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Sporting dogs require continuous training

| Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dear Dog Talk: I just read the article about the Weimaraner puppy that was acquired by the 76-year-old woman. I have a 1-year-old Weimaraner. To say that they are "active" is an understatement. Nevertheless, is it worth it• More than I can express.

Isabella is a great addition to this family of five. I have three young girls, and the past 10 months of puppyhood has been difficult, to say the least. However, I gave the puppy a lot of time in the beginning and worked with a trainer who came to my house. The trainer was adamant that the puppy knew what to do. I was the one who needed to be trained -- on how to communicate with her. The trainer is from Greensburg and was worth every penny I paid him. I am glad I did the training early, because now we have a well-trained dog.

Isabella loves to run, and fortunately we have the space for that. My husband and I enjoy running, too, and she is always ready to go with us. I definitely see a major difference in her when she has not been out to run. We also have neighborhood boys who hit baseballs for her, and she fetches them. All of this is helpful in getting her energy out!

The breeder whom I got Isabella from would not sell her to me unless I had enough yard space for her to play. At first I thought that was silly but now truly understand why. I wish the lady with the Weimaraner the best of luck.

Dear Owner With Lots Of Energy: Wow, three kids and a Weimaraner. You are a busy lady. I have often said that I will never underestimate the ability of any individual as a dog owner. Nevertheless, I'll stick to my opinion in the original column that a Weimaraner puppy is a lot of work for a senior citizen.

I do agree with you that the Weimaraner is typically a great dog. I'm a big fan of almost all of the sporting breeds. All it takes to turn one of these "bird dogs" into a great family pet is putting the time in with obedience training and getting the puppy on a schedule of regular exercise.

For the past 15 months I have been practicing what I preach with my 17-month-old field-bred black Labrador retriever, Sophie. The first year that I had Sophie, obedience training sessions and time to run and play were our daily routine.

Now, for the most part, I reinforce her obedience training by using it in everyday living. However, we still go into town and have formal training sessions once or twice a week.

Two or three times a week Sophie gets a three-hour beach hike, which includes fetching a coconut (the size of her head!) out of the ocean 30 or 40 times. On days that we don't get to the beach I take her to a field for exercise. I sometimes bring a tennis racket and hit about 40 tennis balls for her to fetch. Or I throw a Frisbee until my arm is ready fall off. Sophie needs exercise at least five or six days each week. My fishing skills have deteriorated terribly since I've gotten this puppy.

As I told the Weimaraner lady's daughter, when I'm 76 years old, I'm getting a Chihuahua!

Dear Dog Talk: Oh no! Our secret is out. You weren't supposed to tell anyone how wonderful Cavalier King Charles spaniels are!

I am writing to you from San Diego, Calif., and am the proud owner of two Cavalier King Charles spaniels. I just read your letter to the reader interested in getting a bichon frise.

All kidding aside, I am so grateful to you for mentioning the cost and the potential health problems of these wonderful little dogs. About 50 percent of all Cavaliers will have some degree of heart valve disease by the time they are 5 years old, and 90 percent will have it by the time they are 10 years old.

Although Cavaliers are great little dogs, they do sometimes come with a lot of other potential health problems. My 18-month-old puppy has had surgery on her knee for a slipping kneecap, and my 2 1/2-year-old dog just had his upper jawbone removed due to cancer.

I want people to be aware that if they can't afford to care for these animals, they really shouldn't get one. I really encourage people to research this breed for both health and cost issues. It is very easy to get seriously attached to these wonderful little dogs -- like I am!

Dear California Cavalier Fan: Thanks for taking the time to write and sharing more information on Cavalier King Charles spaniels. You're right that it is easy to get attached. It is also heartbreaking and costly when pets have serious health issues. It's always wise to research breeds before becoming committed to a dog.

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