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.