went to sleep with the bone in his mouth.

Carlin sleeping off the sedative with a bone in his mouth

Tooey is recovering, too, from her mammary surgery on Tuesday, so the two of them are recovering together.

Tooey and Carlin_blog

Carlin and Tooey recovering together on the deck

What we’re going to do about the Malamute and his owner — we’re not sure. It complicates things that neither of us was there when the attack actually happened, so we’ll see.



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Tooey’s resting quietly after having her spay operation on Wednesday (September 10). She also had a growth removed from her flank, which is the bare patch you can see on her side.


I am glad to have the growth removed. It’s been growing very slowly over the last four years. Last time we had it biopsied, it was just a benign, fluid-filled cyst.

I am sad about the spay, though. Dogs are generally healthier when they keep all their parts and all their hormones. But Tooey has been suffering with false pregnancies, with fruitless nesting behaviors, mood swings, and swollen teats, even lactating for non-existant puppies. And as much as she loves all her people, I know she hasn’t wanted to be sent away to her co-owner’s when she goes into season.

Plus, she’s already had two large litters of beautiful, well-loved puppies, and we don’t plan to breed her again. So with all that, plus our having two intact boys in the house, it was time to have her spayed.

Since she’s an older girl, the healing will take longer than it would a younger dog. We’re to keep her indoors for two weeks, except to pee and poo, and keep the elizabethan collar (seen in the photo) on her whenever she’s unsupervised. It’s important that she not chew on any of the stitches, on belly or side. If she were to do that, it would mean more surgery and more stitches to repair the damage.

Fortunately, at least up to now, she hasn’t been too interested in her stitches, so until the incisions start itching (if they do), we should be OK.

It will be great to have Tooey up and out with us again. There are games to play, hikes to take, and birds to find this fall.

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Hunting ducks is somewhat of a misnomer. Sitting and waiting is a better description. Sitting and waiting in the middle of winter, in bad weather, and in the dark of night is even more descriptive. So why do it?

Cooper is my primary reason.

The typical protocol is to make your way to the duck blind well before the sun comes up. Trudge through the muck, the ponds, the farm fields in total darkness. Then set out a bunch of decoys in knee-high frigid water (with maybe a hint of glow on the east horizon if it is not raining too hard). Wade back to the blind and then wait for the sun to come up with your loyal Irish Water Spaniel.

But while it is dark, it is not quiet.

Migrating birds by the hundreds (thousands?) fly all night long immediately overhead. Ducks create a chorus of whistling wings in full surround-sound as they make their way to points south. Geese talk to each other non-stop while cruising the night sky. Sandhill cranes plan their day while flying in flocks of a dozen or so. Then, as the sun starts to come up, all goes quiet.

Suavie Island, Oregon

Sauvie Island, Oregon at sunrise

Unless weather, birds, and your horoscope are all lined up, there is good chance that one can sit and wait even longer. But the sights are wonderful. Thousands of Canadian geese rise or land in unison, swirling like feathered tornadoes. The occasional group of ducks fly low and fast, avoiding predators, including Cooper and me. Sandhill cranes converge in nearby pastures. And Marsh harriers mix hunting and romance as they tack back and forth past the blind, ignoring us as we sit in our front row seats.

As the sun pops over the horizon, but before it slips behind a sky of overcast and rain, there is a brief moment of less than a minute, when picture postcards can be seen in every direction.

Sandhill Cranes commuting past the blind

Sandhill Cranes commuting past the blind

For two hours, Cooper sat quietly in the blind, scanning the flooded corn fields and ponds, wondering why I didn’t call for the bird. To date, in every hunt test he has competed, there has been a retrieve within moments of his entering the blind. So what gives this time?

Patrice’s obedience training with Cooper is now paying off in spades. For logistical reasons, there are not 2 hour sit-stays in obedience competition, but if there were, today Cooper would have qualified.

No ducks today. But having spent several hours listening to and watching our amazing world with Cooper is why we sit in a duck blind, in the cold and dark.

Cooper, near the end of a long but successful sit-stay

Cooper, near the end of a long but successful sit-stay

While not considered appropriate behavior in some circles, Cooper did get a retrieve or so. Not ducks, but I did let him help retrieve the decoys before we headed back home for a hot breakfast (and a dog bath).

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It is raining the proverbial cats and dogs today, so what a better way to spend a morning than inside, sharing your work with your spaniels.

Cooper knows the drill. He’s loved doing this for more than 5 years. As soon as lights are set, he strikes the pose and looks directly at the camera.

Ms. Tooey, the princess, does not want to be left out of anything that Cooper does, so she got up onto the bench and posed simply to prove a point.
The Princess

Side note from Patrice: Russ does people and dog portraits, and many other genres of photography, photo illustration, and image manipulation. Take a look on his website, Working Theory Studios.

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Back in January, Russ wrote about taking Tooey upland hunting. He mentioned when he came back that the lightbulb really seemed to have flipped on in Tooey’s head — there are birds out in those fields that must be flushed and retrieved!

Little did I realize the significance of what lay behind his words.

Yesterday we took Cooper and Miss Tooey out to to a spaniel training day with the Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association. Every one was eager for the work: the people to get ready for upcoming spaniel hunt tests and the dogs to find birds ASAP.

Knowing that Tooey particularly likes chukars, I’d gone out on Saturday to buy a few. Saturday afternoon and over Saturday night, I kept the chukars in nice comfy cages in the garage. All afternoon, all evening, and most of early Sunday morning, Tooey kept telling us, “Hey! There are chukars out there. Let’s go see the chukars. Now. Right now. I want to go see the chukars out there.”

And then, on the ride up to the training grounds, she did her best to keep a constant eye on those chukars. While Cooper and Scarlett* napped, Tooey stayed awake and watched those chukars.

That all amped her up, but we made her wait. And that combination probably explains why my arm and shoulder are sore now.

Tooey has generally been pretty gentle on the leash. Even when in hot pursuit of a squirrel, she manages to moderate her forward movement before reaching the end of the leash. So much easier on the arm and shoulder than Cooper is.

But when I got Tooey out to the practice hunt test course yesterday, she lost her mind and I almost got pulled over. What Tooey saw was just about unbelieveable: other dogs flushing and retrieving birds, and Russ out there with them doing the gunning. Without her.

course with two gunners, one working spaniel and handler, plus one waiting spaniel and its people

We were supposed to wait our turn somewhat near the course. But I had to get us away from there. So close to the course, I could not make her sit for anymore than 1 second at a time. And every time a gun went off, she was at the end of the leash, and both of us were 6 feet closer.

So instead of just trying to make her sit, I changed my tactic. Every time she pulled me toward the course, I turned around and dragged her farther in the opposite direction. We got all the way up a small hill about 100 yards away before she could sit quietly.

Eventually, it was Tooey’s turn. And she did great at the hunting. The gunners planted 2 dead birds close to the beginning of the course to give her confidence that birds were indeed out there. She found both of those quickly and retrieved them to hand.

Farther along the course, she also trapped two more chukars, grabbing them before they could get off the ground. Those were also retrieved to hand, alive.

Then, toward the end of the course, she flushed up a bird, which the gunner shot. She marked the fall, ran to go get it, and then brought that bird to hand, too.

That was the end of Tooey’s turn, but she was ready to keep going. Unlike Cooper, who tired himself out during his turn with a lot of running around, Tooey did a nice even zig-zag, back and forth across the course. And she did it at a moderate pace, too, kind of a fast trot. That makes for a more casual time hunting, when you don’t have to rush after your dog or worry that he’s going to flush birds too far ahead and out of gun range. (Take note, Cooper!)

Tooey’s puppies are due around May 7th, so I don’t know how much more hunting practice she’ll get in the next several months. But she remembered well enough from January to April. I imagine she won’t forget for the next time, either, no matter how long away it is.

Now we just need to work on steady.


*Scarlett is a Boykin Spaniel who is our friend Norm’s hunting partner

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I’ve been searching around for ways to handle my nervousness at dog shows. I love this quote*, which I just found in the Yahoo group, Clicker Competition Obedience Training:

…Any time you start to feel nervous, take a nice deep breath and picture three images in your head. First think about the first time you ever saw your dog. Next think of something your dog does that makes you feel proud. Lastly think of something your dog does that makes you laugh. Practice it now. I bet when you finish you will end up with a great big smile on your face.

I am inspired. I’ve starting sorting through my mental list of Cooper images. Most of them are just in memory, but others are actual photographs.

The first time you ever saw your dog

I first saw Cooper at Tammy’s parents’ house. I had met Tammy only a couple of times before, but she had taken the trouble to fly out from Minnesota with my Cooper, her Mowgli, and Amy’s Maggie. When Russ and I arrived, Tammy’s mother directed us into the laundry room, where Tammy was giving a very wiggly 8-week-old Cooper a bath.

I commented something like, “He doesn’t like the water? I thought he was an Irish Water Spaniel.”

“He’s a water spaniel,” Tammy replied, drying Cooper off, “not a bath spaniel.” Something your dog does that makes you feel proud

Cooper’s hunting and retrieving skills and his intense enthusiasm for the work makes me proud every time we go out to hunt or train. He found the thing he loves in life very early, when at 9 weeks he first retrieved our morning paper.

Since then, Cooper has pursued field work with the kind of passion that makes me snort when I hear people say, “My passion is…” or “I am passionate about…” They (and I) would be very lucky if they felt 1/10th the passion Cooper exhibits when he’s hunting.

The illustrative event that sticks in my mind is Cooper’s 2nd AKC Junior Hunt Test. This was a very hard test: Only 31 dogs passed of the 56 entered. The retrieves were long, the marks were launched against a dark backdrop of trees, and the many shadows, dips, shallows, and tall cover made the test difficult. (Not to mention the pink flamingo line markers.) But Cooper succeeded and brought back all 4 of his birds.

In fact, in all the hunt tests he’s ever entered, even the ones he’s failed, he has never failed to bring back his birds. And in all the hunting we’ve done, he’s brought back all his birds except for three: two of these were not found even though multiple dogs and multiple people looked for them, and the other was finally located by another dog after two long searches.

Something your dog does that makes you laugh

Cooper has a multipurpose relationship with his toys that makes me laugh every time.

One is that he uses his toys to express his understanding of value and fairness: He trades a toy for something he wants that is not his. We’ll walk into the bedroom and find, instead of two shoes, one shoe and a toy. Or, in the bathroom, we’ll find a toy instead of the washcloth.

Another funny toy thing is, we’ll say, “Want to go for a ride in the car?” Tooey will race to the front door, but not Cooper. Cooper runs first to the toy drawer so he can grab a toy to take along for the ride. I wish I had a video of this, but when I’m getting ready to go for a ride with the dogs in the car, my hands are full of leashes, keys, a coat, my purse, a couple of treats, and several plastic bags.

*Credit where credit is due

The quote was most recently posted by Libby on July 31, 2011, but she said she borrowed it from a previous post on the list. Later I heard that this probably came from Leslie McDevitt, who includes a similar classroom exercise on page 67 of her book Control Unleashed (2007):

When the dogs and handlers look ready, I ask each student to close her eyes, and while keeping her hands on her dog, remember the first time she saw her dog. I’ll give her a minute to take in that memory. Then I ask her to think of something her dog has done that makes her laugh. Lastly, I ask her to think of something her dog has done that made her proud. I love to watch my students, beaming and chuckling and petting their dogs as they’re doing this exercise.

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