Activities For Descendants of St. John's Water Dogs

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Introduction

St. John’s Water Dogs were originally developed on the coast of Newfoundland along with the larger Newfoundland breed dogs and were often referred to as Lesser Newfoundland dogs. While the last member of this breed passed away in the 1980s, the St. John's Water Dog has left an indelible mark on the canine community by being the common ancestor to most retrieving type dogs including the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the Golden Retriever, and even the Labrador Retriever. They, like their ancestors, are hardy, athletic, and willing to please breeds that love the water. 

Swimming

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Any Day
Moderate
Easy
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Fetch Toy
Life Jacket
Activity description

The St. John's Water Dog developed in Newfoundland not as a gun dog or specifically as a retriever of birds, although they could handle that chore readily enough, but instead as an assistant to the fisherman who worked along the coast. Not only did these dogs guard the boats and keep the fishermen company, but they were tireless swimmers who swam long distances in order to retrieve fishing lines and nets of fish for their masters. They even had webbed feet to help them swim, a trait that they passed down to several of their descendants including the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Labrador Retriever. 

Step
1
Find a place to swim
If your dog has never been swimming before, it may be best to seek out an indoor swimming pool designed with canines in mind. While there is a small fee to use a canine swimming pool, these facilities usually employ people that are trained at introducing canines to the water and while most retrievers will take naturally to the water, some may initially be frightened of the unusual sensations. Unlike swimming at a natural body of water an indoor pool is also climate controlled and generally free of toxins, dangerous wildlife, and certain types of bacteria. If you choose to find an outdoor area to swim in, it is important to choose an area with clear, non-stagnant water and to read the posted signs and be aware of the local wildlife, including reptiles and insects, and to thoroughly rinse off your dog afterward.
Step
2
Introductions
In most cases, introducing the descendants of St. John’s Water Dogs to the water is a fairly simple affair, but it is important not to assume that they will instantly take to swimming. Unproven and weaker swimmers should be provided with a properly fitting canine lifevest to protect them from drowning, particularly in natural settings where unexpected currents may surprise even the strongest swimmers. At most indoor facilities, a member of the staff who is trained in water introductions will likely be on hand, but outdoors or in a personal swimming pool, it will be your responsibility. It is best to enter the water before your dog and gently guide the dog into the water using persistence and praise. Never force your dog into the water or throw treats or toys into the water until your pup is comfortable and confident in the water.
Step
3
Splash time!
Once your buddy is comfortable with how the water feels and has learned a little bit about how to navigate, its time to play! In many cases, the activity of swimming is the reward and many dogs will happily splash along with no other goal in mind, while others prefer to play fetch in the water, repeatedly retrieving floating toys. While most of these dogs have a great deal of stamina in the water, they are still capable of over-extending themselves and should be supervised at all times when they are swimming. If your dog happens to be the social type, some canine indoor pools even host group swim sessions, where several dogs swim and play together.
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Therapy Training

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Any Day
Moderate
Hard
2 - 4 hrs
Items needed
Patience
Time
Certification
Kindness
Activity description

Therapy dogs are dogs that visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and even the site of  tragedies to provide comfort and unconditional love to people in need. Many of the breeds that are descended from the St. John’s Water dog are well suited to this type of work, and while it takes many years to train a service dog, a suitable therapy dog can be trained for their first therapy visits in just a few months, although earning the AKC therapy titles can take a little bit longer as a certain number of visits is required for each tier. If you feel your dog has the right personality for this work it can be a very fulfilling position for both you and your dog. 

Step
1
Socialize
The first step in preparing your dog for a life of therapy work is getting them used to as many different situations as possible. It is important to introduce them not only to new and different people and to a great deal of handling, but also to new objects, sounds, smells, and surfaces, so that they can remain calm and comforting under any circumstance.
Step
2
Training
Along with the extensive socialization that is required in order to create an unflappable therapy dog, they are required to earn an AKC Canine Good Citizen title as well as learning crucial behaviors, such as loose lead walking, not jumping on people uninvited, and essential commands such as look and leave it. Once these qualifications have been met, you can enroll your canine in a therapy dog class that will help prepare your pooch for visits and will provide an evaluation at the end of the course to ensure your dog is well-suited to the job.
Step
3
Register and visit
Register your dog with one of the several National Therapy Dog organizations in order to receive insurance, advice, and support as you begin your new journey. You can find and arrange places to visit through these organizations and your dog can gain more advance therapy certifications as they get more successful visits under their belts.
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Dock Diving

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Dock on water source
Target to jump after
Activity description

Dock jumping is a fairly new sport for dogs that first appeared at the Incredible Dog Challenge in 1997 and has since grown, with many differing Dock Dog groups as well as several dock dog jumping competitions in the United States each year. This competition, in which dogs run to the end of a thirty-five to forty foot dock and jump off in pursuit of a target, is an attempt to spur the dog on to make either the longest or highest jump in the competition. This high-flying activity is perfect for the powerful, water-loving descendants of the St. John’s Water Dog.

Step
1
Learn to swim
While most of the descendants of the St. John’s Water dogs are likely to take naturally take to the water this is not always the case. Ensure that your dog is comfortable and confident swimming in a deep pool before you try and entice them to jump off the dock after the target.
Step
2
Teach the target
The next step is to teach your dog what the target is. Depending on the type of dock diving you are doing, the target will either be suspended over the pool at a certain distance, or it will be thrown in by the dog’s handler to be retrieved. While it is not required to catch the target, the targets help to provide the incentive to get the dogs to push themselves just a little bit harder.
Step
3
Compete!
Dock diving competitions are held all over the world and most are either free or have just a modest cost to enter. Joining a dock diving club can help you to build contacts and find new and fun venues to compete in as well as getting great advice from veterans of the sport of dock diving.
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More Fun Ideas...

Fetch

Retrieving breeds love to retrieve and that is all a game of fetch is, endless retrieving. Although there are exceptions to the rule, most of the living descendants of the St.Johns Water dog will play fetch from dawn until dusk.

Freestyle Canine Dance

Most of the Retriever breeds are both highly athletic and eager to please. This, combined with natural showmanship and an optimistic outlook, make them well-suited to performance sports like freestyle canine dance. Remember though that retrieving breeds are often prone to hip dysplasia so it may be a good idea to limit the dance moves that could strain those particular joints.

Conclusion

The St. John's Water Dogs were athletic and outgoing canines with an intense drive to please their masters. While the St. John's Water Dog is now an extinct breed, their water-loving and hard working spirit lives on in the hearts of the breeds that came after them. The activities listed here should help to keep their descendants happy, healthy, and busy.