A true gentleman

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Destiny and the Junior Dog Judging Contest

To my great delight, Destiny, my 12 year old granddaughter, was a last minute addition to my Louisville show trip. It was too late to enter her in any Junior Showmanship classes but she was able to participate in a junior handling clinic and a Junior Dog Judging Contest.

The announcement came over the loud speaker: Last call for all kids interested in signing up for the Junior Dog Judging Contest. Most of the Juniors pre-entered the contest when they sent in their Junior Showmanship entries and received their packets by mail. When Destiny signed up, she received a packet which contained four breed standards: the Boxer, the Border Collie, the Boston Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. Destiny had never read a breed standard before (not even the Curly). She had exactly 30 minutes to prepare and learn all she could about the four, selected breeds.

It was an interesting competition. An AKC Judge did a show exam of the four or five dogs in each breed presented. His exam included a physical exam and bite, down and back, then around. The Judge ranked the dogs 1st through 4th but did not announce his placements. The Juniors were to try to place the dogs the way the Judge had.

The Juniors were allowed to spread out on two sides of the ring to watch the Judge’s examinations. When the Judge completed his placements, they were invited into the ring for a closer look at each dog while the entry was stacked in the center of the ring. They did not perform a physical examination or further movement exercises. The Juniors wrote their placements on a card and handed it to the Steward as they left the ring. This was repeated for three breeds, the Bostons showed up but didn’t wait around to be examined - they’d already had a long day.

After all breeds had been examined, the Judge conducted a personal interview with each Junior. The Juniors had to explain to the Judge why they put each dog in its particular placement order and what they liked/disliked about each one. During the interview phase, only one breed was discussed, the American Staffordshire Terrier. Some of the Juniors appeared nervous during the interview phase of the competition but Destiny was quite at ease and very animated in explaining what she liked about each dog and why she placed it in the order that she did.

Upon completion of the interviews, the scores were tallied and the Juniors were awarded placements from fourth through first. Out of the 20 or so Juniors who participated, Destiny was awarded second place. She had tied for first in her rankings of the dogs with the personal interview being used as the tie-breaker. Not bad at all for a kid who started "show doggin" 10 months ago.

I do believe she has "the eye" for it.

Originally Published in the June, 2008 Issue of The Curly Commentator, the official publication of the Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America (CCRCA)

Q & A for the day:

How does a youngster learn more about Junior Showmanship?

The American Kennel Club has a Juniors' section on their website at There are links to the rules and lots of other resources for kids. Juniors are separated by their experience level and their age so that they compete against similarly situated kids.

You can even compete with your spayed or neutered purebred dog, and/or your previously unregistered purebred (with just a few steps to get it a PAL number - info also on the AKC website).

Junior Showmanship is a growing sport and it is fun for the kids that compete. New kids have started at almost every show we've been to. And, a kid that tries hard can compete with the seasoned competitors in no time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Delightful Diversion

For the past several weeks we've been fully immersed in another endeavor. We've had puppies!! Six little curlies were born June 27. Watching them grow, morphing from little furballs into little doggies was so much fun. When they were tiny, I could sit by and watch them for hours. As they got bigger, it was more of the same.

Finding the perfect home for each pup was a challenge but worked out wonderfully in the end. Several of the pups will be hunting companions, a couple have children, another couple have grandkids and all will be family companions. It just doesn't get any better than that.

And the little guy that stayed with us . . . he is fabulous!!!

The photo journal of the pups is linked off of our home page but be forewarned, there are a lot of pictures (in case you are prone to puppy fever) and a few videos too.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Needed - longer arms.

One of the perks of owning Curly-Coated Retrievers is the type of games you can play with them. Hunter, my first CCR introduced me to the fun of field training. I joined a great group of folks who had trained other retriever breeds for many years and they were very patient in teaching me the ropes. After awhile, I found the confidence to go out by myself to work on drills.

On one particular occasion, Hunter took extreme advantage of the pond in between us. I had sent him on a blind retrieve across the pond (several bumpers were already placed on the other side so he would see no bumper fall). When he got to the other side, however, he must have figured out that my arms weren't long enough to reach him so he could do as he pleased. And he did. He investigated every interesting smell he could find and peed on lots of things. He was having such a good time that he failed to notice that I was trotting around the pond.

He was so intent on investigating his latest find that until I said "Hunter, Heel!" from two feet away, he didn't even know I was there.

I know I've mentioned his "Oh S#!#!" look before, but this was the first time I ever saw it. He looked directly into my eyes and I could read his mind. He knew that he was in trouble and he instantly tried to fix it by snatching up his bumper and jumping into the pond, heading strait back to the spot where I had been standing on the opposite bank.

"Oh no you don't", I said and I called him to heel. To his credit he came out of the water, tail tucked between his legs and he slunk over to where I stood. He looked so pitiful standing there, dripping wet. He didn't even shake. He knew he was caught. A guilty conscience goes a long way with this dog. And before you wonder, "does he act that way because you beat him?" I can say absolutely not!! We train with praise! Besides, unless you can administer a correction simultaneously with the mis-deed, you may as well save it because the belated correction is totally useless as a teaching tool.

I was having a bit of difficulty not laughing at him so I decided to let him off the hook and put him back to work. I made him hold his bumper and sat him at the edge of the pond. Then I walked back around the pond to my original spot, faced him and from across the water I called, "Hunter Come!"

Now I had great visions of Hunter plunging into the water and swimming to me in a direct line, as he should have done to begin with. Instead, at my call, he took a sharp right turn and ran around the pond in the exact route that I had just taken.

Oh well, I was training blinds, not bank running so I held my tongue since he technically obeyed the command I had given him. After this episode, I decided that we needed to end the training session on a good note so I set him up again, held my breath and sent him "Back" across the pond for the last bumper. This time, he hit the water, swam across, picked up the bumper, turned and swam strait back to me.

Good dog!

Q & A for the day:

Hmmm, two good topics for this one so I'll pick the one folks have the most trouble recognizing - timing the praise or correction.

What do you mean, timing the praise or correction is everything?

I'll start with an example, you are teaching your dog to sit . . . he is right in front of you and you tell him to "sit" . . . and for the first time, his bottom hits the floor . . . you are sooooo excited that you throw your hands up in the air and clap . . . he experiences your delight and jumps up to celebrate with you . . . and you say "Good Dog".

You have just praised your dog for jumping up, not sitting. So the next time you want him to sit, he will remember how much praise he got when you said "sit" for jumping up and he will try to give you the jumping up behavior that he found most rewarding. He won't want to sit.

He's not a 'dumb dog' that can't learn to sit, he is a smart dog that learned what gets him praise and he repeats the action that got it for him. To reinforce the sit behavior, you must administer the praise while his bottom is still on the ground - it takes only seconds to miss the opportunity to praise correctly so you must be ready. If you miss it, say nothing, and try again.

It also helps to know that a dog's attention span for learning new activities can be counted in seconds, 5 - 10 seconds max, depending on age. So if you want to correct him for a misdeed, he must be doing the misdeed at the time of the correction. If you catch him chewing a chair leg, tell him "no chew" or "bad chew" and give him something appropriate to chew on, then follow up with a "good chew" - or whatever words you choose to use. Choice of word doesn't matter as long as you are consistent - it is the voice, not the word that counts - but command consistency helps during the learning process.

This is also why house training can take so long for some dogs. They don't associate a correction received well after the deed is done with actually doing the deed in the house. And shoving his nose in the pile doesn't help - he no longer associates an old pile with the 'doing of the deed'. That is why a crate is very useful in house training. The dog is contained in his den until you can escort him outside - then GO with him so that you can praise his doing the deed outside where you want it. Afterwards, keep a close eye on him and if he starts sniffing around the room, take him out again and if he performs praise him again. In house training, diligence is everything.

Be careful that you don't fall into the house training trap of training the dog to use the revolving door. If you let him out the door, he pees and comes back in, then gets a cookie, no matter what you are saying, in his mind he is being praised for coming inside - not peeing outside. That's why some dogs have to "go" so often - they are really going outside so that they can come right back inside and get a cookie :-). This is exactly why you need to go outside with the dog - so that you can give praise for the correct behavior - peeing, not coming in the door - the praise always comes outside. Lots of folks have spent lots of dollars going to the vet to make sure their dog doesn't have an infection because they always have to 'go'.

You will be amazed at the results you can get if you remember the proper use of these two words: "timing and praise".

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Million Dollar Babe

In the very, wee hours of the morning (4:30 a.m.), Singer, aka the Babe, my 11 y/o Curly-Coated Retriever, barked and woke me up. Thinking she had to go outside to make a nature call I (very grudgingly) rolled out of bed to let her out. It always irks me when she says one thing then does something else, but once I got up she obviously didn't want to go outside - still, since I was up, and the other girls were creating a ruckus now too, I let them all outside. As I walked back through the house, the doorbell rang, at a time when doorbells should not ring! I hate the adrenaline rush you get when doorbells ring at the wrong time.

I did an immediate about turn and let the girls back in, then went to a window that had a view of the door and there, bent over and peeping in the front door pane, was a shirtless man, that shouldn't have been there. I really hate the adrenaline rush you get when you see shirtless men that shouldn't be there.

My brain left my body at the sight of the man, but somehow I managed to think "shotgun" and I took great comfort in holding it while I dialed 911. The man was gone by the time the police came.

We'll never know what plans the prowler had, if any, but thanks to the Babe, we're safe. Now the other girls were probably helping too, but since Singer barked first and woke me up, she gets the credit. Deacon was in another part of the house so he didn't get to help. He is my second line of defense if anyone gets past the girls.

The Babe - a million dollars. . . sleeping through the night under her watchful eye/ear, priceless.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

She climbs trees

The first time ever I saw her climb . . . (ok, I went lyrical because her name is Singer).

We had traveled to Flora, Mississippi (near Jackson) to run an AKC hunt test conducted by the Magnolia Hunting Retriever Club. Singer, my Curly-coated Retriever, was 9 1/2 months old and needed to pass the test to earn her AKC Junior Hunter (JH) title.

For those who don't know, at the Junior level, two judges and the dog and handler stand at the line, a bird goes down and the dog is sent to pick it up immediately. The dog must pick up two individual retrieves on land and two on water and they are graded in several areas in order to pass the test. They must pass four tests to earn the JH title.

No water test is ever "easy" when you are the one standing at the line, but this one was stacked against the Babe. First, as she swam through the "flock" of decoys, she got tangled in one decoy's line and dragged it across the pond, continuing towards her bird as though the decoy wasn't even there. She shook the decoy at the bank, picked up her bird and retraced her path, strait back to me through the water.

Then, on the second mark, the bird was supposed to be thrown in the water just behind a fallen tree that was designed to be an obstacle in the direct line between the dog and the fall. The bird was thrown, and Singer began her swim towards the fall, and by necessity, the tree.

When she reached the tree, however, instead of swimming around it as the other dogs had done, she swam directly into it (there was no easy path through it). Then, she started trying to climb it . . . she would hook her front legs over a limb, move them up to a higher limb, pull her back legs onto the first limb . . . and sink back into the water, as the lower limbs had no resistance in the water to help hold her weight. This was repeated several times, but she wouldn't give up. She kept trying to get high enough to break free of the water.

Back on the line, the judges and I kept trying to figure out what she was doing. We thought she'd gone nutz! And I was trying to decide whether it was time to call her in (knowing she wouldn't come back without a bird). I didn't want to go swimming to get her and the judges never said "pick up your dog" so I waited. And she just kept trying to climb that tree.

After what seemed like an eternity (time stands still on the line), but more like one or two minutes, she broke water and literally climbed about four feet into the tree. She came down with her duck! Unbeknownst to anyone, the bird had accidently been thrown into the crown of the fallen tree - we had all watched it go down but assumed it had fallen into the water behind the tree. My little girl watched it go down too, and she followed the mark and her nose . . . into the tree, and she didn't give up until she got her bird.

Afterwards, I accused the judges of trying to sabotage her tests because she was curly. They laughed, but they were amazed by her performance.

Over time, Singer has climed into a few more bushes and trees looking for things real or imagined. And I smile every time I pass those bright orange ribbons that remind me of the tense moments as I watched the nutty little Curly try to climb a tree.

Q & A for the day:

How can I get my retriever involved in training and running a hunt test?

I'll say this first - you are looking at spending hours training, gas traveling and cash for the accessories. You may make friends with folks who do the same thing. And, if you get hooked, you'll be doing it a lot more. You might even find yourself trading in your car for a vehicle that can carry your dog and your "stuff" - I moved up after a few years. I managed quite well using two folding General crates and a sun shield, operating from the trunk of my Thunderbird (and there weren't that many places that I couldn't get to in the car).

Hunters use training for hunt tests to keep their dogs conditioned during the off season. Others participate for the pleasure of the sport. So there are usually people out training in many areas for a number of reasons.

Sometimes, you can see folks out training and you can walk up, introduce yourself and express your interest in getting started. (In the summer, look for them at dawn when the day is still cool - they're usually done by mid-morning.) They may or may not be helpful, but you can usually get the name of someone to contact who will be helpful. Don't confuse 'hot and tired' with indifference, although you may see either, but you can still get that name.

You can also ask your other dog associates - e.g. someone at the obedience, agility or conformation club will know who trains their retrievers. Or, you might check at the sporting goods store that carries dog training equipment. You may find them at work or at church, you just have to ask (or check the parking lot for vehicles with dog crates and DU decals). You get the picture.

In today's information age, clubs are pretty easy to find. When you contact a local club, you can usually find out who is training in your area. Many clubs actively mentor newcomers and will put you in touch with someone who can help you get started.

The Amercan Kennel Club lists their test-giving clubs on their website at,

just select "hunting tests" and your state. A contact for each club is listed. If you have to write, send your email address and a phone number to make it easier for them to contact you.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) lists their clubs as well at

In my opinion, the UKC tests are the most fun and realistic (patterned after actual hunting scenarios and emphasizing gun safety) to run.

The North American Hunting Retriever Association lists member clubs at These folks are not everywhere but I've heard good things about their tests.

There are also pro-trainers out there (both good and bad - interview them like you would a nanny for your child) but I don't recommend going that route, at least until you determine that you like the sport enough to become involved in it. All of my dogs have been owner trained and handled. I love the sport and have nothing to prove that would require the use of a pro trainer.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A soft mouth

Deacon, my Curly-Coated Retriever, has a very soft mouth. Since he was not actively field training, I might have missed this fact except for an incident that happened one spring morning.

Every morning the dogs run outside in a fenced back yard then come in and hang out with me for awhile before I have to go to work. One morning, after the dogs had been back inside for about half an hour I noticed that unmistakable look on Deacon's face and knew that he was hiding something in his mouth. You know the look, the cheeks kind of puff out and it's the only time that he isn't under foot.

Fearing the worst, I stuck out my hand and said "Give!". He hesitated for a few moments then moved to give me his prize. Very gently, he placed an object in my hand. . . a bird. . . a baby bird . . . a tiny, featherless baby bird. . . that was now opening and closing its mouth waiting for "mama" to provide the next meal. The baby bird had been comfortably hiding in his mouth for half an hour.

I didn't have the heart to tell Mama Deacon that his baby would not survive. . . it was too young to survive without a real mother bird. We went out and looked for a nest but there was none to be found. We left the baby where its mother could find it if she was looking for it and went back inside.

Also see: Soft Mouth; Can You Train It posted on this blog on 01/17/2010.

Q & A for the Day:

So, what is a soft mouth in retriever lingo?

The dog must have a firm grip to hold a bird, from a small dove to a large goose. The soft mouth is best evidenced by what the dog delivers to you. . . a bird without teeth marks or crush injuries (from the dog's jaw). A soft mouth is evidenced by a firm hold with no chewing or chomping. The bird has usually been shot so there will be blood, but the retriever should not be enticed by the blood to determine that the bird should become his own dinner (yes, it happens). There is some confusion with this point, though, because a soft mouthed dog can also decide to eat the bird, but that is usually a training issue.

A well trained retriever is a great conservation tool. Hunters who take their daily limit without a good retriever (human or canine :-) have probably left several dead birds at the hunt site because they couldn't reach or find them. A good hunting dog will retrieve every bird that falls so there are no unnecessary kills required to meet the limit.

For those hunters that "kill" more than the legal limit so they can leave with a limit. . . shame on them. Every bird down counts. If they want to take them all home, they should get a good 'huntin dawg'.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

First Day on the Job

I still shudder when I remember my first day on the job. I'd hurried home from class and let my two Curly-Coated Retrievers and my pound puppy of the Husky persuasion out the back door. We had a lovely little privacy fenced yard where they could run and play. In the meantime, I put on my best suit, and psyched myself up for my new job.

Just as I was putting on the finishing touches I heard an "explosion" of dog out back which sounded like they were killing each other. I ran out on the deck looking for the dogs - they were, they were . . . where were they?

Finally, I spotted the back half of young Deacon, sticking out of the dog house and wagging like crazy. This was really strange as the dog house was left over from a prior tenant and probably housed a Chihuahua. The door was only 12 inches tall. Still no sign of the other two.

I crossed the yard and grabbed Deacon and backed him out of the dog house. Ah, there are the other two, in the dog house. This was even stranger as the dog house was tiny, and the 120 pounds of dog still in there were packed in like Sardines.

As the best strategy I could muster was 'divide and conquer' I took young Deacon and tossed him in the kitchen, then went back for Hunter. I ordered Hunter out of the dog house. He came, but was ready to dart back in so I took his collar and led him away, then locked him on the deck.

Finally, I went back for Niki. He kept his tail towards me and wouldn't turn around so I got down on my knees, stuck both hands in the dog house (that's all of me that would fit through the tiny opening), grabbed a hold and pulled. Strangely, he didn't fight to stay in the doghouse and he slid right out . . . with the source of the problem. He had a choke hold on a racoon. A now, asphyxiated racoon. It took a great deal of effort to convince Niki to give up his prize. And the instant his grip loosened, I put distance between the two and took him inside.

After securing the dogs I decided to leave the racoon where he lay. I wasn't a hundred percent sure he was dead and I didn't want to risk being attacked. Plus I had used up all of the spare time I had allowed myself before I had to leave for work.

I was hot, sweaty, and dirty. The best I could do was knock off the dirt, wash my face, put on a forced smile and go. Luckily, my first day on the new job was totally uneventful compared to the excitement that led up to it. And if anyone thought I looked a mess, they kindly didn't say so to my face.

The racoon did, in fact, meet his maker that day. The best I can figure is that he was surprised by the dogs and tried to escape by running into the dog house - not a very good plan. Nobody was bitten or scratched and the racoon didn't have a mark on him. The vet assured me that everyone was current on their shots so they were safe. The dog house was removed a couple of days later. And after awhile, I calmed down too.

Q & A for the day:

How can you make your dog leave wild critters alone?

Acutally this is a trick question. Always remember, a dog is what he is, a dog. If there is a critter that invokes the dog's prey drive, the dog will most likely give chase. A high degree of training may allow you to call your dog off, but that will not prevent him from going after wildlife if left unattened. The best way to make your dog leave critters alone is to deter them from coming into his space. Remove food, water and hiding places and make the area inhospitable for wild life. But note, when the dog is in the area, water must be available for him, just take it up when he comes inside. There will be some instances where you can't remove those things that attract wildlife (a pond comes to mind) and you may always have critters. In that case, just be sure to maintain the dog's protective immunities (vaccines) to those ills most likely to affect him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A mud puppy

I know I don't hold the monopoly for owning the 'best puppy in the world' but Singer, my curly-coated retriever, was pretty close, if you ask me. She could sit quietly in my lap for long periods of time (through a business meeting) and visit with the person sitting next to me - of course, she ended up visiting herself around the room from lap to lap and had to be collected after the meeting.

She loved field training. At 3 months of age she discovered the joys of "duck" and never looked back. She was such an avid retriever that she took one of my older dog's places when we went training (is there really an unwritten rule that when training with a group you're limited to two dogs?)

She really was a sweetie, but she did have one terrible flaw. She loved mud! This flaw first surfaced when she was a tiny pup. While walking in the park one day, she spied a mud puddle. Being on a leash, she couldn't get to it so she "ordered" me to get close. I wasn't sure what she wanted but followed her pull, snapping her back just in the nick of time when I realized she wanted to do a belly splat into it.

If you've never seen a puppy throw an all out temper tantrum, you missed it. It was so funny. We laughed at her while she wiggled, squirmed and screamed trying to reach that puddle. She pulled to the end of her leash and tried throwing herself at it. Had she been older and bigger that might have worked. The only way to distract her was to put distance between her and the puddle so we moved to dryer ground. She's never really gone for mud as an adult, thank goodness, though she has retrieved birds in some pretty scuzzy water without complaint.

Q & A for the day:

Is there really any harm in giving in to your dog?
Yes! Giving in implys that you made the concession and the dog got what it wanted. The only consistent thing about successful dog training is Consistency. If the dog ever learns that he can wait you out, you have created a larger problem. If you give a command, you must get the action requested - no exceptions. The number one booboo is calling the dog to come to you when you have no way to make sure he comes. If you are going to teach commands, you must have sufficient control of the dog to make sure he obeys the commands you give. A long leash is the best tool for teaching Come. The Golden Rule (or one of them) is "Never give a command you can't enforce".

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tackling Toenails

When Hunter, the 3 year old Curly-Coated Retrievier, joined the Windsong family, he came with monster toenails. Not only were they way too long, they were also too big for the clipper that I used on Niki, the Huskyish pound puppy, and they were jet black so I couldn't see through them. In retrospect, it is probably good that the clipper was too small as I could only nip off less than 1/8 inch at the tip of the nail. Hunter let me do one, count it, ONE toenail, before he screamed and jumped and ran away. I was stupefied, but that didn't matter at the moment because I was so busy running around behind him wiping up the blood spots from where that one toenail bled (I later learned about the wonderful stuff that can stop bleeding). The quik had grown to the end of the toenail.

After much study on alternative methods to do toenails, I settled on a cordless, dremmel drill to takle the job. Now, how was I going to make him let me touch those toenails? It wasn't going to happen, according to Hunter so I had to figure out a way to make him trust me again.

And then I hit on his weak spot, his belly. Hunter would lay beside me on the floor and let me rub his belly forever, nudging my hand every time I stopped. It dawned on me one evening that while rubbing his belly, I could turn the dremmel on and let him get used to the sound. He learned fast, that if he laid still, I would keep rubbing his belly so the noise became a tolerable nuisance. Next I adjusted our shared space so that I could reach his belly and all the toenails without moving. Then I started messing with his feet while I rubbed his belly, and then touching a toenail with the dremmel. It is amazing how much annoyance he was willing to accept as a trade off for his belly rub.

To make a long story short, we tackled those monster toenails. Now, all my Curlies get early toenail training with belly therapy and the dremmel drill. It is a process, but when complete, they tolerate getting their nails done. When I announce "toenail time", they all willingly join me in the living room and wait for their turn to get their toenails done. They come to me, I never have to get up (I sit on the floor to do toenails) and hunt them down or drag them to the dremmel. They come, lay down and roll over, belly up and wait for me to get started. Deacon is notorious for trying to go twice and Ziva is learning that trick too. It's almost funny having to shove off one Curly while another one claims the magic spot that belly rubs come from. Notice, I said almost - there's nothing like being squished between two big dogs who both want to be in your space.

When I hear other Curly-Coated Retriever owners talk about their toenail woes, I offer up my belly advice (I wrote an article for the Curly-Commentator about it once). I'm also told by some owners that cookies work for them. If you want to look up the psychological terms for this trade-off behavior, feel free. I'm just happy that it works and that we have a great experience at toenail time. It seems that everything good in life begins and ends with a belly rub.

Q & A for the day:

While we're on the topic of toenails, and assuming you end up with the belly side of the dog at your disposal, What are some other things you can do during the toenail process?

I have a toenail kit that contains first aid stuff, medicated powder, triple antibiotic cream, scissors and a few other handy items. The scissors afford me the opportunity to do some underside grooming, if necessary. I use toenail time to examine the entire underside of the dog. I find any bumps, lumps, scratches, rashes or other problems at this time. Since some dogs only give me one shot at doing their nails, it is essential that the kit be in reach so that I can address whatever I find without getting up. And they don't mind the exam if it is camoflauged as a belly rub.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hunting Retrievers

Although the Windsong Curlies are city dogs, they enjoy a relatively private back yard where interesting critters abound to retrieve . I've gradually learned to accept the occasional gift of an unlucky squirrel or bird which wasn't fast enough to escape from whichever Curly-Coated Retriever was hunting in the back yard.

I'm rarely able to intervene, but once I was successful.

Hunter was prowling for prey when I saw him dash towards the back of the yard. He caught a Chipmonk that tried to escape from him by climbing the fence (dumb move). I yelled at him to "drop it" and he did, for all of two seconds.

Then he snatched it up again, so I started walking towards him and ordered him to "leave it", which he did, for two more seconds.

Then he snatched it up, yet again. You have to appreciate that the critter kept trying to escape each time it was spit out, so the "chase" kicked his prey drive into gear and Hunter would grab it again.

Hunter was so absorbed with his prey that he failed to notice how close I had come.

"HUNTER!!" I yelled. He looked up, strait into my eyes, and I could literally see him thinking, "Oh S#!#!" He spit the Chipmonk out and ran for his life!

The poor thing wasn't dead - I could see its heart beating ninety to nothing through its chest. I picked it up by a rear foot and carried it to safety. It laid there for five minutes before it dove under a leaf pile, never to be seen by us again.

Hunter always had a soft mouth. The Chipmonk didn't have a scratch on him (slobber yes, but no gashes or crush wounds). Afterwards it was funny, but in the moment, I worried about all the unhealthy things that wild Chipmonks might carry.

Q & A for the day:

What should you do when your dog catches wild creatures? First, don't ever try to take a "live" anything out of his mouth, you might get bitten (by either of them) or scratched. Chances are if he doesn't let it go, or chew or crush it to death, he'll get tired of it after awhile and lay it down. If it is already dead, you can tell him to give it to you. When he gives you the prey, a newspaper bag or grocery bag makes a quick glove and disposal unit in one.

"Give" (or any word you use for that action) is a trained action. The best time to teach your dog to "give" you things is well before he catches wild game - using toys and other objects - rewarding him with treats or his favorite toy when he performs correctly.

If your dog was bitten or scratched, you should call your vet to be sure, but if he is up on his vaccinations, including rabies, he should be OK. Treat any scratches with anti-bacterial salve but check with your vet for the best treatment for puncture wounds.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Curlies in the basement

With wild weather storming around us, civil defense sirens blaring and little time to worry whether we'd be better off upstairs or down, I decided we'd all go to the basement.

What fun? I could only get two dogs down the steps at any one time. Then when I got the other two heading down, the first two would run out. Yes, we're going to practice that in the daylight.

Eventually everyone made it down to the basement. I need more toys down there. And maybe a storm kit with chewies and other things. I'll do that in the daylight too.

Luckily, everything passed us by. The curlies enjoyed our time in the basement but were glad when we went back upstairs for a late supper.

Today's timely Q & A:

Since we spent time in the basement tonight, what did I learn that I should have had down there in case of emergency? The weather casters said stick some i.d. in your pocket so I did that and grabbed my weather radio/flashlight. But I should have had some extra leashes down there too . . . and some toys and chewies to keep them happy and busy . . . a first aid kit and a jug of water with a bowl to pour it in. I'm sure I'll think of other things too, but that is a good start.

Monday, February 4, 2008


After a few years of not having a "show dog", Ziva joined the family and we have opted to show her. She has participated in Junior Showmanship with Destiny, our family junior, and gone to some practice shows. We haven't had any competition yet in the classes but are planning to attend a show soon where there will be other class dogs.

The challenge for me is learning how to run around the ring without tripping over my own two feet. And I'm working hard on co-ordinating my leash hand and my cookie hand. That is one too many things for me to think of while running. I'm taking a class for practice so fingers crossed, I won't fall on my face.

My favorite part of showing is visiting with other Curly owners that I don't get to see often and comparing notes about who is doing what with their dogs.

Between show dogging, agility, field work and therapy work, Curlies tend to keep their owners very busy.

Q & A for the day:

The Curly standard includes the term "wickedly smart". What does that mean?

Curlies have an innate problem solving ability that requires a lot of creativity. Many people have developed an opinion of what "wickedly smart" means based on things their Curlies have done. Here is one of my own examples:

Bath day at our house used to consist of everyone getting a bath and going to the basement to dry (as they aged, the steps became a problem so we have since modified the routine). They would each get a rawhide chew (chewie) when they went down the steps. One day, Hunter needed an unscheduled bath so he was the only one to get one. As I let him into the basement Singer ran down the steps expecting a chewie too. I laughed at her and told her "No bath, No chewie". She barked at me, trying to make a good case for getting her own chewie but I just repeated myself, "No bath, No chewie". I came upstairs and went to the study to do some work but I kept hearing her bark from the other end of the house. Finally, I got up to go find her and found her standing in the bathtub. "OK" I said, "You can have a bath". Yes, I stopped right then and gave her a bath, then sent her to the basement with her chewie. She was happy. She had to work that one out to get what she wanted. Other folks have many, many tales - some much more wicked, but all equally smart.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Talking tail

Deacon, the Curly-Coated Retriever has a very expressive tail. Yes, it can sweep everything off the coffee table (which is why I don't have one). Yes, it can leave a bruise if it swipes me when he is very excited. But his tail says it best when it whispers. Using just the 3 inch tip, his tail can tell me he is hopeful, or excited that I might have a cookie for him.

I think the tip of his tail only talks to me - with the other dogs, he uses his full tail to express himself.

I love to tease the tip of his tail. I can whisper to him under my breath and his tail starts 'listening' in anticipation. First, I can almost see the hair on the tip flick, then barely a half inch will peek up. Finally, he is tentatively wagging the full 3 inches of the tip. Ultimately, when he can contain himself no longer and he springs up, his entire tail is thumping and I wonder if I should brace myself for a full body hug. Of course, when he is super excited, he wags his entire rear end and the tail just follows.

Today's Q & A:

The number one question I get about the Curlies is "What kind of dog is that?" The number one response to my answer is "I've never heard of them, a Curly Lab?" I explain that the Lab and the Curly are distinctive breeds and are not related to each other, the Curly predating the Lab. And no, that isn't a Lab head, it is a retriever head. This last does seem to help.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I'm not sure what a "blog" is, but since I learn best by 'doing', here goes everything. As you can tell by my dedication, I'm a dog lover.

My breed is the Curly-Coated Retriever and I've loved them since 1995. My first Curly, Hunter, was 3 years old when he joined our family (which included a well loved pound puppy of the Husky persuasion). Hunter was such a delight and had a temperament that matched what I thought of when I thought of "Dog" such that he converted me to the breed. I'm sure everyone loves their favored breed for a similar reason. Should you ever have the opportunity to adopt an adult dog, I say "Go for it". They can enrich your life in so many ways.

Now, for today's Q & A:

After a myriad of other questions including what kind of "mix" are they, a typical question is "Do Curlies shed?" In answer, I say "Yes they do but I'm glad. Because their hair grows to a certain length then falls out, there is no need to do the constant grooming that Poodle owners do. It is a trade off. Now to put the shedding into perspective, Niki, the Husky shed more than all 3 of my Curlies combined."

This got a bit lengthy so I'll talk to you later.