Monday, March 30, 2009

The Three Amigos

Bucca and his parents came over for brunch yesterday. Louie was especially delighted to have another Newfie to play with. Bucca was so calm and patient with our sometimes annoyingly persistent puppy. Bucca did seem to thoroughly enjoy when Louie cleaned his ears. That makes sense because Louie is a master ear cleaner. He always keeps Katie and Gary's ears sparkling.

From left to right: Louie (14 months old), Katie (2 1/2 years old) & Bucca (4 years old)
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"We deserve lots of treats for being so good!"
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Katie says "Ha ha, these boys may outweigh me, but they can't out drool me."
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Draft Class V: Steep Hill

Katie, Cowboy and Flash were joined by Bucca the Newf for this drafting lesson. This was Bucca's first time to pull a cart. He was very relaxed and did terrific...definitely a natural.

Our focus for the lesson was a one mile pull and going up and down a steep hill. All of the dogs did a great job.



Cowboy :-)
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Bucca and Cowboy
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Katie's Little Job

Katie's main job is being a therapy dog. Her little side job is offical leash carrier. Every time we go for a walk Katie carries her leash and Louie's leash up to the gate. She doesn't want to go up the stairs without the leashes in her mouth.

Chillin' on a Spring Morning

Katie and Louie hanging out with Gary on his day off.


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

They Did It AGAIN!!!

I am in shock...but it's the good kind :)

Katie went into the Rally Advanced ring for the first time ever in competition today. She had to do a jump which she just recently learned and only does in practice about 50% of the time. If your dog doesn't do the jump you are automatically disqualified. Thankfully Katie picked today as the day she sailed over the jump with ease and immediately after came right back into heal position. She did get distracted a few times on the course, but I was able to regain her attention. Even though we had some problems we did enough things right to qualify. I was so proud of my Katie girl being off leash and sticking with me in such a noisy, crazy place.

The Advanced A qualifiers
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A moment with my precious Katie
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Then it was little Louie's turn. He was also a bit more distracted today than yesterday, but he still managed to qualify and get fourth place. Now he just needs one more leg to get his Rally Novice title. I'm sure he will get it soon because he can't stand for his sissy to beat him at anything.

Me and Louie beside our good friends Trena and Pepper
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I'm so proud of our baby Louie :)
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Once we got home we had a little photo shoot
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Katie says "Mom, how do you like this goofy pose?"
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Louie says "I can be even goofier than that...see?!?!"
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"And by the way Sis...did you notice the bottom row has more ribbons??? Who's row do you think that is?"

No, our Louie doesn't gloat...well maybe just a bit, but thankfully Katie is a good sport and an awesome big sister.
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Katie's 1st Rally Advanced Leg



I'll try to get the other videos up in the next day or two.

They Did It!!!

At the obedience trial yesterday Katie was the first of our two to go in the ring. She qualified for the third time and earned her Rally Novice title. I am so proud of her. In today's competition she was bumped up to Advanced, so we will have to see how she does. It's going to be tough for her...being off lead with so many distractions. I don't have any expectations. We are just going to go, have fun and get in some practice.

Louie went in the ring for the first time ever and did great. He qualified (earning his first of three legs) and he won third place!!! What a great debut! Hopefully Louie will earn his second leg today.

Me, Katie and Louie in the ring with some of the competition. It wasn't an easy course. Four people did not qualify.
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Me, the Kids and their ribbons. Louie is very proud of his ribbons :-)
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Me and my baby boy, Louie
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Mama loving on Louie as big Sister looks on
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reflecting on Dog Training Methods

(subtitle: Always Listen to Your Heart & Mind)

I entered the world of dog training a little over two years ago when Katie joined our home in January of 2007. I immediately enrolled 10 week old Katie into Puppy Class at the Little Rock Dog Training Club and it opened a whole new world to us. During the same time I was reading books about training dogs such as The Newfoundland Puppy Book, The Other End of the Leash, and Outwitting Dogs.

Quickly my brain became bombarded by information and dog training methods. As Katie progressed through puppy class, beginner’s obedience, sub novice, novice rally obedience, advanced rally obedience, novice class (multiple times in this one) and now drafting, I was exposed to 8 different teachers. Then when Louie came along almost a year ago and went though puppy class (once with me and once with Gary), conformation class, beginner’s obedience, CGC class, sub novice and now in both advanced rally obedience and novice class, I was exposed to 6 more teachers. Each of the 14 teachers I have taken classes with has their own special methods for training dogs. As a newbie to dog training this has proven to be a bit confusing and disheartening for me. One teacher would tell me that my previously learned way of doing something was the wrong way and spend 8 weeks teaching me his method. Then the next one would tell me something different. I am not saying that any of these teachers were wrong. I think they all have valid training methods which have been successful for them with their own dogs. But, what I am realizing now is that I have to tailor my teaching style to fit my dogs’ specific personalities and to one that will cultivate the type of relationship I want to have with them. I will always listen to and be grateful for the advice and teaching of others, but from now on I am going to base my course of action on what I believe in my heart and mind to be the best methods for Katie and Louie. If I disagree with what a teacher says I will diplomatically tell them why.

Last night when our teacher suggested we talk to our dogs as little as possible during training I approached her after class and gave her a brief summary of what I said above. I explained that I am going to be talking to Louie in class for now because I believe that is what he needs at this point. Eventually, I will wean him off of hearing my voice so often, but right now he is still a puppy at 13 months old. Hearing Mama’s voice motivates him. Our previous teacher encouraged us to talk to our dogs and that seemed very helpful to me. After Louie completely understands the exercises and has created a strong habit of doing things the right way then I will reevaluate and refine my method. The teacher was extremely understanding and I am looking forward to learning a lot in her class.

Two major things were the catalyst for this train of thought and subsequent post. First, I was thinking about how much easier it has been to train Louie than it was to train Katie. Of course that is partly because they do have different personalities and because I had a much bigger learning curve when I first started with Katie. But, I also believe that through working with Katie as my Guinea pig I slowly discovered the best ways to teach my Newfies. Louie and I have benefitted from the mistakes I made and learned from with his sister. I’m sure that future dogs that I train will also benefit from mistakes I make with Louie. I still have a long way to go as a trainer so Louie is sort of a Guinea pig too.

The second catalyst for this reflection was some information given to me by a new friend from the dog club. She sent me a link to a website that carefully outlines the best dog training method that I have ever read about. It is all positive training which is a must for me. This method teaches the dog self control and to use their brains instead of simply teaching the dogs to do tricks. By teaching the dogs how to problem solve, the method actually makes it easier and faster for the dogs to learn new skills. There are seven levels to this method. I have started out with level one by filling the gaps in Katie and Louie’s training. Since they already have quite a bit of experience they will likely progress through the first few levels pretty quickly. I’m so excited about diving deeper into this training method. It’s called Mind to Mind and was created by Sue Ailsby. Here is the link if you want to check it out.

My goals with Katie and Louie are to be their pack leader, Mama and best friend. I truly believe that you can be all of these at the same time. I want our dogs to brighten the lives of people that they meet (at least the ones who aren’t repulsed by a little drool) and for Katie and Louie to lead a life filled with joy. Some people wonder why I spend so much time training our dogs. I do it because it’s fun for Katie, Louie and me. As I’ve said before Newfs (along with many other breeds) are working dogs. In order for them to be completely fulfilled, well balanced and happy they need to be mentally and physically challenged. My job is to make sure those needs are met and I’m having a wonderful time doing it.

Draft Class IV: Weaving and Narrows

This time the focus was turns, weaving and going through the Narrows. Bonnie put together this video of Cowboy, Katie and Flash.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Race is On...

...to see who is the cutest Newfie in Little Rock.

As they approach the finish line they're neck in neck... it looks like a tie folks.

First Prize goes to Katie AND Louie!!
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Today over 8,000 people ran right in front of the Happy Haus while racing in the Little Rock Marathon. There were racers from all 50 states and from 18 other countries. Katie, Louie, Gary and I cheered on a few hundred of them before we went back inside to get on with our Sunday.

The Newfs were a good distraction for many runners. Katie and Louie got lots of compliments on their behavior, beauty and cuteness :-) One woman even stopped running briefly to ask, "Is that Katie?" She actually remembered meeting Katie during last year's marathon and this year she was surprised to see a second Newf. (Louie joined our family about two weeks after last year's marathon, so this was his first.)
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Congratulations to all the finishers!!! We admire your determination and stamina.
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"In Springtime, the Only Pretty Ring Time...

"In springtime, the only pretty ring time
Birds sing, hey ding
A-ding, a-ding

Sweet lovers love the spring—"


by William Shakespeare (also sung by Willy Wonka as he rode a bicycle in the Inventing Room in the Chocolate Factory :-)


This is one of the few lucky daffodils that survived Katie and Louie's wrestling matches.
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

*For New Puppy Owners*

Check out this FREE e-book you can download. It's called After You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar. After you click on the above link, scroll down and click on the attachment.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Joy!

After our Rally run last Saturday, Katie and I went back in the ring to work on her jumping skills. She did the jump once successfully, but she didn't want to do it a second time. A friend sent me this picture today and I love looking at it and remembering how much fun Katie and I had together. Even though things didn't go perfectly we had a blast!

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rally Fun Match

Katie, Louie and I drove to Pine Bluff, Arkansas today to participate in a rally fun match. The timing was great because it gave us a chance to practice in a competitive environment before our big match in two weeks. Before the match started I walked both dogs around to get them used to the area. I was very proud of how well they behaved. They listened to me and didn't go nuts around all of the people and their dogs. Maybe handling the two of them by myself in public won't be quite as grueling as I thought. They really are good dogs; they even made it through their rally routines without a single bite of food which is miraculous.

Katie was entered in Rally Advanced so she was the first of my two to enter the Bog. I say bog instead of ring because it truly was bog like terrain. The ground was very moist and mushy. Your feet would sink down as you walked. Most of the dogs did not want to do the downs because of the muck. Thankfully Katie and Louie did theirs. There were distractions in abundance: an obedience ring right next to the rally ring, outdoor smells, wet ground, dogs milling about everywhere and even a car alarm going off. This was Katie's very first time to try Advanced which is all off lead. I was a bit nervous that she would get mentally overwhelmed by all of the chaos around us and not be able to stay with me, but she did fantastic. A few times when she momentarily got off track I was able to get her right back with me. I think she finally grasps the fact that we are a team out there. The light bulb in her brain came on today :-)

We did have a few problems. They forgot to reset the jump height for Katie, so I had to set it for her. Then she decided she didn't want to do it anyway :-) She still managed to score an 86. She lost 10 points for not doing the jump and I lost us four points for getting disoriented on the course. I somehow managed to do a 360 degree turn instead of 270 and then had to get us back on track. I think Katie did a fabulous job for her first try in Advanced Rally competition. I am so proud of her.



Louie was entered in Rally Novice. It was his first time to do rally in a competitive environment. In fact, Louie has never even taken a rally class. He did put thrus last Monday, but that was it, other than the practice we do at home. He was a bit spacey because of all of the above mentioned distractions, but he did extremely well. I was leaning over a lot trying to hold his attention...probably not the best form, but it worked. Louie scored 97 and got third place in his class! The two dogs that beat him are 5 and 3 years old, so he did great for a 13 month old puppy. He also was only 2 seconds behind the fastest time. Our baby is a smartie...he is such a pleasure to work and play with.

The Rally Fun Match was aptly named. It was so much fun for all three of us. Now, I feel much more confident going into the big match later this month.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Little Katie and Big Katie

Last night during our visit to the nursing home we met a little girl named Katie. Her mother and I started calling her little Katie and Katie the Newf we called Big Katie. This picture is a bit distorted because I took it with my phone camera and Big Katie doesn't look nearly as big as she really is since she is sitting further away from the camera.
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Little Katie was fascinated by Big Katie and wanted to circle around her to check her out from all angles. Big Katie became a bit nervous about this unusual behavior, so I had Little Katie feed her some treats so BK would relax. Big Katie took the treats very gently as she always does. I think if we had a bit more time the Katies would have become good friends.

Thanks again Little Katie for feeding Big Katie! It was fun to meet you and your mom.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Tribute to Bonnie Blue

My dear dog niece, Bonnie Blue the Catahoula Hound, passed away tonight. She had severe heart failure and was put to sleep to spare her pain. She left this life with her two favorite people in the world by her side giving her immense love and the ultimate gift. She was 11 years old.

Goodbye sweet Bonnie. You will be missed and you will always be loved.

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Bonnie as a puppy and Elpy the pug

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Bonnie as a Mama

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Bonnie as a hiking companion

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Bonnie as Mama's little girl

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Bonnie as a friend to small animals

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Our blue and brown eyed sweet girl.

Yin and Yang

Louie and His Great Pyrenees Girlfriend, Misha
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Misha and Louie like to sit together at the dog club meetings every month. They are usually the only giant hairy dogs in attendance and they are extremely fond of each other.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Adventures in Dog School

Last night was a first for me. I took both Louie and Katie to dog school BY MYSELF. Do not try this at home folks. Wrestling with 222 pounds of Newfie craziness in a place crowded with many different types of dogs is not a feat for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. They outweigh me by 100 pounds and are helping me to build very powerful biceps. Separately, they are both very well behaved at school. Together they are a couple of monsters. The youngest, but no longer smallest, Newf is by far the biggest monster of the Newfie twosome. Louie believes that his role in life is ALWAYS a leading role. Katie's role in Louie's opinion, is always that of supporting actress...never lead.

We are getting ready for a rally obedience trial in a couple of weeks and both dogs really needed to run the course a few times last night. Louie and I went into the ring first while Katie waited in a crate which was in a different room. I have to interrupt the main point of this story by saying that this was Louie's first time ever in a real rally ring and he did a phenomenal job. I didn't give him a single bite of food and he did all the stations perfectly except one which he did perfectly the second time through. I was so proud of him. He has really excellent attention and just loves to be given a job of almost any kind.

Next came Katie's turn. Louie went into the crate while Katie and I went into the rally ring. The whole time we were practicing Louie was throwing a tantrum. I just ignored him as I didn't want to reinforce that type of behavior. He is crate trained; he just didn't want his sissy to get to do anything without him. Now, since I bragged on Louie I must also say that Katie managed to get around the ring without any treats which is truly a miracle for my little food hound AND she did the whole thing OFF LEAD. Even though she still has one more novice leg to go she is practicing for Advanced Rally which is always done off lead.

When Katie was done I went to fetch Louie only to be summoned to an obedience class that was going on in the other ring. The teacher said "Is this your dog?" I looked in the center of the ring to see Louie. He was no longer crying and howling. Instead, he was very happily wagging his tail as he greeted all of the dogs that were in the middle of their class. He had no idea that he was interrupting them. No, he thought that a party was being thrown in his honor to celebrate his great escape from his crate.

Eventually it was time to put Louie in his crate again, so I decided I would outsmart him this time. I put two metal clips on the door which he had previously managed to push open with his head. (These crates aren't as sturdy as our crates at home.) Katie and I went back to class with Louie howling away.

Five minutes later someone got my attention and told me that Louie was visiting the obedience class again. I just couldn't believe it. I went and got him and walked over to inspect the crate. At first glance I couldn't see anything wrong. The door was still fastened shut with the metal clips. I stared at it until I saw that whole front panel was disconnected from the ceiling and one of the side walls in several places. I pulled the corner of the panel back and saw a space just big enough for my Houdini to slip through.

So, the next time it was Katie's turn to practice I had to put Louie in the car. A nice gentleman was parked right beside us waiting for his wife to finish her class. He agreed to keep an eye on Louie for me. When I came back ten minutes later he reported that Louie had been very calm and had not made a single peep the whole time I was gone. He just sat in the driver's seat and stared out the window, drooling and longing for our return. I am grateful that I found a safe place for my baby boy and one that obviously is much more calming for him. I guess he associates the car with happy times and perhaps feels closer to me and Katie there.

Draft Class III: Turns

Cowboy, Katie and Flash strutting their stuff again last Sunday

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Video by Bonnie Bennett
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