This is a personal weblog based on my life with Bernese Mountain Dogs. The opinions expressed here represent my own and and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of any clubs, organizations or committees that I may be associated with. Please feel free to comment on any post, but profane, abusive or rude comments will not be tolerated - please be polite, even if you disagree.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bosley's Guidebook: "How To Be A Good Nurse"

1.  Drag the Dog Bed Across the Room.

2. Gently Place the Bed On Top Of the Patient (i.e.  Maggie).

3.  Make Sure The Patient is Comfortable.

4.  Check In With The Supervisor (i.e. mom) to see if anything else needs to be done.

5.  Task Completed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Banana Splint

It was 10 days ago that Maggie got her splint put on.  On about day 3 of splint wearing, Maggie woke me up at about 3 in the morning because she was violently licking the top part of the bandages.  The licking continued all day so I took a peak under the bandages.  Under the bandages was a spot that was very raw and sore.  So I cut off the section of the bandage where the sore was and put some antibiotic cream on it and covered it with a sock.  It seemed to be a bit better and then a couple days ago the licking started again.  I didn't think all that licking was a good sign so I called to make an appointment with the vet (she was not scheduled for a bandage change for another week).  Good thing I made an appointment because when I got home from work, Maggie had got the sock off and was licking at her leg again and the sore that was nearly healed was looking very raw.

We went to our appointment and the vet took Maggie to the back to change her bandages and look at her leg.  He came back a while later to tell me that she had developed a couple pressure sores that were starting to get infected and one was bad enough that it needed a stitch in it. Poor Maggie!  

Maggie spent about 40 minutes laying on the examination table while they removed the pretty purple splint,  cleaned her sores, put in the stitch and re-splinted her leg.  Everyone commented on how well behaved she was during everything they did.  At first, I was not sure they were actually talking about my dog. Maggie well behaved !?!  But I went to the back and yup, there she was, laying nicely, letting them do their work.  The vet said that most dogs would need to be sedated to have all that work done to them.  Maggie was a very good patient. 

Maggie is now sporting a bright yellow "banana splint".  It is quite different from the first splint that she had.  The purple splint was a hard plastic shell that kept her foot from moving.  The yellow splint is soft (no plastic) and has a nice, soft layer of cottony stuff underneath to give the pressure sores a chance to heal.  She has to be much more careful with this splint as it is not allowed to get wet at all.  It will also come off a lot easier.  

This new splint must feel much better on Maggie's leg.  We came home from the vet, she ate her supper and went right to sleep without trying to lick at her leg at all.

Here is Maggie sleeping soundly (yes, she sleeps with her eyes open).  She didn't even wake up when I took her picture. 

We go back to the vet in one week to get her sores checked and to get her splint changed.  Hopefully everything heals up well and we have no more set backs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 - Picture Montage

A picture review of 2008 (not in any particular order):

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas ! ! !

Wishing everyone a Very Berner-ful  Christmas and a wonderful New Year.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Inspiring Video

Last weekend in California was the AKC Invitational, which included conformation, obedience and agility.  The top dogs in each breed and event are invited to compete.  Invited to the obedience trial was lady named Donna Rock and her doberman Annie.  This wonderful team have their AKC OTCH (which is similar to the CKC GMOTCH) and their agility MACH.  These are incredible feats within themselves and which only an elite group of dog/handler teams achieve (especially the OTCH).  What makes this team so incredible is that Donna has no arms.  Can you imagine training to an elite level of obedience or agility without ever using your arms? 


Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Splint

Maggie got her splint put on today, and she is not enjoying it at all.  I guess I wouldn't enjoy having to wear a splint either. 

 The vet tech did a very nice job of making her splint look pretty.  Notice the little toe hairs poking out the end?  I guess I should have trimmed her feet.

As an extra bonus, we got this lovely IV bag with gauze trim, to take home.  It is to put over Maggie's splint when she goes outside.  The splint needs to stay dry and clean.  With the 2 feet of snow that is in our yard right now, keeping it dry might be a challenge - even with the IV bag.

Here is Maggie expressing her opinion about what she thinks about wearing the splint.  I don't think the words coming out of her mouth are "Merry Christmas"!

Poor Maggie, she only has 6 more weeks of splint wearing to go.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good News

I finally heard back from the orthopedic surgeon today and for right now, he is not recommending surgery be done on Maggie's foot.  He feels that splinting the toe should be enough to have it heal correctly.  The surgeons at the Western Veterinary  Clinic in Calgary are some of the best vets in North America, so if he recommends a splint over surgery, I am good with that.  I am sure glad that I asked the vet here to send her x-rays to the specialist. Maggie has an appointment on Saturday to get the splint put on.  After that, it will need to be changed every week or so for 6 weeks.  I am sure she will not be happy to have to wear a splint and be on limited activity for  6 more weeks.  It will be worth it though, if at the end of the 6 weeks she is healed and back to normal.

6th Photo Challenge

I was tagged by Sarah to participate in the 6th Photo Challenge. 

Here is how it works:
Check your Photo Archives (or wherever  you store your images) then select the 6th folder, open it and post the 6th picture contained there, with the story behind it.

Here is my "6th " photo:

This is actually a picture from my "non-dog" life.  This picture is from my daughter's grade 12 graduation.  This photo was taken right after the Grand March.  Amy (in the red) is posing with her friend Tara.  Don't they look beautiful dressed up in their gowns?

I am now supposed to tag 6 people to continue this game.  Since most of the bloggers I know have already been tagged on this, anyone who wants to participate is officially "tagged".

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow Day

It is so cold outside that even the Mountain Dogs don't want to spend much time out there. Bosley had fun playing in the snow for a while yesterday and then he started complaining that his feet were cold, so we came back inside.  Maggie wishes she could play in the snow, but she is too sore to give it much effort.

"Not by the snow on my chinny, chin, chin"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

All I Want For Christmas is A New Toe

Wednesday night I sent the dogs outside for their last potty break before bed.  I called them back in the house and they both came racing inside.  Maggie came in the house holding up her back foot, but I didn't think too much about it at the time, thinking she just stubbed her toe or Bosley stepped on her.  The next morning she was still not putting any weight on that foot, so I took a better look at it.  The toe on the outside of her foot was very swollen and sore.  I gave her a few days of rest, but there was no improvement.  

Today I took her to the vet.  The vet looked at her foot and took some X-rays.  He called me to the back and showed me the X-rays and it was very obvious that her toe was broken.  The break is quite bad - it is broken at about a 45 degree angle and the bone is twisted so that there is no bone-to-bone contact at all.  In order for a break to heal, there must be bone-to-bone contact, so even if the vet put a cast on it, it would not fix the break.

The vet gave me three options:
1.  He can amputate the toe.  This is the easiest and least expensive treatment.
2.  The vet can surgically correct the break by putting a pin in the toe.
3.  I can take Maggie to Calgary to the orthopedic surgeon.  This would provide the best results but it will also cost the most.  The vet estimated that they would charge $1500 - $3000 to fix her foot.  He is sending them the x-rays to get a firm quote, so I will know in the next couple days how much it will actually cost.

At this point, I am really undecided what to do.  I am not sure if Maggie will be able to continue in agility missing a toe.  I am not sure I will be able to continue in agility after spending $3000 to fix her foot.  I need to decide fairly soon, as the longer I wait, the more difficult it will be to fix.

So it looks like this year for Christmas, Maggie is getting surgery (either losing a toe or gaining a metal pin) and I am getting a big credit card bill.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Forced Retrieve / Ear Pinch

A couple of days ago, I blogged about my struggles with teaching Bosley about Dumbbell work.  A couple of the comments on my comment page were asking how would an ear pinch work to teach a retrieve.  

I have not used this method, but I know that it is a very popular way for hunting enthusiasts and competitive obedience people to train a retrieve.  I cannot personally comment either way about the positives or negatives about using an "ear pinch" except to say that it is not the way that I choose to train.  I try to use mostly positive reinforcement in my training where as the "forced retrieve" uses negative reinforcement (something removed increases behavior).  The ear is pinched and when the dog holds the dumbbell the pinch is removed and as the operant conditioning theory suggests, the dog will be more likely to increase the frequency in which he holds the dumbbell in order to avoid the negative reinforcer (ear pinch).

Here is a link to an article that explains this method better: Ear Pinch

Thursday, December 11, 2008

These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Things . . .

We were tagged by Amanda who wanted us to list Maggie and Bosley's  favorite things.  So here are "Our Favorite Things":

1.  Food.  Not much explanation needed here.  Maggie and Bosley will do nearly anything to get the tiniest morsel of food.  I swear that if it came right down to it, they would solve calculus problems or conjugate verbs, just to get a treat.  (OK, well maybe not, but they do love their food).

2.  Kongs.  Every night the Kongs get filled with something yummy and then are put in the freezer. When the last person to leave the house in the morning is ready to go out the door, the dogs get their Kongs to enjoy.  

3.  Walks.  As soon as the leashes come out, the dogs go crazy with excitement.  I put on their leashes and they each grab the other's leash and drag each other around the house - growling and carrying on like they have not been out for a walk in months.  Once I finally gain some control, we head out - often to the amusement of our neighbours.

4.  Belly Rubs.  There is nothing better than a good belly rub (except for food and walks).

5.  Bully Sticks.  This is kinda in the "food" category, but they love them so much that they need their own number on the list.  When I ask "Do you want your sticks?", Bosley runs to the pantry door to wait.  I also keep a couple of Bully Sticks in the front closet so that I can give the dogs a stick when someone comes to the door.  The dogs think it is great that when the doorbell rings they get a stick, but it is really just to keep them from mauling our guests or the kids selling chocolate bars.  It also serves the purpose of giving people the false impression that Maggie and Bosley are actually well behaved dogs.  When guests arrive, what they see are two dogs laying nicely chewing on their sticks, rather than the two crazed dogs that fight each other to see who gets to greet the guest first [greeting = jumping on the guest(Maggie) or stealing the guest's shoe (Bosley) or crotch sniffing (Bosley)].  

6.  Being Loved.  Good food, a warm bed, cuddles and walks.  What else is there?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Little Bit of Progress.

I would really like to compete in Open Obedience with Bosley.  In order to do this, there is one major hurdle that we need to get over.  That big hurdle is the Dumbbell. The main part of open obedience, besides all the off-leash heeling, is dumbbell work. Bosley is not a natural retriever and I never really worked on retrieving when he was a baby (I will know better with my next puppy) so we are having to work extra hard now.  We actually haven't even got to the "retrieving" part yet, we are still working on getting Bosley to hold the dumbbell and think that the dumbbell "game" is great.  For the past 3 months we have slowly been doing a bit of dumbbell work nearly every day and it has been a struggle because Bosley does not like to hold the dumbbell at at - even when I spread peanut butter on it.  

I have had people tell me to use the "ear pinch" method to get Bosley to love his dumbbell.  I have been told that this method is a quick way to get a reliable dumbbell hold.  This may be true, but I just don't feel comfortable using this method.  So I have been using my other training skills and positive reinforcement to try to get Bosley interested in the Dumbbell.  All of our work is slowly starting to pay off.  Bosley is now holding the dumbbell with a firm grip (no rolling) and without trying to run off with it to use it as a chew toy.

We will now start building up the length of time that he can hold the dumbbell and then start back-chaining a retrieve.  I guess the good thing about the long Canadian winters is that you have lots of time to practice obedience when it is too cold or snowy to do anything outside.  Hopefully by the end of winter we will have something that looks kinda like a retrieve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cool Dog Site of The Day

Today we were chosen by Dogmark.net as the "Cool Dog Site of The Day".  

Thanks Dogmark!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Herding Lesson

Maggie "gettin' those sheep"!

Maggie getting some reassurance from Scott.

Bosley working the sheep.

"I wonder if a sheep tail would make a good tug toy?"
Thanks to Sarah for taking the great pictures.

Yesterday we went out to Scott and Jenny's for another herding lesson.  Both dogs were much calmer and they both got to be off-leash with the sheep.  Maggie was a little hesitant to chase them at first - perhaps she thought she would get in trouble - but soon she was making some nice circles around them.  She did get a little enthusiastic at times and would bite the sheep on the butts.  She also decided that barking at them would be fun.  Neither biting or barking is really allowed, but since she is just learning the very basics, Scott said that a little of each is OK for now.

Bosley was very calm with the sheep yesterday and would just trot along behind them.  He really has no clue what to do with them, but he does know what to do with  the sheep poo - eat it.  He spent much of his time hoovering up the sheep poo and checking out the sheep pen.  Hopefully he did enough exploring yesterday that the next time we go out, he will actually pay more attention to the sheep.

After we got home from herding lessons, I ironed some laundry (I actually ironed - amazing, I know) and the dogs had a nap.  I finished my ironing and I thought I would take the dogs for a walk.  When Maggie got up from her napping spot she had a very pronounced limp on her front.  At one point in her sheep herding, her legs went out from under her and she fell.  It seems that she must have pulled or strained something in her shoulder or front leg - although I do not feel any warm areas.  The limp gets better as she moves around, but it is quite bad when she first starts walking.  So, it seems as if Maggie will need a few days of rest. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Say Ahhh!

Weekend Agility Seminar

Maggie and I spent this weekend at a Kim Collins agility seminar.  This was part 3 of a 3 part seminar that started way back in January.  After the first seminar in January, I felt very overwhelmed with how much Maggie and I needed to work on.  

I thought that this session of the seminar was great.  We learned lots and got good feedback from Kim.  There were less people at this session, so maybe that made a difference.  We did lots of technical handling  on some very difficult courses, which I really enjoyed.  Kim showed me how to teach a 180 degree turn away from me, on a verbal cue only (I always used an arm cue, which is not the most effective) - which is very useful in a gamble situation as well as regular courses.  

There is one part of the weekend where your handling is critiqued by Kim.  In the January session, I think that I had "need to work on" comments for nearly every sequence in the handling course.  This weekend, Kim had some "needs to work on" comments, but there were also some "good" comments.  She even liked Maggie's weaves (she was super fast yesterday) and she liked how I handled the threadle and the 270.  

We were really challenged this weekend and learned so much, that I will need to go back and look at my notes to remember everything that we did. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Morning Run

Here are some pictures from this morning's run with Bosley.  Maggie didn't come along today because we are attending an agility seminar over the next two days and I figured she should save her energy for all the agility work she will be doing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding Inspiration

So, lately I have been wondering where my obedience training is going.  I have been thinking about and re-defining the obedience goals that I have or want to have for myself and my dogs.  It used to be easy - earn some Rally titles and put a CD title on both of my dogs.  Now, both dogs are 1 "Q" away from their Rally Advanced titles and Bosley earned his CD title way earlier than I had expected. With Maggie, I have been struggling with "ring issues".  Both my dogs are young, and hopefully, I have many competitive obedience years with them.   

I would love to put a CDX on Bosley.  A title in Open Obedience seems so illusive; but then again, when I was just starting to train in Obedience, a Novice title seemed the same way.  I would also like to work towards Bosley's Rally Obedience RAE title.  Now that we are almost done his Advanced title, his Excellent title seems very attainable.  An RAE title is much more challenging and will take quite a while as your dog must qualify 10 times in both the Advanced B class and the Excellent B class at the same trial. 

For Maggie, I want her to love the ring as much as she loves practice.  I think that she is totally capable of earning all her Rally titles as well as a CD title.  

As I was trying to find some obedience inspiration, I came upon some great "training rules" that Sue Ailsby has on her website.  These are my favorite (with a * beside the ones I like the most):
**Don't be afraid, just do it.

You must be physically and mentally comfortable to teach.
The student must be physically and mentally comfortable to learn.

Be aware of your own tendency to blame.
Be aware of your own tendency to punish.

**Never allow other people to set your priorities.

It isn't about whispering.  It's about speaking clearly with your body and mind and then listening to the answers.

It is not my job to control the animal.  It is the animal's job to control herself.
It is my job to put the animal in a situation where she can learn what I want her to know as quickly and easily as possible. 

Rewards are defined by the student, not the teacher.
Learning is defined by the student, not the teacher.

**Work where the animal is, not where you expect her to be or where she "should" be.

The leash is to keep the animal from getting hit by a truck, not to control, punish or teach.

Give the animal a chance to think.

**"My dog won't..." and "My dog can't..." should be followed either by an alarm bell or a training plan.

It's all tricks, relax.
**Sit back and enjoy the ride.

To read the complete list of Sue Ailsby's training rules here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Day In The Life Of An Agility Trial

A Typical Agility Trial Day:

4:00 am - Wake up. Feed and Potty Dogs.  Shower and Get Dressed.
5:00 am - On the Road.
7:30 am - Arrive at Trial Site.  Check In.  Unload Car.
8:30-ish am - My First Run Of the Day.
8:30-ish am until 6:30-ish pm - watch runs, cheer on friends, discuss dogs and agility stuff, hope for a couple of good runs, and do a lot of waiting around.  In between all that, you get to have your couple minutes of time in the ring having fun with your dog.                
6:30 pm - Load up car.
6:45 pm - On the Road.
9:15 pm - Arrive Home.  Feed and Potty Dogs.
9:30 pm - Go To Bed

That is a fairly typical day at an agility trial.  Since I live in a city that requires travel to any dog event, a lot of time is spent driving and sometimes staying in hotels if I am at a trial for more than one day.  This weekend was no exception.  A day trip to Calgary on Saturday for an agility trial.

The last trial I was at, I came home very frustrated.  Maggie was slow and uninterested that entire day.  Yesterday, the only thing that I wanted from her, was to have fun.  I tried to keep her out of her crate as much as possible during the day.  She gets depressed when she has to stay in her crate all day.  I also took Bosley along and I would play with him right before Maggie's runs to try to get her more excited to be out with me.  Guess what?  Maggie had fun the entire day.  She stayed excited the whole day, even into her last run.  She did not knock any bars or miss any contacts (ETA - I just re-watched the video and I forgot that she missed her teeter contact - twice!  She is usually so careful on the teeter.)  She had one set of weaves that was super fast, but she popped the last pole.  I tried to make her correct it and she back-weaved with lots of enthusiasm, so I left it at that.  I did not want to press the issue with the weaves - I just want her to do them happily at a trial.  We had no "Q"s because of a few little errors, but I was very happy with Maggie the whole day.  Here is a video of a few highlights from our runs.

There is also a video of Bosley at his agility debut!  I entered Bosley FEO (for exhibition only) in one run yesterday - because of Bosley's size, I am still not jumping him at his full jump height yet, so he just jumped 16" at the trial.  I entered him in a Gamblers run just to see how he would do at an agility trial.  He did great, especially considering he had never been in the arena before and it was filled with new smells and new people.  He was very excited to be out there and even gave the weaves a good try.  His body is so long that if he gets going fast, he skips a pole in the middle.  I just wanted him to go out and have fun, which he did.  To top it all off, he even got the closing gamble in his run.  I am very excited to start trialling him more, but I do think that we will have some start line issues and there is always the issue of him just wanting to take all his favorite obstacles, which are not necessarily the ones that he is supposed to take.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


We finally got the first snowfall of the season.  Not a lot of snow, but enough to leave some white stuff on the ground for the dogs to play in.  

One of Bosley's footprints.

It was hard to get a good picture of Bosley in the snow.  All he wanted to do was to eat it.  

Maggie had fun playing with the ball in the snow.

As she pushed it around, the ball started to turn into a snowball.

Now that winter is officially here, it is back to wiping off dirty feet and brushing off snowy dogs before they are allowed back in the house (and on the newly cleaned carpets).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Howl-een

Some people are very creative when it comes to dressing up their dogs for Halloween.  If you want to see some great dog costumes, click here and you will find some of the dressed up dogs at our Go! Dog Go! Halloween party.  Maggie and Bosley's costumes were not so creative.

Maggie dressed up as a Devil Dog.  I thought she looked very cute and since she is kinda bad, the costume is fitting.

Bosley dressed up as a Pumpkin Head.  He wasn't too impressed, but I thought he looked cute - as cute as a pumpkin.

Neither dog was very happy about having to wear their hat.

This piece of dry grass was much more interesting than posing for pictures.

Maggie had enough and knocked her hat off.

Bosley grabbed it and . . .

 . . . the fun began.

Maggie thought Bosley's hat should come off too.

Bosley took off with it - running around the yard.

"Catch me if you can!"

Maggie shows Bosley how it is done. "You must shake, shake, shake the hat".

"and shake it some more"

That about ended our Halloween picture taking session.  The Pumpkin Hat was destroyed with all the chasing and shaking.