Bumper piles

Diagram of Doc and Mia's retriever drills, after training I let them race each other to retrieve the 2 middle bumpers

Diagram of Doc and Mia’s retriever drills, after training I let them race each other to retrieve the 2 middle bumpers

After letting everyone run in the pasture for awhile, I worked with Doc and Mia on their retrieving and both showed a marked improvement over last week’s session. Both kept decent lines to the bumpers and back.

Doc gallops back with a bumper from the first pile I set for them.

Doc gallops back with a bumper from the first pile I set for them.

Mia trots back with a bumper from the first pile that I set for them.

Mia trots back with a bumper from the first pile that I set for them.

I placed a pile of bumpers about 200 feet out and then alternated Doc and Mia with retrieves until the bumpers were gone.

Mia returns from the second pile of bumpers. She prefers the large green bumper to smaller orange ones I have.

Mia returns from the second pile of bumpers. She prefers the large green bumper to smaller orange ones I have.

Doc runs back with a bumper from the second pile.

Doc runs back with a bumper from the second pile.

I then set another pile of bumpers in the opposite direction: again about 200 feet out, and repeated the drill.

 

Doc took Mia's favorite bumper and leaves her in the dust with a little friendly retrieving competition.

Doc took Mia’s favorite bumper and leaves her in the distance during a little friendly retrieving competition.

Then for fun, I set a couple of bumpers about 150 feet out and sent both Doc and Mia out at the same time so that they raced each other to the bumpers. This generates a little competition, which is good to do from time to time to put a little spark in their training.

Advertisements

Back to retrieving

diagram 2-15-15

We went back to retrieving drills this past Sunday and while the Doc and Mia did okay on their long retrieves, the angles were a little too much. In the diagram,  #1-4 represent two sets of retrieves we ran with the bumpers placed about 75 feet apart, and #5-8 represent a set of retrieves with the bumpers placed about 150 feet out.

Mia and Doc wait to be sent out on retrieves while training.

Mia and Doc wait to be sent out on retrieves while training.

No sooner had we began training than the wind blew in a dense fog. The guys initially had a little trouble with the first set of retrieves (1-4) but then quickly caught on and made some good retrieves.

Doc watches Mia appear out of the fog while retrieving bumpers

Doc watches Mia appear out of the fog while retrieving bumpers

In addition to retrieving, I worked with them on honoring each other’s retrieves – all of which were all blind retrieves. That is, I didn’t throw the bumpers for them and they couldn’t see where I had placed them.

Doc retrieves a bumper in the fog

Doc retrieves a bumper in the fog

The angles (5-8) gave them a lot of trouble and neither could hold a straight line more than halfway to the bumper. After a few restarts, I could tell they didn’t understand, I walked them more than halfway out to each bumper before casting them. After retrieving the bumper in this manner, I returned them to the starting point and then they held a good line all the way to the bumper.

After training, Doc goes on point while Mia honors.

After training, Doc goes on point while Mia honors.

After our retrieving work, I let them run the pasture and Doc went on a nice point with Mia honoring. Earlier while feeding and watering the pigeons, both Doc and Mia went on point and the birds flew around their loft and bird run.

Mia and Doc go on point while I feed and water the pigeons

Mia and Doc go on point while I feed and water the pigeons

Later that afternoon everyone celebrated Dakota and Elvis’ birthdays with grilled roast beef sandwiches and tater tots.

Elvis, Doc, Mia, Dakota, and Sophie wait to eat their roast beef sandwiches and tater tots.

Elvis, Doc, Mia, Dakota, and Sophie wait to eat their roast beef sandwiches and tater tots.

The therapy dog

With Sophie and Elvis receiving their Therapy Dog (THD) titles from the American Kennel Club (AKC), it has raised some interest in therapy dog work, so I thought I’d post an article describing a little of what’s involved.

The Handler

The therapy dog does the real work and it’s the handler’s job to be the dog’s advocate, particularly in keeping them from becoming stressed, and attending to their needs. The dog’s welfare always comes first, therefore the handler must be attuned to any sign that the dog may be giving: whether it needs water, is uncomfortable, stressed, restless, whatever. Being the dog’s advocate also means not pushing them too hard with either the number of visits or the length of visits; the recommendation is to keep visits under two hours.

Even though the dog comes first, the handler must never forget that those being visited are already suffering, perhaps physically, emotionally, or mentally; otherwise they wouldn’t need therapy visits. Due to the regulations and responsibilities involved with this type of service, both the handler and dog undergo training, testing, and are certified.

Visits are not counted by the number of individuals who are visited, but rather the number of visits made to facilities which for Sophie and Elvis, took just over two years to accumulate enough visits to qualify for their titles. Although the number of facilities and clients may be logged and reported, it’s not intended for the dog to earn a title or award, but rather reporting purposes for the service organization that the handler and dog represent.

The Dog  

The first step in becoming certified as a therapy dog is to become CGC (Canine Good Companion) certified. Dogs are evaluated by a CGC evaluator and if they pass the evaluation, are eligible for testing as a therapy dog. Different organizations have different test criteria which can include: basic obedience; walking on a loose leash; negotiating crowds; response to sudden noises; and negotiating wheel chairs, walkers, canes, beds and so forth. They’re tested in areas that they’ll likely encounter during their visits.

Since dogs are highly sensitive to the feelings of others, visits can be stressful and drain the dog emotionally. Organizations involved in therapy animals will have guidelines that if followed, helps prevent the dog from becoming overwhelmed, and in time, burned out from their therapy work. Again, the dog’s welfare comes first.

As for visits, mine are not timed –as much as possible that is. I give each client the amount of time they want to spend with my dogs. Special circumstances such as a hospice visit or a visit with family members present may be much longer, but I will also give my dog a break. I never take Sophie or Elvis for a full day of visiting, rather I take one dog on the morning visits and the other on afternoon visits. I also limit my visits to monthly unless otherwise requested.

The READ program

The R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program is an additional certification in which therapy dogs are used to help children learn to read. Dogs involved in the R.E.A.D. program require three certifications: CGC, THD, and R.E.A.D. This has been found to be a very effective type of therapy since dogs possess qualities that we humans don’t seem to have, even with our best intentions.

R.E.A.D. programs have adopted by schools, libraries, and other settings. These programs have not only been shown to improve children’s literacy and communication skills, but studies have shown that children of R.E.A.D. programs improve in other subjects, their school attendance improves, and even personal hygiene improves.

So hopefully this has shed a little light on the important role that therapy and R.E.A.D dogs play in the lives of those who need their companionship. Hopefully it garners just a little more appreciation for their service, should you see a dog at work. And hopefully it will encourage others to participate in this type of service, whether you have a dog like Sophie who has retired from hunting and needs a retirement job, or Elvis who is still in his prime and is a natural at it.

Happy Birthday Elvis and Dakota

 

Elvis, Doc, Mia, Dakota, and Sophie wait to eat their roast beef sandwiches and tater tots.

Elvis, Doc, Mia, Dakota, and Sophie wait to eat their roast beef sandwiches and tater tots.

February marks Elvis’ 6th birthday and Dakota’s 10th. So in celebration of their birthdays, everyone got grilled roast beef sandwiches and tater tots. Happy birthday to all the Rock’n’Roll litter!

Everybody digs into their birthday treat.

Everybody digs into their birthday treat.

Training in the wind

Mia on point

Mia on point

Last week I worked with the guys on a little steadiness and honoring and this Saturday put Doc and Mia on some birds in the pasture. In spite of a heavy wind that prompted a warning, it was warm and sunny so I couldn’t turn down the chance to train.

Doc on a nice point

Doc on a nice point

They both did well in spite of the wind, but there are a couple of things we need to work on. Mia needs to have a little more confidence in herself when it comes to pointing, and Doc has a tendency to catwalk when he comes onto a scent.

Mia is steady as the bird flushes and flies off

Mia is steady as the bird flushes and flies off

Doc on point

Doc on point