Saturday, 25 June 2011

Up and running.

Well I am happy to report we are up and running and that our runs are bark free. It didn't take long for Reese to decide that barking was wasted energy, better saved for the run. 
I am still working on finding the right pace for Reese.  She would like to go full tilt, but I am not to comfortable with doing this for an extended period on pavement.  There are a few places I could take Reese where I can let her run without being attached to the bike. When she barked at the bike and tried to bite the tire, this was not an option.  I think running without any pressure to speed up or slow down while harnessed would be best.

If I let her, I would not have to pedal at all, in fact I have to frequently ride the break to slow her down.  She is responding to a verbal easy and understands the turns, which I like. Frequent or sudden braking puts strain on the harness which puts strain on her so the more we ride together, the better it is for both of us.
Tonight I took the GPS with me and our route was 1.73 kms.  We did this in 6.2 minutes and our maximum speed was 23.5kms per hour.  Our average speed was 16.5kms.

Reese and I after the Ride

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Reese @ the Working Certificate Test - Saskatoon Retriever Club

Del Brave Flying Colours, RA, WC, CRAMCL
On June 17, 2011 Reese passed the Working Certificate Test at the Saskatoon Retriever Club. Reese ran in the lucky 13th spot in a field of 18 Retrievers.

The land marks were back to back singles using ducks. The marks were fairly straight forward at more then a 90 degree angle apart. The first mark was to the right of the line and was the shorter of the two. I would be hard pressed to say what the lengths were. But they seemed to be on the shorter side of the requirements. As you can see in the picture the grass was fairly long and this did cause a few problems for some of the dogs.

The water marks had to be adjusted after the test dog ran as they were 40 and 70 yds and had the dogs swimming into a very strong wind for the long bird. The marks were changed so that the shortest and the first bird thrown was thrown from the right so that it would stick on a point rather then drift out and was about 40 yards. The long mark was changed to be thrown out into the open water and would drift towards the dog.
Neither mark seemed too difficult and the throwers gave every dog a good throw. The only factor that made the long mark difficult was that the dogs were swimming into a very strong wind. The wind caused white caps on the water and when the dogs swam low to fight the wind they seemd to loose sight of the bird. You could see many of the dogs push themselves high up from the water and stretch their necks to see the bird. When they did this it made swimming into the wind difficult.
When the ribbons were handed out 11 of the 18 came away with a pass.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Mind your manners

In Working Certificate and Hunt Tests, the dog is under judgment from the time it leaves the holding blind to the time it returns to the holding blind. This means the walk to the line, while waiting for the birds to go down in the field, while honoring and between marks. You can also be guaranteed that if your dog is whining, barking or digging in the holding blind the judges will not be amused. Poor line manners, not only put a dog into the judge’s bad books, but detract from the dogs’ ability to focus on the job at hand. If you hear someone say the dog had the line manners of a” goat” or that the dog “ate the judges lunch”, you know the dog was out of control.

I’ve found that, sometimes I’m so caught up in getting Reese doing marks or drills that I forget about the importance of line manners. If I allow her to drag me to the line, whine in the blind, cruise the duck pail in training, why would I expect anything different come test day.

It only stands to reason that training sessions aren’t the only place that manners come into play. Poor field or line manners can be traced to poor manners at home. Rushing the door, jumping on people, charging the food bowl or barging out of the crate the minute the door opens, are all signs of little or no self control. If the dog shows little self control in the home environment, how can they be expected to exercise control in the stimulating environment of birds, duck calls and gun shots?

At home I’ve taken a look at the little things that I’ve let slip and have decided to pay closer attention to them. At feeding time Reese is now waiting in a sit for her food bowl to be put down. She is asked to go to her designated spot to lie down when company comes or when I get home, rather then spinning in a frenzy. If she charges the gate or the crate door, I close it. We have gone back to working one of the 1st exercises she learned as a puppy called “Puppy Zen” Puppy zen is puppy self control. In the beginning we just worked at leaving a treat in my hand until invited to take it. It has all kinds of implications for everyday living. So now we are extending it to highly stimulating situations and things of high value, like the duck pail and bumper bag.

We often forget about the basics or the foundation things our dogs learned. When things go wrong in the field, it is a great time to reflect on what’s happening at home.

You have to walk before you can run!

This is actually step 2 of us getting Reese used to the bike. In these video clips I am going it alone, while my accomplice (Bonnie) video tapes. Reese is doing remarkably well considering the first time out, she barked at the tire pretty much non-stop and has a love affair with barking at moving things.

Reese is wearing a practise harness, the real one will be longer in the back and distribute any pressure more evenly. The D ring that the Walky Dog attaches to will be back further towards Reese's hind end.

The real harness is ready to be picked up and with a few more practises, I think Reese and I will be on the road.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Biking with Reese

Two of my favourite activities are cycling and hanging out with the dogs. Before I had dogs to exercise and train, I did a lot of cycling. Although I love them both, I never thought the two went together. I’ve had a couple of bicycle accidents and know it can be dangerous enough with out the added risks of biking with a dog. Secondly, I think unless done with consideration for the dogs well being and limitations it can wear the dog down more then it can benefit the dog.

I had a opportunity to try the Walky Dog, a bike accessory that can make riding with a dog safe and enjoyable. My first dog biking experience was biking with a friends Irish Setters, who are comfortable with the bike and know basic commands like Load up (get the harness on ) Whoa , Left and Right. It was a blast to say the least.

After trying it with the two Setters, we got Reese out, harnessed her up and spent a few minutes walking her beside the bike. Just walking beside the bike was going to be a test, as Reese has always been one to bark at moving objects. Weather it was the vacuum cleaner rolling down the hallway, garage door closing , teeter tipping or anything on wheels, she was sure it needed a talking to. We started by putting the harness on Reese and then attaching her to the bike and we just walked the bike. She barked a little bit, and pulled sideways a bit, but in no time she was keeping a steady distance and pace with the occasional bark. So I decided to get on the bike and ride. Once I got on the bike and started to ride Reese barked the whole time. She only let up when I picked up my speed and she had to concentrate more on keeping up then barking. Surprising though she did not try to pull forward or sideways and did understand when to slow down and turn. I gave the transitions names like “easy” and “left” and “right” but she was really cueing from the bike itself. Heaven knows she couldn’t hear me for the barking.

So I went out and got a Walky Dog attachment for my bike. My friend Monica gave me a harness to use, that belongs to one of her setters. It needs some repair, so while I am waiting for it to get fixed I will work on getting Reese comfortable around the moving bike. Tonight we harnessed Reese in an old tracking harness of Kate’s. Bonnie pushed the bike and I followed along with Reese on leash. I clicked and treated her everytime she made a choice not to bark at the tire. It went remarkably well, she did not bark once, although she did look like she was gearing up to bark, she didn’t. We ended this lesson here and will continue doing this until the biking harness is ready. As always more to come.