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, March 29, 2009


I was not going to blog about this until I knew more, but . . . 

Maggie had surgery this morning. 

 About 6 weeks ago, I found two tiny lumps on her belly.  I had the vet look at them when we were in for one of her splint changes.  He didn't seem too concerned and said that they were too small to do the needle biopsy that I asked to be done.   The little lumps seemed to be getting bigger and they were really bothering me, so I had them looked at again by a different vet.  This vet is fairly certain that the lumps are mammary tissue and that they should be removed and sent away for a histopathological examination.  During the surgery, she found a third lump that was just starting to develop.  The risk of mammary cancer in dogs that have been spayed before their first heat is very low, but, Bernese have an alarmingly high rate of cancer overall, so I am worried.  We will have the pathology tests back in about a week.

The Results Are In

The official 2008 CKC agility results are posted and Maggie is the #3 Bernese Mountain Dog for 2008.  She had 7 qualifying runs for 684 points, which is great considering we only made it to two CKC trials last year.  The 2nd place dog (Tonka) also had 7 'Q', but he had 700 points.  

I am hoping to get Maggie to at least 2 more CKC trials this year.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Digs!

I finally broke down and got an X-pen for the dogs.  I ordered it from Costco.ca and it was delivered yesterday.  It took me a long time to order it because I wasn't sure if the one on the Costco website would be big enough.  It is perfect.  Both dogs can easily fit and I think it is tall enough that they won't try to jump out.  It should be perfect for taking to outdoor trials.

The only problem is, I don't think it will fit in my car :0

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Look Ma . . .

. . . no more bandages!!!!!

Last night before I went to bed, I took Maggie's bandages off.  They were starting to come off anyway because she has been pulling at them, so I thought I would take them off for good.  I gave her foot a good washing, but it is still very discolored.  Now we can start the process of getting her back in shape.  
Maggie just had her first walk in over 3 months.  We just went down the street to the mailbox, but she thought it was great!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Best Agility Class Ever

If Bosley could talk, he would say that last night's agility class was "the best class ever"!  I am looking for different ways to motivate/reward Bosley - ones that will get him really excited.  Last night, after he had a very successful run through the weaves, he got to have a bully stick (his most favorite treat in the world) as a reward.  I think that his eyes almost popped out of his head when he realized that it was for him.  After that surprise reward, his energy seemed to pick up and he tried really hard the rest of the class.  At the end of his very last weaving sequence, I threw his goody container (filled with canned dog food) and he got to eat it all.  I hope that the surprise of the bully stick and the big jackpot at the end of class will be very motivating for him.  I don't want to use the "big" rewards too often, or else they will not have the impact that I want.  I do want to provide varied rewards so that he is always wondering when something extra good is coming.   

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Windy Walk

Today was another very windy day in Southern Alberta.  I really dislike walking when it is windy, but when you have dogs, you just have to suck it up and get out there.  I figured since the day was not the nicest, I would head out to one of my favorite trails.  At least if I can't enjoy the weather, I can enjoy I good hike in the coulees and some nice scenery.

Here is Bosley enjoying the wind in his face.

A cactus making an appearance now that the snow is almost gone.

A view of the river and the coulee hills.

A nice look at the trail through the coulees.

An odd place for this sign, since this hill is not steep at all.

There are lots of stairs to climb on this trail.  It makes for a good workout.

A nice, blue Alberta sky.

A very happy pooch!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Balancing a Big Berner Butt

Bosley needs to learn the dogwalk this spring.  Actually, he has done the dogwalk many times, and he loves it.  Bosley's issue with the dogwalk is that he runs across as fast as he can go (he thinks the dogwalk is fun) but his feet go every which way and he sometimes falls off.  Watching my 100 pound dog crash off the dogwalk nearly makes my heart stop.  It is for that reason that I have avoided having Bosley do the dogwalk.  Bosley will be ready to compete in agility soon, and so he needs to learn how not to fall off and I need to learn not to stress about him falling off (Bosley has the easier end of the deal).  I have been working on more rear-end awareness with Bosley.  We played this game lots when he was younger, so he knows the drill:  keep your front paws on the bucket and walk around the bucket by moving your back paws.

Now I am making the game more challenging for him.  Stand on the bucket with all four paws.

Turn in circles on top of the bucket, keeping all four paws on it.  Bosley is starting to get this game too.  These tight turns are difficult for him, but he is trying hard.  Right now he can only take a couple steps at a time, but it's a start.

To give a bit of perspective on how easy it is for Bosley to slip off the dogwalk, here is Bosley standing with all four feet on the bucket.  The bucket is about 14 inches in diameter; a dogwalk is 12" wide.  He needs to run across a board that is 2 inches narrower than the bucket he is standing on.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Foot

Tonight we went out for a while, and when we got back home, Maggie had pulled at her bandages and they were hanging half off her foot.  I took off her bandages and was very impressed with how much better her foot looks.  Actually, the first thing that I noticed was the smell - there was none.  When I did her bandage changes when she had her splint on, her foot stunk enough to make me gag. 

 Her foot is looking so good now, but her nails really need to be trimmed.

Here is a comparison of the broken foot with the good foot.  Her broken foot still looks so tiny and squished up.

This side of her foot looks great.  This is the toe that was broken.

A close-up of the worst of the pressure sores.  This is where her dew claw would have been before she had it removed as a newborn pup.  The pressure sore in this spot was so bad that it need to have stitches put in it.  It looks great now, just a little red.  If you look closely, you will see red patches under all the white fur.  This entire side of her foot was covered with sores at some point.

If you look at the large middle pad of Maggie's foot, you will see a small, dark circle with a pinkish center.   At one point, Maggie had a very bad sore here too.  It had a large indentation and was completely pink.  You can barely notice it now.  There were pressure sores in-between all of her pads (where the dark brown fur is) but they are totally healed now.

Without the bandages on, Maggie is walking with just the slightest limp - you can barely notice it.  I was worried that she would be left with a permanent limp, but the more she is using her foot, the less she is limping.  Only one more week and the bandages can come off for good.

Poor Maggie, I can only imagine how sore her foot was through all of this. Depite being in pain,  she was always good about having her splint changed and would run into the vet office every time we went, very excited to see everyone.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weaves and Wieners

Last night's agility class was very fun.  We worked lots on weaves and I really tried to see how far I could push Bosley when it comes to independent weaving.  I worked on lateral distance, sending him ahead of me, and me racing ahead of him.  I was quite impressed with his weave work.  When I raced him through the poles, I expected him to pop, but he didn't.  He did however, really speed up, but he never missed a pole.  I am getting good lateral distance with him now, and his entrances are getting more consistent, so I don't need to baby him on that.  When I stay behind without moving while he is going through the poles, he will sometimes stop to see where I am, but is generally driving ahead through the weaves.  Now I need to start working on harder weave entrances.

The second half of agility class we worked on building speed, obstacle discrimination and our "turn" command.  One thing that Bosley needs to work on is his speed.  He is not built to be a speedy dog, but I know that he can run fast when he wants.  Last night, I had brought turkey wieners to class to use as treats, so I ran the sequences waving a whole wiener in front of Bosley.  It looked hilarious, but it did make him run faster.

Bosley is still not generalizing the turn command and will not "turn" off of a contact.  

Monday, March 9, 2009


I was finally brave enough to add up all of Maggie's vet bills relating to her broken toe.  We had charges for: x-rays, recall visits, splint/bandage changes, stitches and antibiotics. 
 The grand total: $1655.20!

If I hadn't started to do my own bandage changes, it would have been at least another $400 higher.  I was charged $85.86 (discounted price) for each bandage change.  To buy my own supplies and change it myself, cost me $6.00.

Pet insurance sure sounds like a good idea.  

Limping and Tuggy

Maggie has been doing very well with leaving her bandages alone.  She only needed to wear the cone on Saturday, and since then has not been bothering with licking or biting her foot at all.  She has however, been limping quite a bit.  I am hoping that all the muscles and tendons just need time to stretch out.  She spent 11 weeks with a splint on and so for 11 weeks her foot was positioned like a ballerina - with her toes pointed straight down - not a natural position for a dog's foot.  I have been massaging and stretching her leg and foot, so I hope that will help.  She could really use hydro-therapy treatments or something similar - too bad the treatment centres are all so far away.

Bosley's toy drive training is going very well.  As soon as I say "where is your tuggy?"  he starts hopping up and down and runs to the drawer where tuggy is hiding.  I am now letting him tug on the toy, and he has never tugged so hard or growled so much.  It takes all my strength to hold on to tuggie when Bosley is tugging so hard. He is loving it!  

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cone Head

Maggie is back from her visit to the vet.  He did more X-rays (which I was not expecting to have done).   He said he saw a blurry spot on the X-ray which could mean she had a bone infection and said that she should go on a strong antibiotic and keep her splint on longer.  He could tell I was not happy about that because I was fully expecting her splint to come off today. He looked at the X-rays for a long time and gave her toe a good examination.  His final verdict was that she did not have a bone infection (no swelling or soreness) and that her splint could come off as long as I make sure she has limited activity for the next 2 weeks and then slowly get back to her regular routine. 

 Maggie still has light bandages on her foot to protect the sores and to remind her to take it easy.  She really wants to lick at her foot, now that her toes are exposed, so she got sent home with a cone for her head.  Needless to say, Maggie is not too thrilled about the whole cone head thing.

Here is Maggie's foot.  We can finally see her toes again.  The pads of her foot are very soft, just like when she was a puppy.  The fur on the bottom of her feet is usually white, but it has turned a brown color because it was trapped inside an airless splint for so long.

Bosley, being the helpful dog he is, wanted to help out Maggie and her "cone head" problem.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This Week

So far this week, we haven't slacked off too much (yet).  Tuesday, Bosley had his agility class.  I have been working hard to teach him to turn 180 degrees away from me on a verbal cue only.  I thought he was doing pretty darn good, until class.  When we practice on the flat, he immediately turns his head and front half of his body in the right direction, but as Amanda pointed out, he does not follow through with the rest of his body without a physical cue from me.  That should be easy to fix - I just need to hold my position until he is fully turned away from me and moving in the opposite direction.  Bosley is also not generalizing this concept well at all.  We moved from working on the flat to asking for the "turn" behavior off of a contact.  Bosley just stared at me when I said "turn" as he was standing at the end of the dogwalk.  Hmmm.

Last night we had our obedience/rally class.  His heeling was pretty good, but I need to work on more drive (as usual) and I am trying to get tighter "about turns".  Bosley has a tendancy to have a "puppy sit", and I decided I don't want this anymore.  So from now on, I will only reward nice, straight sits.  

This week I have been working on building toy drive with Bosley.  I am following Susan Garrett's "building toy drive" plan on her website.  I took a fun tug toy and put it in the drawer of a table in my livingroom.  A couple times a day, I ask Bosley where his toy is (in a excited voice) and then run to the drawer, pull out the toy and then throw it around while cheering and showing him how much fun it is to play with the toy (I don't let him have it).  I know I must look ridiculous, I know I feel ridiculous, but I am trying to get him excited about the toy.  As soon as he is really excited (barking and jumping) and really wants the toy, I put the toy away.  I think he is getting the idea, because as soon as I walk towards the drawer, he runs and tries to get into it before I do.  Last night, he was very excited and jumped to get the toy and I ended up with 2 big scratch marks down my face.  Today we progress to Bosley being able to touch the toy briefly.  I hope this method helps with his toy drive a bit.

If this weekend's weather is nice, I hope to get Bosley out to the park to practice some obedience with more distractions.

P.S.  Maggie says "2 more sleeps until I get rid of this stupid splint"!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Slacking Off

This week, I kinda slacked off in the dog training department.  My sister was in town visiting, so I skipped out of both agility practice and obedience practice.  The week wasn't a total training loss though.  Bosley practiced his retrieves.  He is very enthusiastic about his dumbbell now.  I am starting to teach him a front with the dumbbell, but I am still keeping it seperate from the actual retrieve.  So far, so good.   I did a bit of heeling with Maggie.  Now that she is wearing a lighter splint, she can actually do a straight sit.  She was very happy to be "working" again.

Even without formal training, the dogs had a busy week.
Bosley decided that he liked his Kong so much, that he would try hatching it to make more Kongs.

He gave up pretty quickly after realizing that hatching Kongs is not very comfortable.  He will just wait to get more from the store.

Bosley decided that playing with the re-useable shopping bag was much more fun that waiting for a Kong to hatch.

Maggie spent the week counting down the days until she finally gets rid of the stupid splint.  She did try to beat up Bosley a couple times this week.  She took it easy on him, but just gave him a little reminder of what things will be like once she gets back on all four feet again.

This week, I practiced taking pictures with the new camera lens that I got for Christmas.  I really need to take some camera lessons so that I know what I am doing.  

This is a really cool looking tree that is near my house.  Even though the lighting is really bad (too bad I didn't know how to use my camera better)  I still like how this picture turned out.