Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Black Labrador Portrait Painting Birthday Surprise

I'd like to share my latest dog portrait commission. Here is Hobie - RIP. She was a rescue dog who taught her family about the special love of a Labrador. This black Labrador Retriever portrait painting was commission by a dog-loving husband as a birthday present surprise for his wife. She doesn't know it yet and I am excited to find out how she likes it next month after her birthday. It has been a very sneaky undertaking conspired by husband, daughter, and other family members. I sure hope she loves it!!

I did her background a little differently than usual. Client wanted a woodsy background, but I found the detail too distracting and it competed with Hobie - the center of interest. So, I took artistic privilege and changed it to this medley of greens. Still has an outdoorsy feel, but not the distraction of unimportant elements. I like to keep my artwork simple and straight-forward. I guess that's the Lab in me! Happily, client loves it and I am pleased with the outcome as well. Now we will just have to keep mum and hope for a great and happy surprise on the big day! Good-bye sweet Hobie. It was nice to spend time with you, but now I have to send you home.

For your own custom dog portrait painting contact me and send pictures of your doggy model.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fun Dog Tips - Training Your Retriever to Deliver to Hand

I regularly see people who throw balls or sticks for their dogs and the dog happily gets the item, but does not give it back or drops it on the ground and encourages the person to pick it up. I figure I am not the retriever, the dog is! There are times when delivering to hand is essential, so I like to make it a habit for my Labs. We particularly enjoy playing ball with a chuck-it (since I throw like a girl at best!).

Here is my quick training tip: Think of the retrieve in "reverse". Instead of "you throw the ball and the dog brings it back and gives it to you" make it be "the dog gives you the ball, you throw it and the dog brings it back". So don't throw the first ball with the chuck-it. Drop it on the ground and encourage the dog to pick it up and deliver it to your hand. The reward is that you load the chuck-it and throw. Dog runs out, gets it, runs back - has a great time. The only way dog can have that fun again is if he hands you the ball. Turn and start to walk away if dog runs off or drops it on the ground (as in "game over"). I use body language to explain "sorry, I can't reach that and won't chase you. The only way to get me to throw it again is if you help by handing me the ball." This works well for my Labs and keeps them very enthusiastic and happy. It also teaches them to always deliver to hand. Throwing a stick or ball at my feet will not work. That's a pattern my naughty husband gets into when he plays with our Labs and I have to "untrain". This is my pain-free remedy. It gives me dogs that work to put items in my hand even when I am not offering. The only bad part? Sometimes my dogs insist on handing me road-kill frogs or wet, dead shrews, or ... But that is why we teach "drop it" - a different cue altogether. Have fun training your dog. It can be a joy for both of you! (This article was written by Amy Reges, copyright protected - despite what it might say where ever you find it after someone else has stolen it and claimed it as their own. Been finding my posts copied and pasted all over without credit or permission. Come on people - write your own!)

Pictured: OtterTail Labrador Retriever - Marius very proud of himself with his big red ball.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Black Lab Rescue Foster Dog - February 2010

Meet Brandon aka Brandy. He joined the OtterTail Labrador pack two weeks ago as our first foster dog for 2010. Brandon is a puppy in a big dog suit. It seems he and his brother spent their puppyhoods in an owner's basement or tied outside. By the time they were turning a year old they were big, unruly kids and the owner finally realized they needed training. She did not work with them long before deciding they were too much and they were left at a boarding kennel with instructions to find them a new home. With no further payments for their stay this pair of boys were indeed lucky that the kennel operators are kind-hearted and allowed them both to stay for free until rescue group fosters could be found and transport arranged. The rash of snow storms along the east coast delayed the boys' trip from Georgia to New York for four weeks, but they finally made it.

Brandon has learned a lot since he joined us and he is really getting with the program now. He is a typical Lab teenager, big on the outside and silly on the inside. With us he is getting basic obedience lessons as well as learning general manners and that cats are not for chasing. He is doing great on all counts! It appears he was a thief in his previous home, but being so young he is not committed to it. Yesterday on our walk I unknowingly dropped my hat. When I looked to Brandy he had found it and was carrying it up our hill. As I praised and encouraged him he looked totally nonplussed. "But, I'm stealing this" you could almost hear him say. He started to veer in another direction so I called him with a happy voice and encouraged him to me. Once he arrived I had a whole handful of treats ready and made a quick exchange prying my hat from his mouth before he could think about it too long. He didn't intend to bring it or give it to me, but it worked. He was "good by accident" and earned a great reward. Sometimes those seized opportunities give dogs the greatest lessons and lead to big steps in training progress. From the first day I have only called him to come when he is already on his way so that I was sure he would respond correctly and it would be a fun experience for him. Now he is developing a happy, reliable recall. All in all I think Brandy is a sweet boy who will make someone a very devoted and loving pet if they are willing to continue his training and give him the affection he so enjoys. Keep your fingers crossed that Brandon finds a wonderful forever home soon and can truly begin the new life he deserves.

Remember that a portion of sales on designated OtterTail Labrador prints and products is donated to Lab rescue. Shop for great Labrador Retriever clothing and gifts or original Labrador paintings and support Labs in need.