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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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).