"FINA" Junior Water Dog

By Peg Thomas (October 2012)

My first opportunities to see Portuguese Water Dogs began back in 1985. I was very curious about these marvelous dogs and wondered how and what work they did on the Portuguese fishing boats. I needed to see for myself what the PWD were capable of doing in the water. My quest beganů Brisa was born in 1986 and in the fall of that year, I welcomed her into my home. She was an energetic and curious pup, and very eager to learn. At this time, there was not a PWDCA Water Trial in place, so we spent a lot of time working on various tasks to see what the dogs could actually do.

Many generations and years later, Fina arrived. Like Brisa, Fina was energetic and curious and "sometimes" eager to learn. As a young puppy, she was fearless in and out of the water, but by the following year, Fina had become much more cautious about swimming. Her swimming technique really needed perfecting as she was so excited about the water that she splashed and flailed around in the water like a fish without fins!!! Jumping into the water, as she approached swimming depth, her front legs would come right up out of the water! This was a not going to work! I tried several different ways to help her, and finally the "Noodle" worked! I made a floating "TuTu" out of a swimming pool noodle and Fina wore it around her waist. It kept her rear up, helped her learn to engage her rear quarters for swimming, and the front feet stayed in the water (this swimming technique was much more efficient). During the warmer summer days, I set up a kiddy pool in the back yard and started tossing bits of hot dogs in very shallow water. Next, more water and toys! Soon Fina was retrieving in the water!

Distractions are ALWAYS a challenge. Fina needed to train in different places with other things going on. At first, I simply rewarded Fina for paying attention to me. Gradually, as the distractions were not so overwhelming to Fina, I began asking her for behaviors that she already knew at home. Soon she was retrieving in new places.

Crooked Lake Park is more than 50 miles from our home. During the middle of the summer, it was not unusual for me to get up at 4 a.m. and arrive at the water trial site by 7 a.m. The park is quiet then and it is great to train there before the families with kids and dogs arrive. Fina loves to train and wants to please (most of the time). She gets really goofy at the water and she can be very entertaining. I love to watch the "uninhibited" Fina splash around and be "full of herself."

Fina is my little Superstar and we are so happy to have passed the Junior Water Dog level this year. Now on to Apprentice and Working!!!