Egg Games

January 23rd, 2019

Anytime Now.jpg

With the arrival of extremely cold temperatures, Bailey and I have found ourselves spending more time inside. It doesn’t seem to bother her.  She is content to just nap.  An intervention was needed.  While cleaning out holiday decorations, I came across a container of plastic Easter eggs.  I got thinking about ways to use them.  One idea was to create a “Shell Game”.  I took 3 eggs and selected one to hide a salmon treat inside.  Egg Games Begin.jpgI sent Bailey to the entry way before placing the three eggs out in the living room.  Bailey scurried in upon hearing, “Find the egg”.  She sniffed the first egg but, quickly ditched it (no treat inside).  Then, Bailey moved to the next one.  This one held her interest as she snuffled and snorted over it.  I opened it up to reveal her tasty prize.  She was eager for another challenge.  I reloaded the egg under Bailey’s watchful eyes.  Copious amounts of drool dribbled from her mouth.  I threw the eggs into the entry way.  Once I signalled for her to go, Bailey charged full force towards the eggs.  She found the desired egg within seconds and nuzzled it until I came.  The reward was quickly inhaled.  The last game involved Bailey sitting patiently while balancing the egg with treat inside on her head.  It took a few attempts before she clued into what it was that I wanted.  Now, Bailey’s a pro.  Our days have become more “eggciting” as we wait for warmer temperatures.

nothing here


smells good

Harnessing Enthusiasm

May 23rd, 2018

Getting Down To Business.jpgAt last, a beautiful spring day had arrived.  I had been hoping to spend part of the afternoon with Bailey practicing our carting technique.   The appearance of the harness elicited a tail wag from her.  She was excited.  That was good, I thought.  Slightly above zero, Bailey would not be too hot as we meandered around the yard.  I placed the harness on her and began to cinch up the belt under her chest.  The fourth notch was going to be difficult to reach.  It appeared that someone had either grown a bit more in her chest or her longer fur was taking up more space.  My husband, Adam, lengthened the belt on the other side.  Bailey and I completed a couple of circuits around the yard with positive results.  She had responded perfectly to my commands of Haw (right turn), Gee (left turn), Whoa and Stand.  We were off to a good start.  Next, Bailey was then strapped to the whiffle bar which was attached by rope to a 4 litre plastic jug filled with sidewalk salt.  We were ready to haul.  Twice, one of the side straps got caught under Bailey’s leg.  It did not take long for her to become more accustom to the straps touching her on the outside of her legs.  Adam placed her water bucket by the garage so Bailey could replenish herself after finishing a round of the yard.

As we returned to the back yard, Adam offered to take Bailey for a spin.  After all, he had trained with her at the South Eastern Ontario Regional Newfoundland Club’s beginner carting seminar.  Bailey found her strength renewed with the new trainer.  Behind the garden shed, the two of them disappeared only to reappear on the other side.  Adam directed Bailey to go in between the raised bed and the garden shed.  She did.  Unfortunately, the opening was not enough for the jug to make the turn.  Her left strap snagged the corner cement block.  As Bailey plodded forward, the cement block tumbled out of place.  I could see that our girl was far from hauling her maximum load.  The leisurely time that Adam had been enjoying with Bailey was over.  He cursed himself for not remembering to consider the straps’ clearance requirements.  Bailey just looked at the overturn cement block.  She seemed to be saying, “Did I do that?”   Oops.jpgPerhaps, a refresher carting course was needed.  I took over carting duties while Adam grabbed a shovel and began to repair the shed’s retaining wall.  Bailey was not the only one who had worked hard.  The three of us called it quits and headed in for refreshments.  Bailey had earned one of her special biscuits and a well-deserved rest.

Calm Before The Storm

April 4th, 2018

Lots Of Play Space

By all accounts, a storm is coming soon to Labrador West.  It has left dumps of snow across Northern Ontario, moving through Quebec and arriving around midnight tonight.  My husband and boys are spending Spring Break in Quebec City with family while Bailey and I take care of the homestead here.  They experienced the snow blizzard there early today.  Staying in a hotel means no shovelling for them.  I won’t be so lucky if we get the predicted snowfall.  Waiting For Snow.pngTomorrow will be all about snow removal in the form of shovelling.  Knowing the cleared parts of the yard will once again be covered in white stuff, Bailey and I spent the afternoon playing in the open space around the house.  A pathway has been kept clear around the entire house due to the hard efforts of my husband.  Besides allowing the basement windows to be free of snow in case of fire, Bailey and I can practice our Rally-O techniques as we move around the outside of the house.  The snowbanks are over 6 feet high and act as a natural barrier between distractions and Bailey.  It may have been -36 degrees Celsuis on our walk this morning (-41 degrees Celsius if you count the windchill) but, the sky was blue and the sun shone down on us.  The air was invigorating.  It was quite pleasant as long as one was dressed for the weather.  We played with the ball.  Bailey fetched.  Then, the two of us wrestled with the ball.  A simple “Leave it” command and the ball was mine.  We soon collapsed down on the snow in need of a rest.  Time To Go In AlreadyLife won’t be so leisurely tomorrow.  While Bailey will be thrilled to see the white stuff, a morning of shovelling will definitely dampen my spirits.  Tonight, I plan to enjoy the calm before the storm.

The Ordeal of Socks

November 28th, 2017

Here Comes My Treat

There was a time when I could put on a pair of socks in the morning and by evening, they were relatively clean.  Living with a Newfoundland dog has meant getting use to wearing wet socks or changing into another pair.  I enjoy dry, clean ones for about 20 minutes at the start of my day.  Once I bring Bailey in from her first business stroll of the day, the condition of my socks drastically changes.  I spend a few minutes training Bailey once the snow is removed from her paws at the front door.  She looks forward to this time with much anticipation.  Her successful response to a series of commands means enjoying savoury treats.  On this particular day, the treat was dried salmon chunks.  I waited in the kitchen for Bailey to perform the last two commands – come and sit.  She came faster than usual, drawn by the fish scent.  Bailey sat beside me.  CloserI signalled her to move in closer to my leg.  As she did, her eyes locked with mine.  Bailey lifted her front right paw and leaned in closer to the treat coming towards her wide gapping mouth.  Unfortunately for me, she shifted her weight onto the paw as it connected with my badly sprained toe that had recently started to heal from swelling and bruising.  I gave Bailey her treat and pushed her over.  But, it was not far enough.

Drool FlowsA long rope of drool dripped down to land on the top of my sock that contained the aching toe.  I could see more of it coming.  The closest drool rag was hanging on the fridge door, a few steps away.  I limped quickly over to the door.  However, when I went to grab it, I failed to notice a pool of drool dropped by our girl on her way into the kitchen.  But, I did feel my sock come in contact with the gooey substance.  I lost my footing and began to descend into the splits.  I never could do the splits as a teenager.  It was certainly not going to happen in my middle age years.  At the last minute, I rolled to one side – helped by Bailey.  Seeing that no more treats were coming, Bailey had decided to retreat to the living room for her early morning siesta.  Our kitchen has only one exit.  She squeezed herself between the fridge and me.  The fridge obviously wouldn’t budge.  I had to make room for her to get by.  While the drool rag hung still on the fridge door, she gave a slobbery wet nuzzle on my cheek as she passed.  I was left wedged between the fridge door and the garbage can.  I slowly picked myself up.  I looked at the condition of my left sock.  It was wet and slimy on the top and bottom. I  resorted to using the drool rag not on the Newf but, on myself.  It wasn’t worth putting on a new pair.  After all, my right sock was still looking good.  I then noticed Bailey’s kennel water dish lying on the counter and decided to take it out to the kennel.  Halfway across the entry room tile, I hit another goo patch with the right sock.  I did an unexpected lunge as my right sock slide forward.  I could see it was time to throw in the socks and start fresh with another pair.


Drag Queen

November 21st, 2017

Everyone in our household has experienced being dragged by Bailey since bringing her home.  Other Newfoundland dog owners have shared their own unfortunate drag stories with us.  There’s comfort knowing you are not alone.  As she matured and became better trained, these unpleasant incidents became less frequent.  But, once in a while, Bailey will take us by surprise.  Last week, I was shocked to learn that my walking partner had such a mishap with our girl.  It’s no longer only a family affair.  We were hiking our usual trail route in the afternoon and had just turned around at the end of the second sandpit.  The numerous snowfalls combined with the lack of snowmobilers to pack the deep snow down made going further impossible.  My knee was acting up again from slogging through drifted snow over the past few days.  So, we turned back, knowing that our two dogs would be short-changed on distance.  They were just happy to be off-leash.  We watched as they chased and tackled one another. Perhaps, we got too comfortable with the status quo.  The two of us became engrossed in our conversation when suddenly it was interrupted.

Cas, an almost 50 pound lab/husky cross, barked and took off up the side of the sandpit towards the road overlooking the area.  He leapt over the snow with grace.  What had caught his attention?  To our horror, he was heading towards a lady and her two dogs who themselves were off-leash.  Our dogs are not allowed on this road which is used by snowmobiles going at high speeds.  Cas and Bailey lack any road sense.  Before I could get Bailey back on leash, she was eagerly chasing after her pal.  My friend tried to reassure me that Bailey would not get far up the steep embankment covered in deep snow.  She was wrong.  Our girl was not going to let an almost 70 degree angled slope discourage her from reaching Cas and his newly found friends.  No matter that she stands forever in front of our two wide steps leading from the garage into our home’s entry area.  I often wonder if she is waiting for me to lift her. A nudge or two usually does the trick and she clambers up.  Obviously, this steep slope didn’t deter her.  Bailey bulldozed her way through the snow.  She was determined.  I blew the whistle to no avail.  Both of us realized that they were not coming back anytime soon.  My friend volunteered to climb the slope to get them.  But, I knew the two dogs would be a handful especially when one of them is an excited Newfoundland dog.  She began trudging up the embankment.

I decided to go back where we had come from and work my way over to the road.  Then, if the woman continued on her walk with Bailey trailing behind, I could meet up with them.  Since my knee surgery last year and almost an entire year of physiotherapy exercises, I have not regained the ability to move fast.  I attempted to speed walk which became impossible through the deep snow.  With a grouping of densely packed trees between me and the entourage of dogs, I lost sight of what was happening.  I cursed Bailey and my bad luck as I huffed and puffed along.  I stumbled a few times sideways which did not help my knee.  Each step became more painful.  Yet, my concern for the dogs drove me to continue.  I finally reached the road and saw that the woman had waited.  Although I could not hear what was being said, I noticed that Bailey had responded by sitting down in front of my friend.  By the time I arrived, everything seemed under control.  I apologized to the woman who seemed unfazed by the whole experience.  We were lucky.  My friend was leashing her dog as Bailey looked up at me, pleased with herself.  I struggled to leash her as she tried a last ditch attempt to get to the other dogs.  The lady finally moved on with her two dogs.  I could tell that Bailey was disappointed that the fun was ending.

My friend filled me in on what had happened in my absence.  She had made it up the hill with some effort.  For safety reasons, she decided to use her leash to restrain Bailey.  My friend is like a second mother to Bailey and didn’t want to risk her getting in the way of a snow machine roaring by.  Unfortunately, her leash is attached to her waist – not a problem with a smaller dog.  However, it is a cardinal rule never to tether a Newfoundland dog to one’s body.  She soon found herself flopping on the ground behind Bailey who was eager to be a part of the dog crowd.  The fact that she weighs a few more pounds than Bailey made no difference.  My friend could not stand her ground.  I reminded her that Bailey had no trouble dragging my husband who is much heavier than Bailey.  I remembered that the lady had her phone out when I got there.  I hoped that the sordid incident was not recorded to become a viral sensation on the web.  My friend assured me that Bailey’s indiscretion had not been filmed.  Whew!!!  She had managed to get herself up and using a very stern voice, commanded Bailey to sit. Thankfully, our girl listened. The whole event has shown me that more training is needed. For now, Bailey will always be our “Drag Queen”.


A Working Gal

July 25th, 2017

Today, Bailey became an official working dog.  She hauled her own water bottles and bug spray in a specially-designed backpack for Newfoundland dogs.  When Bailey attended the beginner carting course offered by the South Eastern Ontario Regional Newfoundland Dog Club in June 2016, we placed an order for a customized harness to be made by Allan Maniate.  He is also belongs to our club, instructs most of the club’s courses while running a dog equipment business on the side.  The harness would allow  Bailey to safely and comfortably participate in draft activities.  Should she grow, the harness can be adjusted within a certain range.  Oh, how I wish that my own clothes offered this option.  I Am A Working GalAnyway, the harness is made of sheepskin and leather to withstand the strain of a hardworking Newf.  The harness allows Bailey to pull sleds, wagons or carts tailored to the size of a Newf.  Our original intent was to train Bailey to use a sled.  After all, Labrador is under snow 7 months of the year.  However, we decided to purchase a backpack for her that would attach to the modified harness.  Bailey and I hike frequently.  I was getting tired of being the one to carry everything.  Bailey needed to embrace her drafting heritage.

The night before the Rally-O seminar, the reason for travelling down to Peterborough, Bailey received her final fitting.  My husband and I were shown by Allan on how to place it on her and fasten the buckles up.  I learned that it is not as easy as my husband made it seem at last year’s carting course.  Allan explained the technique of keeping one hand behind the strap to keep Bailey’s long guard hairs from becoming tangled up.  The other hand had to pull the other strap under the belly of our black beastie.  You need really good arm muscles as I found out.  Eventually, I managed to get the straps done up.  Whew!  Then, Allan informed me that I should tighten the strap up one more notch.  Draft animals including dogs have a habit of puffing out their chests to keep the strap loose.  I tugged until I had added another hole on the strap.  Bailey was now cinched in.  We received a refresher course on carting and I sustained a few bruises from the cart’s poles hitting the sides of my knees.  Bailey was not the only one requiring more practice.  At the close of this learning session, we inquired about getting a backpack.  Fortunately, Allan had one on hand.  He was willing to make the customized leather strap needed to tether the backpack to the harness before the next day’s course.  Sure enough, the backpack was waiting for me.

My Bags Are PackedSince arriving back in Labrador West, I have slowly re-introduced Bailey to the harness.  She and I practiced getting it on her.  Once that part was mastered, I led her around the property to get her comfortable with wearing the harness.  Next, we moved to having her carry an empty backpack.  Bailey had to realize that she was wider than without the packs.  At first, she hit the door frame to the garage or me as she tried to perform our tight heel position.  Bailey seemed confused with the fact that her clearance parameters had shrunk.  I remained persistent and patient.  Bailey waddled around the yard with the empty backpacks.  She made progress very quickly that I began increasing her weight load.  First, she carried empty water bottles followed by half full ones.  Things were going so well that I thought today was a good day to try carrying a full load.

Bailey wagged her tail as I brought the harness out.  That is a good sign, I thought to myself.  I fumbled a bit with the straps but, got them done up.  The backpack was attached to her harness followed by loading an identical, full water bottle on each side.  The bug spray went in next as did my camera.  She owed me one for all those months of carrying drool rags, poop bags and treats.  I felt free for the first time in a very long time.  It was the same feeling that I had when the boys were big enough to carry their own stuff.  I was liberated from being a pack mule.  The day had come for Bailey to venture off the property in working mode.  The two of us and our friends headed down to Jean Lake to hike around it.  The morning was cool enough and the black flies seemed less bothersome.  The trees offered some shade from the heat of the sun.  At first, she wanted to play with her husky/lab friend, Cas.  I reminded her that she was working and all thoughts of play disappeared.  Bailey strutted like a pro.  We took water breaks along the way.  Sometimes, they involved wading into the lake for a quick drink and paw cooling.  I decided to remove the backpack when Bailey wanted to enter into the lake.  Other times, she happily drank the bottled water which magically lessened her load.  Her working attire attracted some attention but, not enough for Bailey to lose focus of the task at hand.  Our working gal earned a well-deserved afternoon siesta and a couple of high valued treats at the conclusion of the hike.



Almost Two

January 24th, 2017


Tomorrow, our girl will officially be an adult Newfoundland dog.  She turns 2 years old and puppyhood becomes part of her past.  Although the time has gone by quickly, our lives have been filled with interesting experiences and lessons since Bailey’s arrival in the Big Land.  Just like a new baby changes your life, Bailey has certainly impacted ours.  Every family member participates in her daily schedule – the feedings, the walks, the business pick-ups, the rubs and the playtimes.  She is loved and valued.  And Bailey is well aware of it.  We don’t own her, she owns us – at least, our hearts.  Is the work of training done now that she has moved into the adult life stage?


Hell no!  Just last week, Bailey and I were hiking with a friend and her dog on the snow covered trails.  The dogs were off leash and focused on chasing one another around.  We were entering into a large open space when the dogs caught sight of two toy dogs about 150 metres away.  Cas, the other dog, ran over to them.  Bailey was near enough to us that we managed to get her on leash.  We called Cas who ignored us for a few minutes before starting back our way.  I wondered aloud, “Where’s the owner?”  Suddenly, an elderly woman appeared around the bend.  Bailey also took notice of her.  In seconds, I found myself face planted and dragged through the snow as Bailey tried to greet the newcomer.  With my friend attempting to help me up, we temporarily gained control of our Walmart greeter.  Bailey took both of us by surprise with another burst of effort and I found myself, once again, face down in the snow.  I rose up covered in snow and reined Bailey in.  drag-youNot surprisingly, I decided to cut our hike short and return home.  My pride and body wounded.  Bailey forgave me for not letting her thunder down to spread her love to a new person. The adventures will continue…..


Training Amongst Chaos

August 16th, 2016

Practicing Sit & StayTwo weeks ago, Bailey began her first dog obedience course. She seems a little old at almost 19 months to just be starting her formal training. But, dog trainers are not easily found in Labrador West, a remote community. Our area only has one trainer available. She was recovering from back surgery last year and only began offering classes this summer. Classes are held outside in the park area beside either Jean Lake or Tanya Lake. Bailey’s group was to meet at Jean Lake which is not far from our house. It is less busy than Tanya Lake. However, a thunderstorm threat moved the class to Tanya Lake – the local swimming beach. My husband and I arrived a little early with Bailey to get comfortable before the class. The threatening clouds went by without incident leaving the sun to shine down on us.

People were flocking to the beach for an early evening swim. I immediately noticed two groups playing Frisbee and football. Balls and swimmers clearly meant that Bailey was going to be distracted. The other participants arrived along with the instructor and the class started. Two of the dogs did not feel comfortable with Bailey near them. It seemed her size was intimidating and the drool running non-stop out of her mouth did not help. A three year old collie tolerated Bailey’s advances while the youngest class member, an eight month old puppy, wanted to meet everyone. Our reasoning behind Bailey attending was to have her respond to commands even when distractions such as other dogs and people were present. I am not sure that we succeeded. Three times, Bailey was able to gain enough momentum in the hopes of getting to the other dogs that I had to either give up the leash or end up being dragged through the grass. Thankfully, the two dog owners handled the situations calmly and I was able to retrieve Bailey. It was obvious why we were there.

Another Circle of HeelingWe had bitten off the mother lode of all distractions. I could tell that the heat from the sun was making Bailey uncomfortable. After all, who wears a black fur coat to the beach? The lake was looking more inviting to Bailey with each passing minute. Add two very young children who were gleefully shouting as they ran into the shallows and I knew Bailey’s attention would not be on heeling and sitting. I was not sure if she wanted to rescue them or simply join in the fun. We compromised. I would take her to the lake for a paw soaking and water break. Then, the two of us would return to class. The instructor asked us to move in a circular fashion with our dogs heeling by our sides. Next, we were instructed to have our dog stop and sit on command. The dog was to be rewarded upon doing it. Bailey did as she was told for a while. Feeling HeatThe black flies started to make their presence felt at this point much to my girl’s displeasure. I was not doing much better. My oldest son had returned home from camp with a flu bug. He managed to infect me. I should have stayed home in hindsight. I could tell that Bailey was done after only 20 minutes. I had to agree with her as my fever was starting to rise at the same time as the heat from the sun beat down on us. We managed to last the entire one hour session before heading to the van. Away from the whirlwind of activity on the beach, Bailey and I appreciated the quiet and cool ride home.

Lake Is Looking Good

Staying In LakeThe two of us returned the next week to a class at Jean Lake. The sun came out just as the class was starting after a day of rain and clouds. I could tell that Bailey was hoping to run around like she does at the dog park. No play and too much heat sapped Bailey of any enthusiasm. The treats and praise became less effective as the class progressed. It was becoming very apparent to me that taking a full hour class with no breaks was not working for Bailey. She kept looking up at me as if to say, “When will the torture end?” Bailey did spring to life when one of the other dog owners whipped out her bag of Cheezies to treat her dog. One whiff of cheese (who cared if it was fake cheese) and Bailey was determined to sit – just not next to me. She scrambled to the other owner with me being pulled behind like a rag doll. At which point, Bailey plunked herself down in a perfect sitting position and waited for the contraband treat. I learned that there are high value treats and then there are higher value treats. Tonight, we will return with a bowl and water jug for round three.  I am sure that Bailey will scouting for her new fave treat – Cheezies.


Cart Before The Newf-Owner

July 12th, 2016

As I wrote about in last week’s post, Bailey and the family took a 3,400 km road trip to Peterborough, Ontario and back again. Our mission was to attend a two day beginner carting seminar offered by the South Eastern Ontario Region – Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. We awoke to warm temperatures and sunshine – not a rain cloud in the sky. The three of us headed out of Peterborough to Newfhill Kennels on the outskirts of Lakefield. The van passed through scenic farm country and Bailey craned her neck from the back bench to see where today’s excursion would end up at.

The first day of the seminar began with 17 month old Bailey dragging Adam along the ground to get to another dog. It was a grand entrance. Bailey exited the van fine and soon looked for a good spot to drop her business. My offer to scoop her poop was refused – really big mistake on his part. While Adam’s attention was focused on picking up it up, he failed to notice that the leash had become wrapped behind his legs as Bailey sniffed a new scent in the air. Once she caught sight of another dog participant being brought over to the holding tent, Bailey was determined to go. Adam’s back was to the canine newcomer so he was oblivious to the temptation that Bailey was facing. She took off at top speed as Adam was tying off the poop bag. Before I could utter a warning, Adam had been spun around 270 degrees to become a Newfoundland dog anchoring device. He executed a pirouette with the poop bag at full extension in his right hand while the left hand foolishly held onto the leash. Bailey did not get very far once Adam hit the ground. The grass softened the blow.

So Lonely.jpgThankfully, no one said too much about it or drew attention to Adam’s red scratches. Bailey was taken to her kennel that had been set-up under the holding tent. She reluctantly entered when it became apparent the other dog was not coming to play with her. I am sure Bailey felt imprisoned as she was the first one to be kenneled. Other dogs began to arrive and soon the all of kennels were filled. The class was comprised of 6 Newfoundland dogs, a Bouvier and a Standard Poodle. Adam spent the time nursing his wounded pride and I sat snickering beside Bailey.


The Cart

Bailey & HarnessI wondered if even a trainer extraordinaire such as Allan Maniate was up for the challenge of training Bailey. He was. Allan taught the group to harness and hitch up their dogs. The harnesses were made out of sheep skin. The harness straps are connected to a wiffle-tree which is a pivoting device that translates the pull of the dog from two points (left-side and right-side) to a single point in the centre of the dog. Each harness was adjusted to fit the individual dogs. We learned that an ill-fitting harness can do much harm to a dog. Bailey seemed unfazed about putting on the harness. She wears a harness in the van and associates it with going for rides to the dog park or trails.Harness Ready Next, Adam connected a rope with a water jug on its end to the wiffle-tree. Each pair moved in a circular fashion around the ring. Allan helped them master the commands needed to steer the dogs in the right direction. Commands like “Whoa”, “Stand”, “Giddy-up”, “Slowdown”, “Haw” (turn left) and “Gee” (turn right). These are drafting terms which all drafting animals must learn. Bailey tried a few times to leave the ring at the entry point in the hopes of visiting me or going to her kennel for a rest. Adam had to work hard at getting her attention back on task and I had to put more distance between Bailey and me. I was amazed to watch our Bailey being transformed into a real working dog.

Working Partnership

But, it was not all work. Allan gave the dogs and partners frequent breaks which allowed us to meet the other club members and their dogs. Others dropped by throughout the weekend to visit and watch the proceedings. Each break enabled participants to hone their harnessing skills. Course participants learned to leave their harness gear set-up after the dogs were unhitched, unharnessed and returned to their shaded kennels for water. By the end of the first day, Bailey and Adam were pulling a cart. It was a proud moment even if I was not the one in the seminar. We returned to our hotel with a very tired pooch who could barely keep her eyes open for dinner. Bailey was mentally and physically tired. The second day concluded when everyone had actually pulled a cart with a person riding in it. Allan offered suggestions to us throughout the weekend which we are now using back in Labrador. A harness kit was ordered because we are hoping to return for the intermediate carting course in September. The 3,400 km journey from Labrador West to participate was worth the long drive and hot temperatures.

Bailey Learning To Whoa & Stand

Bailey Pulls Ahead

Bailey Feeling The Work Part

Successful Finish

Bell Ringer Apprentice

August 4th, 2015

As first time dog owners, we get very excited when Bailey masters a command.  Such mastery happens after lots of practice, rewards and praise.  It means being patient and learning to handle the disappointment when she ignores your command.  Situations like this one usually happen in front of a person that you were trying to demonstrate how well-trained your puppy can be.  Bailey has acquired an extensive repertoire of commands from our standpoint.  She can sit, lie down, stand and stay as well as do a lie down stay and sit stay.  Her vocabulary also includes wipe (used to call her over to clean up her drool with a rag), come , bring, leave it , heel and gentle (a handy term to use when she is grabbing a treat from your hand).  The all-time favourite one of ours is “kisses” which Bailey has no trouble providing on command.  I think it is Bailey’s favourite word besides “belly rub”.  Bailey is a work in progress – two steps forward, one step back.  It is not just Bailey who is learning from her mistakes.  All of us are guilty of using the wrong command word or giving a poorly timed reward while training her at times.

That being said, Bailey recently made her wishes to go outside known by ringing a bell hung from the entry room door knob.  After weeks of coaching her, I was taken by surprise when it finally occurred without being initiated by a person.  You see we were concerned that she would sit quietly by the door and wait for someone to notice her need to go out.  We failed horribly in this area.  She had a few accidents in the house so I knew something had to be done.  I scrounged up a bell that was originally mounted on the handlebars of my son’s bike.  I mounted the bell on a padded cloth to prevent the metal scrapping the door.

The BellOver the past 14 weeks, Bailey had been working towards ringing the bell to alert us.  I think the family thought she would learn overnight.  She didn’t.  I optimistically replied, “Just give her time.”  I had a plan to attach a treat to the bell at first.  If it smelt good, I hoped that Bailey would be more willing to take a closer look.  I had to get down on my hands and knees to demonstrate ringing the bell with my nose.  Thankfully, no one was around to capture that pose on film.  She did it after a bit of hesitation at first.  When it rang, I quickly rewarded Bailey with another treat while praising her.  I eliminated placing a treat on the bell after the first week.  The bell was beginning to emit an odor.  Each time that Bailey was taken out, she had to ring the bell.  It was frustrating at times because Bailey would have a few good bell rings and then nothing – a blank stare.  Or, her nudge was too soft to make bell ring loudly for us to hear in another part of the house.  I was still determined.

I caught on to Bailey’s attempts to ring the bell in order to get a treat without having to go out.  We came to an understanding that if the bell was rung, she went out.  At this point, I thought it might be best to not treat every time.  Although Bailey was happy to be told she was a good girl, she still wanted the treat.

Where my treatI was forced to push her through the door way a couple of times before she gave up holding out for a treat – stubborn as a mule.  Picking her up was not an option once she passed 40 pounds.  Then one day, Bailey did it without being told to ring the bell or treated.  Music to my ears.  I responded quickly to her ring by opening the door.  Bailey bolted into the garage and over to the outside door.  Once outside, she got down to doing her stuff.  She had succeeded as I knew she would.  Does Bailey always do it?  No.  But, she has shown that it’s possible.  We celebrate her success as a bell ringer apprentice.  Next goal – master level.

P.S.  At 27 weeks, Bailey is now 35.5 kg or 78 pounds 4 ounces.