Champ is pretty self centered, so I'm going to introduce you to the "other" setters, which is what Setter Saturday is all about. Meet Sophie:
I took these Thursday during her trip to the park. You can see this lady is pretty much all about the birds! Sophie is 10 1/2 years old, which makes me sad to think about--time goes by too quickly! She is my shadow dog and has been dedicated to me for all her years. This Spring she has just started to get some cataracts (no other eye disease), but she is otherwise healthy and not slowing down. Since there is no surgery option until the cataracts are mature, I'm hoping they develop very slowly and don't significantly affect her vision. I have her on the OcuGlo Rx supplement, hoping it will help, and even if it doesn't, at least I'll feel like I tried something....
I love watching her bound through fields. She is very graceful and athletic. At home, I call her "Miss Priss" or "Princess Dog" because she is so dainty and proper. When it rains--often where we live--she resents getting her paws wet and will only go to the bathroom just under the two foot eave where it's dry. Put her in the field, though, and she will get covered head to toe in mud and dive through thorny brush, tumbleweeds, and cuckleburrs (obviously, we hunt in a different part of the state where we both grew up)!
Yep! She heard some tweeties above the bank!
Recall on the trail. This little stinker actually slipped her harness and collar when she got into some thick brush that trip, but she has a decent recall and came right back [naked]. She was trained when I was still going through my "gun dog method" phase and can be a bit e-collar wise (more on that and how I train now in later posts). So when we [my dad and I] go hunting or hiking, I'll admit I usually put it on in case there is an emergency situation (don't worry, we usually don't use it and we much prefer the vibration option anyways). My goal this summer is to strengthen her recall off lead sans e-collar. I'd love to be able to hike with her without that or a long line--I'll admit, her strong prey drive has me a little hesitant. She has always been our farthest ranging hunter, which is great for fields... not so great in parks or woods. I tend to panic when she gets out of sight, which is often when she is off searching for birds--which is whenever she's somewhere remotely wild (as shown by the park photos). I have been able to breath easier since we've gotten the Garmin Astro GPS collars, but I'm one of those paranoid dog moms who worries about everything.
Isn't she a doll? People still mistake her for a pup, and her happy, friendly, sweet, playful personality makes her a fun dog to have at home and out and about. At home, Sophie loves to entertain, snuggle, and watch the world go by. She also really enjoys clicker training sessions, which she only started with this past year.
That's it for photos of Sophie's trip to the park yesterday! You'll see a lot more of her here!
This is Elsie at the park:
Recall. Elsie is new to us (more below) and apparently never had a good recall in the field. I've been doing a lot of work with it at home and will add her to the "work on recall" list for the summer. (Champ lucked out and was the first dog I focused on training by only positive reinforcement with some negative punishment. We've got to work on his recall in the field, too, so he can have more fun during his outings, but at least I don't have to deal with any collar-wisdom with him. He actually has the quickest & most enthusiastic recall in more controlled settings of all of my family's dogs. Enough about Champ, though, this is Setter Saturday!)
That creek sure is popular with these pups!
Go figure. A photo of Elsie mid-shake wasn't blurry at all. Yet I couldn't get a great one of her running....
So tired, but so happy!
Elsie had a great time at the park, except for one little incident (I wish I'd saved Sophie for last). This is a park with signs posted everywhere that dogs are to be kept on leashes. In the past, most people have obeyed that rule, which is nice. My dogs are not well suited to city "dog parks." Maybe yesterday was too sunny and people were happy to be out with their dogs, but we encountered multiple owners with their dogs off leash. I'm okay with that as long as the dogs respond reliably to their owners. In fact, when we encountered two different dogs, their owners quickly recalled, leashed their dogs, and we all went on our merry ways. You've probably noticed I have all of mine on long lines. There's no way they are running off leash in a wooded park with birds and squirrels in the middle of a city--not even dragging a line. It would take moments for them to get from one end to the other if they ran straight through rather than following the windy, strategic paths.
Anyways, I saw a woman with two off leash dogs about 100 yards down a trail and turned Elsie around with her line shortened to about 10 feet and headed up a different trail hoping the dogs wouldn't see us. She doesn't meet dogs well on short leashes (as reported by her previous owners and I'm sure they corrected her for it) but I wanted to have a little more control. Within a few seconds, Elsie was body slammed by one dog, she let out a grumble, the second dog appeared, and we booked it out of there. All the while the owner was bellowing/growling "come back" or to that effect, to which they were not responding until she caught up to them. The dogs most likely had friendly intentions, but they obviously had rough play styles and acted like they thought every dog wanted to wrestle with them without introduction/with a rude body check intro. Else recovered fine, but I have to say, I was still annoyed. Ugh. I'm thankful Elsie just growled when she was body checked from behind, but I wish I'd had high enough value treats for her at the time to offset the incident. Mini rant (yes, there will be a few of these on this blog): if owners want to break the rules at that non-dog park and let their dogs off leashes, they'd sure as heck had better have well trained dogs that will respond in every circumstance. Otherwise, they should use a leash or long line, for their dogs' safety and others'.
Elsie is also one of Sophie's pups, but she has a different sire than Champ. We owned her wonderful dad, Jake. I'll have some memorial posts for him on other Setter Saturdays. Elsie has pretty much spent her life as a hunting dog. Like her sister Morgan (you'll meet her at a later date, too), she is serious--really, really serious--about hunting. She loves every minute of it and looks great doing it. I can't wait to try her in the field this Fall. I've had her since January, and since then her life has done a 180 to where she's living in a city as a house dog. I don't know what I'd do without a flirt pole--it has been a lifesaver for her. She is obsessed with it.
Her story: Elsie's actually gone through two other homes. Her bird drive and desire to hunt was part of the underlying reasons. Ironically, she was the best hunting dog either owner had ever had. We screen our homes extensively, but for this girl, I regret to say we failed her twice. Her first owners had her for six years. When they got her, she had a designated area in their house and a fenced yard, but then they moved... to a place with no fence in a suburb like area. You can imagine, it would take a very dedicated owner to fulfill her needs in those conditions. I suspect that didn't happen, though, because she kept getting out of her dog run--literally chewing through the chain link. <insert sad face here> <I'm trying so hard to resist the emoticons!> At one point, she escaped and got hit by a car, from which event she has a knot on her skull and some missing top incisors. Her owner called one day and said it wasn't working out as he'd hoped, and I proceeded to look for new homes through our Llew networks and regional bird dog clubs. We had a few applicants and [again] thought we chose the best one.
Two years later (December 2012), we got another call saying it wasn't working out because she and the owners' shorthair kept getting out of their yard, and the neighbors/landlord were complaining. Now, I help with a regional setter rescue aside from volunteering at a shelter, and with the former, when I'm contacted by someone looking to rehome/surrender, I try to offer options/resources to fix the problem behavior so the dog can stay with its family. I'll admit when I got this call, I was not about to encourage them to fix the problem-- I knew the only option was to get her back here with us asap. I'm glad I had them sign an adoption contract through us requiring they contact us in the event they couldn't keep her, rather than leave it to the first owner. The last thing I want is for any of our pups to end up in the shelter/rescue system--who wants to be part of that problem? Unless you are a breeder, I don't know if you can imagine how sick I felt getting that call--I felt so bad that she had to be uprooted again when I had wanted so badly that her 2nd home would be her last.... We're trying to make the best of it, though. Since she joined us in January, we've had her spayed (she'd previously had silent heats so her owners didn't see the need--I'm not about to mess around with mammary tumors again), chipped/vetted, worked on house training, worked on other manners/skills, and have even started some tricks. There are some issues to "fix," ie resource guarding from the other dogs and being comfortable around dogs on leashes. However, she is a very sweet, outgoing dog, who loves to snuggle and give sneak-attack kisses. Oh, how could I almost forget? Elsie loves, loves, loves food which makes her so easy to train. She reminds me a lot of her parents, so I'm actually grateful to be able to give her another chance at a happy life. There have been some small bumps along the road but not anything I haven't been prepared to handle.
Here are a few photos of my three here, taken in February, during and after some neighborhood walks. I don't take all three out at once anymore since Champ became leash reactive, and I've needed to work on him individually; however, when I did, I could hardly get over the cuteness of them going down the sidewalk in front of me. Oh, I've since put Elsie in a front clip harness... night and day difference with her pulling:
So now you've met Champ's housemates! If you made it this far, congrats! This post turned out a lot longer than I intended.... Have a great weekend! I'm spending the rest of mine studying for my Evidence final on Monday morning! Woo-hoo!