I spent an entire winter quarter telling my creative writing class to blog more consistently, and yet here I am coming back to my blog after a long break. Oops! Brian has shown promise as a tracking dog since puppyhood, and here is today’s track, consisting of two 100-yard legs with 1 open turn. We had been doing longer tracks with 2 turns, but were running into some wilder behaviors (lots of casting) so pared things down to get him more settled and focused. It worked, and we’re back to the focused tracking dog I knew in his early months. We’re using a system I really like, created by Lucy Newsom, an instructor at Fenzi Dog Academy. We have a new class starting up for spring, and I’m looking forward to more progress!

Just a catch-up on Brian’s heeling in early spring of 2021. While sometimes I feel like we’re behind where my past dogs have been at this age, I have to remind myself that I’m trying a new approach with him (much more shaped and almost no luring), so taking it slow to watch out for issues and to problem-solve is fine. Also there is nothing wrong withsetting a strong foundation and letting his body grow up, as heeling with his head up asks quite a bit of a young dog. So here we are, in late March working on turns in slow motion, and then moving to big inside circles with randomized reward. I need to create a booklet for myself of the steps we took in producing this, starting with Denise Fenzi’s pockethand method and the pivot disk. The path I’m taking includes her method, exercises from Hannah Branigan’s book Awesome Obedience, Shade Whitesal, and Laura Romanik’s heeling grids, which we’re just getting into.

While Brian has a great left turn, on his right turn and about turn he tends to swing his butt out, so in the next session, I’m pulling out more “aids” by adding back in the pockethand or food up at my elbow, and checking my footwork, probably with tape on the ground) since I tend to walk into my dog in the middle of the about turn, and warming up with “close” practice. I’ve got more matting down since this session in my newly enlarged building, so we can make bigger circles too, which should help him. Whatever issues we encounter, I love his attitude and energy level.

Brian has been a student in the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy “TEAM” program, a program that teaches and tests fundamentals online. I highly recommend it, and while any dog/handler team can participate just through the program itself, Fenzi’s classes are superb in their level of instruction and feedback. We took the Level 1 course with Laura Waudby, who was wonderful, and she encouraged us at class’s end to post a run-thru. While Brian is not ready for the true Level 1 test, there is a “pre” test that requires 6 out of the 10 exercises. While in some ways we’re not ready for apply for the actual test quite yet, I was very happy and a bit surprised at how well Brian did here. His exercises were:

  • Engage w/o food or toys, and move into a disk pivot
  • “Find front” straight-on and from an angle
  • Back up to a target
  • Send to a vertical target
  • Jump
  • Go around an object

Brian was so wiggly and excited through this test, I found myself in a state of laughter the whole time. Hmm. Can I translate that to an actual ring performance? My “handler’s presence” varies for each dog, and if laughter and joy are the hallmark for Brian’s obedience performances, I have reached handler nirvana as far as I’m concerned.

Today we took advantage of a trip to Home Depot to get in a bit of socializing/training for Brian. I’ve seen just a few startle responses from Brian lately, making me wonder if he’s going into a little bit of a fear period, or possibly just needs to get out more! So off we went to Home Depot while Jeff picked up some repair supplies. My first goal was to help him gain confidence in a new environment, especially if anything scared him. Very quickly it was obvious that there was nothing scary in the store for him (although I did not take him down the Halloween aisle). So then we went to a few areas in the store and worked on sits, downs, stands and go to heel. Here was a short ending sequence before we left (sorry about the poor focus):

In retrospect I wish we had done some impulse control work, but this was a very successful trip!

This month we celebrated Rozzie’s 13th birthday. How lucky we are to have this special, sweet springer for so many years, and we hope for a lot more time. Rozzie is by far the healthiest dog I’ve ever gotten to this age, with all brain cells intact, although just after her birthday on October 5th, we started struggling with a benign cyst that flared up into an infection. Antibiotics and compresses are bringing it down.

I just wanted to share some of the ways we celebrated Rozzie reaching this very special age:

Rozzie getting a birthday massage with her friend Martha Jordan.
Rozzie’s birthday cookie shared with all

And just to show you the things we do to keep Rozzie healthy and active:

doing her interior searches for birch–she LOVES her searches!

finding her scent
balancing on her inflatables, combined with calisthenics (sits and downs) and cavellettis a few times a week


Fall 2020

It’s time for our annual photos amongst the pumpkins. We’re having quite a squash harvest this year, so here is the first of probably 3 harvests in the next few weeks. This photo session produced a lot of throw-aways, but here is the best of what we got:

Robbie and Rozzie


The rodeo starts!
A moment of stillness for 5-month-old Brian

I traveled to the spaniel clubs’ hunt tests in Oakville, WA to run a cocker for a friend, and Robbie and Brian came along. My favorite memory from this trip was watching Brian run in a big field, which we did in the evening after the tests were done. He loved chasing some cocker friends who came with us, and ran circles around Uncle Robbie, who is definitely slowing down. This picture captures a sweet memory that will stay with me long after all the pass and fail reports are posted. Plus Brian handled an overnight in my friend’s RV pretty well, crying a bit at first in a crate above my bed, but then settling for the whole night. A lovely adventure for a baby dog.

First Things

First things in a dog’s life should be commemorated.   So here is Brian’s first toweling.  Toweling is pretty typical for spaniels after a bath, to tighten down their coat while drying.  I haven’t done it before with Brian, since it involves horse pins.  I figured this first time he might wear it for just a short time, especially if he tried to fight it, but he was a champ.  Note the madly wiggling tail…

First towel

We’ve been tracking twice a week all summer, and Robbie is starting to show improvement on his turns, although his start is still a work in progress.  Meanwhile Brian is running tracks of about 125-150 yards with one turn.  He loves it and shows a lot of drive!  Thanks to my tracking partner Martha for taking these great pictures of the boys.


Robbie’s first leg of his track


Approaching a corner, marked by the orange flag


We made it around the corner! Second leg.


Brian at the startline.


He’s off!  I’ve started extending his line a bit more.


After his corner.

I’m so enjoying this process of encouraging the boys’ ability to follow scent.  As my tracking instructor says, “Let the track be the teacher.”  More adventures in this wonderful sport to follow!

If this sport interests you, note that an exceptional online dog training school, Fenzi Academy of Dog Sports, provides tracking lessons with Lucy Newton, who works with her dogs in SAR, IPO and AKC tracking.  I’ve never had consistent, high quality tracking instruction before and very excited about pursuing this sport more.

Second Dinner

Brian is getting Second Dinner right now (some of his dinner in a food toy), so we can have a quiet dinner to ourselves to wind down our evening.


But Rozzie, at 12 years and nearly 11 months, thinks she also should get Second Dinner. I have promised her that if she will make it to 13 on Oct. 5, she can have Second Dinner too!!! Now I can’t wait to order her food toy for her….(ahem, yeah we might not wait until October…)