Sunday, 20 December 2009

Caching with Ardi- Our 1st find

I had been waiting all week to get out and find my first Cache. It was December 4/09 and the temperature had dropped to -18 C. Ardi and I weren’t going to let the cold stop us, we bundled up and headed out.

Ardi in her borrowed Chillydog Great White North Coat

My plan was to walk to the Cache from home, but with the cold I opted to drive. The cache was located in an urban sub-division, about 2 km from my house. I didn’t have a handheld GPS, so headed out with the vehicle Tom-Tom as my guide.

We parked about 200 meters from the cache on the opposite side of the street. Had I read the map right, I would have known that I needed to cross the street to find it. I crossed the street a few times in both directions before I saw it. It probably took me 5 minutes and it would have been less if I actually was looking for it rather then looking at the GPS. I took the log book back to my vehicle to sign. Then drove around the block to end up on the right side of the street. We parked about 200 meters away, then Ardi and I put the log book back and proceeded to a near by park for a quick walk. Quick it was as we were both getting kind of cold.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


I first heard about Geocaching about 5 years ago. Someone sent me an article about it and at the time I thought it would be fun to try. I had forgotten about it, until a competitor at a Rally O trial (November 2009) told me her husband travelled with her to the trial and was enjoying a weekend of Geocaching while she trialed.

Geocacing is a game of hiding and seeking treasure. What you need is a GPS and probably a PC or Laptop with internet connection to get you to the Geocaching .com website. The website helps you locate caches hidden in your area or area’s you may be visiting. It provides co-ordinates of where the cache is hidden, as well as a place to record and share your finds. Once you get to the cache there may be some trinkets, but most often there is a logbook to sign. The rule of thumb when you find a cache is “If you take something, leave something” and sign the logbook.

This is something you can easily enjoy with your dog. Both dog and Cacher (that’s you) can enjoy fresh air, exercise and some great scenery. Check out the Geocaching website at

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Good-bye to an Old Friend

Roxy – 1995 to Dec 13, 2009
Black Diamond Rox, FDCH-S

On December 13, 2009, Bonnie and I said good-bye to Roxy, free to run and play with out worry or pain.
We thought she had been doing well this winter in an old dog kind of way, but the cold weather really dragged her down and we discovered a massive tumor under her left arm, surrounded by many smaller ones.

Roxy was the leader of our pack and taught the Chesapeakes many dog to dog manners. She also taught Bonnie and I many things and introduced us to the dog community.

We picked her up from the local shelter in September of 1995. The shelter guesstimated her to be a 6 month old Shepherd Lab X. She had been found running scared in the inner city after a huge storm. We named her Roxy, and later when we registered her with AMBOR (Ameican Mixed Breed Obedience Registry). We chose the name Black Diamond Rox as she had a black diamond on her tongue.

Roxy loved all people she met, but barely tolerated most dogs. Amazingly, she always managed to get along with the dogs we introduced to the household. Puppies were fine and she tolerated the one dog we fostered.

The greatest joy for Roxy was to accompany Bonnie on her trips to the farm and to visit her parents. She loved being the house dog and took her job of keeping order and peace in the household very seriously.

Good-bye old free.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Dog to Dog Play

This may be of interest to those who have new puppies. It is a video on a blog by Patricia McConnell that shows appropriate play between an older and younger dog.

Besides the video, the blog piece and following comments provide some insight into what dogs teach each other. We can learn a lot if we watch closely.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Happy Girls!!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Decoy Days - 2009

Each year, the Retriever club holds a Decoy Day. Decoys are set and marks planned to expose and train dogs in various elements of field work. The event is run like a trial,with holding blinds, dead birds, shots and duck calls.

The decoys are always the highlight and this year we had, 3D Goose silhouettes, wind socks, Canada Goose shells, Snow Goose shells, Texas rags and a couple of Robo-Ducks.The weather was cold and windy, great for the dogs, but not so much for the handlers.
After the big dogs ran, we brought out the puppies and a few of the older dogs, shortened up the marks and had a blast.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Spring Tune Up - Marking

Did you ever wonder how to improve your dogs marking ability? The first thing that comes to mind is to have them do many marks of varying lengths and in all kinds of cover.
A lot of my training is done in a training group. We work varying set ups to expose the dogs to a wide variety of elements. By the time we set marks up and run multiple dogs, the number of marks each dog gets is minimal. So when someone offered this tip to our training group, I hopped on it.

Get an $8.00 ball-launching toy. Some brand names are Chuck-it or Launch-a-Ball. They can be found in places like Wal-Mart or other stores with pet sections.

Start by taking the launcher , a couple of balls, and your dog to a field; the cover type and terrain would depend on your dog’s experience. For a young dog you would want to take them someplace that has little cover, like a ball diamond or mown field. The more experienced dog could be taken to any field with similar terrain and cover you would use in training or testing.

Start by scenting the ball. Some suggestions would be to leave in your bumper bag, spit on it or leave in a duck pail. Whatever you do to scent the ball remember, your dog will be retrieving to hand.

Next facing into the wind with your dog in heel, leave them in a sit and take a few steps forward, toss a couple of balls keeping the distances short. Release your dog to retrieve after the ball has bounced at least once. The key element is success, so have a couple of balls handy to plant in the event your dog is not finding the ball.

Once the dog gets the hang of marking your throws, you can graduate to heavier cover and varying terrain. You also rotate your throws around the field, varying the length of throw. Rotating for each throw changes the wind direction. That can vary the difficulty of each mark without changing your set up.

Things to remember.
1. Make sure the field you take your dog to is safe; free of any debris, holes, sharp objects, has been chemically treated or things like spear grass.
2. Always enforce the retrieve to hand…if you don’t want to handle a slobbery ball, wear gloves.
3. Always send remotely. Weather in front of the dog, to the side with some lateral distance or behind. This is all part of your dog honing its ability to mark the fall. Without the aid of you pointing them in the direction of the throw.
4. Always require your dog to be steady. Use a platform or a mat so you know if your dog is creeping

A friend told me a bumper launcher works pretty much the same way. Frankly if I had one I would use it. But I look at it this way, if my dog can spot a tennis ball and mark its fall, a bird or bumper will be a piece of cake.
Happy Training.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Casey's Birthday Cake

Casey is an Australian Shepherd owned and loved by my friend and training partner Debbie. Casey has had a paw in the socializing of Ardi, Kitt and Reese , and played flyball with Kate and Roxy.

Yesterday, April 14, 2009 Casey turned 14 years old. This is his special Birthday Cake served on an official Canadian Disc Dog Frisbee and specially made by John. The great thing about this cake is that it can be enjoyed by people and dogs alike. (one side has dog cookies, the other people crackers)

1 lb. chicken livers
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. minced onions (or shallots – better yet)
1/8 tsp. tarragon leaves
1/4 c. butter
1/8 tsp. whole thyme leaves
1/4 c. Cognac or Brandy
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. whipping cream
1/2 tsp. salt

Saute livers and onions in 1/4 cup butter over low heat until livers are lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Pour cognac into same skillet and simmer until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Combine livers, onions, cognac, cream and seasonings; pour into container of food processor.
Process for 30 seconds or until smooth. Add 1/2 cup butter and process until smooth. Pour mixture into an oiled 3 cups bowl; chill several hours or overnight. Unmold pate' and serve with crackers.
Casey enjoying his Cake!!
Happy Birthday Buddy!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Retriever Training Season is Open!!!

Last week the weather was nice enough to get out to the Retriever training grounds . The roads were too wet and muddy to get anywhere, but the paved road and roadside were dry enough to get the dogs out for a walk. With Reese on a long line we practised coming in to the whistle and found a nice dry sandy hill to do restrained recalls up and down. After Reese was done Ardi did some lining drills down the hill.
Ardi's 1st Retrieve of 2009

This week all the snow has disappeared, but there is still ice on the ponds. We were able to get close to the ponds today and do a little obedience training and practise the hold under the distractions of geese and ducks on the open water.

Reese watches the ducks and geese on the mostly frozen ponds.

Reese taking the show on the road and practising the hold with distractions.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Spring has sprung!!!

This weekend I was tied up with our clubs Rally O trial and secretary duties. It was a fun weekend seeing the people I train with competing. It could have been a rather boring weekend for Reese, so I decided to take her with me both days, and work on her socializing. After all it is spring, and new sights and sounds are popping up all over. Reese got to meet a lot of people and dogs at the training center. But our best training opportunities took place outside the training center between runs and at lunchtime.

First of all we enlisted people entering the building to help us work on a polite greeting. No small feat, a few friends entered the building wind blown sporting muddy paw prints. Eventually Reese was getting the idea that no one was going to pay any attention to her until all four feet were on the ground.

We walked next door to where there is a fenced compound. It is the time of year where melting snow is freeing debris that has been trapped since fall. Large pieces of sheet Styrofoam insulation were plastered to the fence. As the wind gusted and then subsided, it hurled the foam against the fence, creating a booming noise. At first this was a little unnerving for Reese, but she quickly recovered and went about her business exploring. The other things Reese found very intriguing were the plastic bags and strips of plastic that had attached themselves to the compound fence and were flapping in the wind. We investigated many of them, but within 5 they were old hat and we were back to working a little obedience, simple stuff like sits, stays and controlled walking (to say we were heeling would be a huge stretch).

This was a perfect training, socializing opportunity for Reese….as we both anxiously wait for better weather to get out into the fields

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Rear End Awareness - More Puppy Stuff

In all we do with our dogs we ask for some very precise movements. It only makes sense to take some time to develop their back end awareness . I like ladder work as well as different pole configurations to help dogs of all ages develop co-ordination and rear end awareness.

With the ladder the dog should step in each rung. Speed is not important and the dog should not hop through the ladder. The poles are one of my favourite things, this configuration came from a Tellington Touch book. The book uses cavelletti poles in all different configurations to develop confidence in horses and dogs, the confidence comes through body awareness and shows up in movement and carriage. This particular pattern (I call it the star) can be made more challenging by lifting the poles to rest on the tunnel. The handler can actually stand inside the tunnel and have the dog walk the raised portion of the pole. This would be pretty advanced for a puppy, not to mention too easy for the handler.

The video below is of a typical training session with 17 week old Reese. She is loosing teeth left and right, or we would normally tug once we completed an exercise. For this session we used praise and treats. It works , and I think it is good to alternate motivators and reinforcers.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

To Tug or Not To Tug

Tug of War is a good game for teaching a puppy to switch between Crazy Dog mode and Thinking Dog mode. It can help teach the pup self control and puts good behaviour on cue, even when it is more fun to do all the natural things puppies do like, grab, shake pull and growl.
Tug of War should only be played under strict rules. Here is a summary of the Rules of Tug taken from the San Francisco SPCA Behavior and Training Department.

1. Dog must out on command
2. Must only tug with designated object and when invited to take
3. No uninvited takes or re-takes
4. Frequent Obedience breaks
5. Zero Tolerance for Miscues or any broken rules. If the pup contacts skin, Screech “OUCH” even if it didn’t hurt and promptly end the game. Even if the miscue is an accident, the dog must go out of their way to avoid skin contact or face a game misconduct (game ends)

Important: Children should not play Tug of War with dogs, unless they know and can uphold “ALL” the rules.

The Rules of Tug
demonstrated by 16 week old Reese.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Puppy Stuff - Foundation Training

So the foundation training begins for young Reese. In Puppy K this week, we did an impulse control exercise to nip jumping up, while greeting, in the bud. In this exercise the pups leash is looped to the door knob, the handler walks away, then returns to greet the pup, the pup usually jumps up to greet, the handler stops the approach and waits for the puppy to sit, then quickly marks the behavior with a yes (or click) and treats the pup in a sit.

In the 1st picture, you can see Reese came out to the end of the lead before she sat, but in the next picture, she did not strain to the end of the leash and sat before she got to the end of the leash without jumping up.

This week at home I have been trying some exercises from a book received at Puppy Camp a couple of years ago. The book is From the Ground Up: Agility Foundation Training
for Puppies and Beginner Dogs
by Kim Collins. The exercise we worked on this week is called Stool work. It is an exercise designed to help the pup gain back end awareness. The idea is to have the dog come up onto the stool (which is only about 6 to 8 inches high) with their front feet and then move their back legs around the stool. Reese likes to balance herself on the stool, but does stand with her front feet on the stool and rotate her back feet around the stool.

The other exercise we have been working on at home this week is the nose touch to the hand. This can help bring the pup back into focus. I like to use it as a hands off approach to getting the pup where you want them.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Reese @ her 1st Agility Trial

Reese started Puppy K two weeks ago. So far the main focus for the pups has been socialization. That means introductions to people, dogs and new sights and sounds. We have a check list of new things to encounter for homework.
So Reese made the trek with Ardi and I to an agility trial to do some homework. There she met many people and dogs, climbed the bleachers, chased some sparrows and was thrilled when spectators cheered and clapped. She was certain it was all for her. Reese settled nicely in her crate while I walked the courses, worked my shifts and ran with Ardi. She was one tired pup by the time we got home.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Schedule of Reinforcement- Weaning from treats.

I'm reading a book right now written by Patricia B.McConnell called Family Friendly Dog Training -A six week program for you and your dog.
We are just working on week 2 with Reese and are already being encouraged to begin a random schedule of rewarding, which to my surprise is working really well.
I really like to keep the dog guessing where and when the reinforcement (treats, toys, praise or quick game of tug) will be coming from. But am really surprised to find that you can start randomizing the schedule of reinforcemtne this early with some things like the sit and recall in a 12 week old pup.

Dogs & People need sunshine & fresh air

Finally after some very bitter cold, we have weather nice enough to get out side with the new pup. Believe it or not, the temperature yesterday was -36 C with the windchill it was like -42C. Today it is -1...go figure, no go play outside.