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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Friday, January 20, 2017

Online Obedience Titles

The online dog training community has really taken off over the past few years.  There are a few online schools that are dedicated to providing quality dog training classes and there are many more individual instructors that also offer online training. I have been doing online training classes with Rundle since he was a little puppy. I have really enjoyed them - you get quality instruction and amazing individual feedback while training at your own pace and on your own time.

There has also been a growing number of online organizations that offer performance titles. There have been online trick dog titles and rally titles available for some time now. You send in a video of your performance and are scored based on predetermined criteria. Recently, the Fenzi Dog Sport Academy (where I have taken many online classes) added an obedience titling program.  Each level incorporates varying levels of difficulty of different exercises you will find in AKC obedience, stressing good foundation training.  For example, Level 1 includes scent discrimination out of 3 articles, position changes at a short distance, fronts and finishes, beginning go outs, and distraction/impulse control work, as well as other obedience behaviours. 

When I went through and read the requirements for Level 1, I was excited because this is all stuff that Rundle has been working on since he was a puppy. So I decided to give it a try and I registered Rundle and submitted a video. We got our results back and Rundle passed!  The judge was wonderful and gave us some nice comments on our exercises as well as some tips to be successful moving forward. 
Here is a link to the website that gives the exercise required for Level 1:
Fenzi Team Titles Level 1

Here is the video of Rundle passing his Level 1 Team Title.

I think Rundle has the skills to pass Level 2, so we will be working on that right away. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Story Of Green

When we were choosing our first Berner, Maggie, the breeder sent us photos and we chose the puppy we wanted from the pictures. (Reputable breeders generally do not use this method to match puppies to owners, but that is not what this post is about).  When Maggie came to us, she was wearing a green collar. Her breeder never referred to her as the "green collar" puppy, so we are not sure if she was always the "green puppy" or if the collar was put on just before she came home. It was really an insignificant detail at the time anyway. Her green collar got taken off and put in her puppy memory box and she got to wear a pretty "girl" collar.

Fast forward a year and a half and we went to pick up Bosley at his breeder's house. When we got there, we had no idea what puppy would be coming home with us, but his breeder had narrowed down her choice for us to 3 puppies - Mr. Sparkle, Mr. Black and Mr. Green.  After spending time with Wanda and the puppies, she thought Mr. Green would be the best puppy for us. So home we went with the the boy puppy wearing the the green collar.  It wasn't until later when I took off Bosley's puppy collar that I realized that both Maggie and Bosley came home with green collars. Funny.

When I was waiting for Rundle to be born, I really wanted a girl puppy.  There was only one girl puppy in the litter and so I told his breeder that I would also consider taking a boy, as I would rather have the puppy best suited to me, rather than a specific gender.  I was holding out hope that the girl puppy would be the one that was chosen for us, but Alison was certain that one of the boys was a good match and would be what I was looking for. Can you see where this is going?  The Green collar boy is who she chose. Right away I figured that it was meant to be, because ..... Green collar!

When I inquired about Eddie's litter, before they were even born, all the puppies were spoken for.  Then when the puppies were about 6 weeks old, I got an email asking if I was still interested in a puppy from the litter, as someone decided that it was not the right time for them to get a puppy.  A boy puppy was available.  Stacy didn't know which one because they were still too young to evaluate but there were four boy puppies in the litter.  I sure had my eye on the Green boy - he looked so sweet in the pictures and, well, he had a green collar.  I knew not to get my heart set on a puppy just based on the arbitrary color of his collar, as the choice wasn't mine to make. When I flew to pick up Eddie I knew who was getting the Red puppy, and the Yellow puppy had already gone home. That left Blue and Green. As soon as I got to Stacy's we went to the puppy room and she brought me my puppy - sweet little Blue collar boy. He was very cute and I was excited to be taking home this fun puppy, even if he didn't have a green collar. The new owner of Red boy and myself spent the afternoon in the puppy room and Green boy kept crawling in my lap and just curling up there. Such a sweetie he was and there were a couple jokes about how Green boy wanted to come home with me.  But, he was promised to a wonderful and experienced show/working home, and they were coming out the next morning and we would all be taking our puppies home.  The next morning came and Stacy came to pick me up from the hotel to go back to her place to get Blue boy's paperwork done and contracts signed. As soon as we started driving she told me she just got a call and the people who were supposed to take Green boy changed their minds. What!?!?!? I now was offered the opportunity to take Green boy home. I did not want the colour of a collar to rule my decision, so Stacy and I stacked the puppies and watched them move and talked about my goals for this puppy. I really didn't know what to do, as both puppies were nice. Then Stacy said if it were her choice she would chose Green boy.  So that is what I did and another Green collar puppy came home.

The green collars are most likely just a coincidence, but it's fun to ponder the idea that green collar puppies were meant for me :)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 - Start It Up!

It has been almost 2 years since I have posted anything on this blog. Many times I have thought about posting or started to post, but never did. No excuses, but once you fall out of the habit of doing something, it is hard to get back into the swing of things.  I miss writing here. It is a way to have a record of the things I have done with my dogs and a place to formulate my thoughts and goals. I do not share much on Facebook and definitely don't use Facebook as a place to post rants or controversial topics, but here I feel much more open to writing without worrying about setting off a firestorm.

Two years is a long time to try to play catch up, and I likely won't even try.  We lost Bosley to Histiocytic Sarcoma in the fall of 2015, which left a huge hole in our lives. Rundle was lost without him and started having some separation anxiety. It took a few months for him to settle and accept being the only dog. Then happier news last May when we welcomed a new Berner boy into our lives. Eddie came to us from Wagontale Bernese in Colorado.  He is nine months old now and a happy, fun, pushy teenage boy who loves to work. He comes from a long line of multi-titled working/performance dogs and has some amazing dogs in his pedigree.  Hopefully I can help him reach his potential.

Rundle has started to compete in agility and obedience (rally) and has really matured this past year. He has lots of good foundation skills in both obedience and agility and has started to figure out the whole competing thing. I have lofty goals for him this year - a CD, a CDX and Excellent titles in CKC agility and maybe more rally titles if we get to enough trials.  He is quite sensitive and stresses in crowded show environments, so I will need to choose our obedience venues carefully, as I don't want any setbacks after all the hard work we have done so far.

My goals on this blog are to write at least a couple times a week. I need a way to document my training and keep me on task. I am very good at procrastinating, but I find if I hold myself accountable by writing things down, I am much better at keeping up with my goals. So, here is to 2017 and new goals and keeping on track!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


The Berner-Garde Foundation is a health database for Bernese Mountain Dogs and I don't think that there is another breed of dog that has anything quite like it. It is free for everyone and all Berner owners and breeders are encouraged to enter their dogs and any health and pedigree information they may have. The database is a great tool to research pedigrees and health statistics.  It is also very useful for breeders looking for breeding or stud dogs. As well, it is a great tool for puppy buyers to research breeders and health clearances.  The Berner-Garde is such a useful tool for everyone in the breed.  Unfortunately, it is still very under utilized.  Some breeders and owners are wonderful and enter all their dogs' information, from health clearances, titles, health issues and the cause of death in all their dogs. Other breeders do not enter any information at all. Much of the information in the database comes from breeders or owners who submit their own information.  Information also comes from public sources like OFA, show catalogues, and CERF.  

The Berner-garde is maintained by a group of volunteers who enter all submitted data.  I am a BG volunteer and I am currently working on a big project entering all the information from the CKC stud books and the CKC Foreign Dog Registry into the database. The stud book information has not been entered for a few years so I am playing catchup.  The stud books list all the CKC registered litters, their sire, dam and breeder information.  It is a long process looking up each registered dog to see if they are already in the database and then entering the dog and litter information if they are not there.  This project is going to take me months to finish and I will probably get done just in time for the 2014 stud book to be released. When I am done, every litter registered in Canada should be entered. 

This project is sometimes a bit discouraging as I look at the sheer numbers of litters being produced in a year by a few of the high volume breeders in the country.  Females are being bred starting at a year old and bred on every heat cycle for years. I also see so many breeding dogs in the stud books with no cross reference to any health clearances in OFA.  When I first started working on this project I asked the lady who heads up the BG if she ever gets complaints from people about their information being added, as some of the data I am entering may not present some breeders in a very good light. But then there are the breeders who make my job so easy. They enter all information about their dogs and every litter they breed. There are some really wonderful breeders out there who do all they can to share information and support the BG. It would be nice if all breeders were so open - it would certainly go a long way to helping the breed as a whole.  

If you are a Bernese owner and have not entered your dogs' information in Berner-garde, please consider doing so. It only takes a few minutes on the Berner-garde website and all information is valuable.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Bosley and I have been doing ScentHurdle racing for a few years now and Rundle is just starting to learn the game. It is a fun sport to play and Bolsey loves it. The sport has really taken off in the last couple years, with many new teams in Alberta and some brand new teams in BC.  It is exciting to see the sport grow. Although it is a timed race and you want your team to win, everyone cheers for all teams, especially when a new dog makes their debut.  

ScentHurdle is a CKC Versatility event, meaning that although CKC recognizes the titles, it cannot be held at the same time as other CKC sanctioned events. So, we have to race after all other events at a dog show are done. This makes for some late nights, especially when lots of teams are entered. We recently got permission to run independent races that are not in conjunction with a CKC show. That is great news for the sport as it will give us more opportunity to race and allow more teams to enter.  The Canadian Scenthurdle Racing Association recently started to issue its own certificates.  If you want an official one from CKC, it costs money to get one, but the CSHRA ones are free! Bosley just got his from the title he earned last year - ScentHurdle Masters Dog, which means he had to earn 500 racing points, which is a lot of racing. As far as I know, Bosley is the only Bernese to have any ScentHurdle titles.  He loves playing the game and hopefully he will continue to want to play for a long time. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Look Before You Leap

I am in a couple of online pet groups where it is common for people to post that they have puppies for sale. What amazes me is that within minutes there are people offering to buy these puppies based on no more than a photo of a cute, fluffy puppy.  Deals are made without the buyer asking questions other than "how much?" or "do they come with shots?".  Some of these puppies are breeds that have a well know history of health and/or temperament issues, where serious questions should be asked before purchasing.  

There is a real lack of education in the pet puppy buying market, which is sad. When people go to buy a pet, they are generally looking for a nice, easy going dog that will be easy to train and will fit into everyday situations.  They want a puppy that is going to grow up to be a healthy dog and just a nice family pet.  Sometimes this is what happens, but based on how many dogs are surrendered to shelters or relegated to the backyard, this is not always the case. Puppy buying education would really help all these types issues. Finding a puppy that is suitable for your family involves more than picking a cute puppy from an Internet ad.  It should involve research to make sure your puppy comes from a caring, responsible breeder that is more concerned about producing healthy, sound puppies than making money. 

Bernese puppies seem to be an easy sell.  They are fluffy, extra cute and the breed is often noted as being laid back and a great family dog.  None of this is untrue. However, the breed comes with some serious health issues and as the popularity of the breed increases so do bad breeders.  Breeders who do not health test and who do not care what kind of temperaments they are producing.  I often have people looking for a Bernese puppy ask me to recommend breeders or they ask me about the reputation of a breeder they may be considering. I tell everyone the same thing - Do Your Research! There are many wonderful breeders that truely care about the breed and are doing all they can do to produce healthy, sound puppies.  Then there are breeders who are in the business of selling puppies. They cut corners where they can (little to no health testing and do not title dogs in anything).  They are good at telling puppy buyers what they want to hear to make a sale (selling and marketing puppies is their job) but can not always be counted on later when you actually need their help or advise. Uneducated puppy buyers are the backbone of these types of breeders business. They do not want puppy buyers doing their research, they just want to sell puppies.  

I was recently threatened and bullied by one of these types of breeders.  On a public forum I suggested that someone do more research before they decided to go with a particular breeder.  I did not tell them where or where not to buy a puppy, but in a private message I gave them the links to help them research further.  Well, this breeder did not like that I potentially lost her a sale and she was mad!! I know her threats were unfounded (being personal friends with lawyers comes in handy) but I obviously touched a nerve with her in regards to her breeding practices.  There is a reason that I recommend puppy buyers research breeders.  Do you really want a breeder who's only concern is that they may have lost a sale?  

I will not stop talking to people and trying to educate them about finding a puppy and breeder.  I know first hand the difference between buying from reputable, caring breeder and one that is just out to sell puppies.  And there is a big difference between the two.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Puppy Quest

A year ago I was anxiously waiting for a litter of puppies to be born. I was hoping there would be a little puppy in that litter who would be the perfect fit for our family.

Finding that specific litter of puppies was not easy. Although I do not breed or show, I am very involved in my breed.  I volunteer my time doing breed education, I write for our breed club newsletter and I am an active member of the breed club including holding a position on the club executive. I know many people in the breed and many breeders. I know what to look for in a reputable breeder and how to spot those red flags in those breeders who may not be so great.  Even with the contacts and knowledge I have, finding a puppy, and more importantly, a breeder is a daunting task. I can't imagine how someone new to the breed or buying their first purebred puppy feels. How do you find a good breeder?  How do you know if someone is reputable?  Should it matter?

My search for a breeder and puppy was complicated by what I do with my dogs. Since I am very active with my dogs in various activities, temperament and structure was at the top of my priority list. Agility especially is very hard on any dog, never mind a large breed, so I was looking for more moderate lines in terms of size. This size preference excluded many breeders that I admire and think are doing a wonderful job with their breeding programs as I personally would hesitate to do serious agility with a huge boned dog.  In general Bernese have wonderful temperaments, but there are some lines with some shyness (good breeders are very careful about breeding away from this trait) and there are some Berners that are too laid back for my personal preference as a performance dog.  This is where finding a good breeder comes into play. 

After much research and emailing, I finally found a breeder I was comfortable with who also had what I was looking for in terms of health, temperament and size (moderate but still within breed standard).  This is a breeder who has had Berners a long time and knows their lines inside and out. They were honest with me about their dogs' strengths and weaknesses. The most important things in their breeding program are health and temperament.  They do not skimp on health testing and only breed those dogs who pass all their clearances and who are sound in body and mind. This would be the most important thing for me, even if I wasn't looking for a puppy to be a future performance partner.  I also believe that Berners need to live with their family so I was only interested in a breeder who's dogs are family companions and do not live their lives in kennel runs or strictly outdoors. It is also important to me that puppies are raised as part of the household and grow up well socialized.  Puppies raised in kennels, barns or outdoors is not what I consider ideal.

Other reasons I was attracted to this breeder was their long time commitment to the breed and breed clubs. I strongly believe that if you are going to breed, you should be involved in your breed in some way beyond producing puppies. Not everyone is interested in being directly involved in club politics but if you are breeding you should be giving back to your breed in some form or another. Club events, organizing breed fun days, putting on carting clinics, being involved in rescue, mentoring new breeders, and the list goes on and on.  In my mind there is really no excuse to not be involved in your breed and breed club in some way.  I am always very suspicious of breeders who are not at least members of their breed club.  Breed clubs are a way for breeders to network and to expand their knowledge about the breed. Breed clubs also hold their breeder members accountable to minimum set of standards on health testing and the care of breeding dogs. If someone is breeding Berners and is not a breed club member (a CKC member does not count) I would really take a hard and honest look at why that is. Chances are it is because their breeding practices do not meet the requirements of the club.  Some breeders will have all kinds of excuses as to why they do not belong to a breed club - too political, club members are mean, they like to do their own thing - but really, all these are just that - excuses.  Reputable and responsible breeders want to be a part of the larger Berner community.

Another deciding factor in choosing the breeder I did was diet and vaccinations.  The litter that I was waiting for a puppy from was 6 generations raw fed and minimally vaccinated. Bernese have such fragile immune systems and so feeding fresh, raw foods and limiting exposure to vaccinations and other harmful chemicals only seems to make sense. Since I have already been feeding raw for many years as well as choosing titres over vaccinating, it was nice to find a breeder with a similar mindset. Actually, there are more and more Bernese breeders going this route, which is good to see, but having a breeder with many years of experience feeding raw (even before it became accepted) means that I get to benefit from that experience. 

One last reason that I chose the particular breeder I did was because of their experience with working their dogs. They knew exactly what temperament and drive would be best for the performance dog I wanted. Sometimes when breeders who are inexperienced with the working side of the breed know you are looking for an agility or performance dog they automatically think that the most active puppy will be the one best suited to that type of work. That is not necessarily true. A good breeder will know that there is much more to it and will choose a well structured, confident puppy who has a strong connection with people (desire to please) as well as some innate drive (toy, play).  This might not be the most active puppy in the group but likely it won't be the puppy who just lazes around either. Since this breeder knows her lines so well, she could predict the general outcome of the breeding she was doing in terms of how well these pups would do as performance dogs. She thought I would like this combination, and so far I haven't been disappointed. 

Although I put a lot of thought and research in finding a puppy suitable for what I wanted in my next dog, I would have done much the same if I was looking for a puppy that I had no interest in competing with. Health, temperament and finding the right breeder is important no matter if you are buying a pet puppy or are hoping to have the next star in the show ring. Everyone deserves to have a well bred puppy from a breeder who is committed to producing the best dogs she can and is doing everything possible to do this. These breeders are out there, although sometimes it can take perseverance to find one, and chances are you will not find one if you need a Bernese puppy tomorrow. But believe me, finding the right breeder, even if it means a bit of a wait, is worth it. 

Just over a year ago, 6 little puppies were born. One of them destined to be mine. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dogs Are Trying To Take Over The World

Really, dogs ARE trying to take over the world! Just go to any dog-type forum and you will see this.  I belong to a couple Berner forums - most of them I have quit because I got too annoyed so I left before I said something that would get me kicked off.  It seems like on a nearly daily basis someone is asking for advice because their dog is trying to be the "alpha".

 I actually just finished writing a response to someone with a four month old puppy who is biting and jumping because she is trying to be the "alpha". They even tried poking her like Cesar does but it didn't help, so she must really be trying to assert her dominance!  Oh brother!!  How about an overstimulated puppy that needs to learn self-control, manners and what is and isn't appropriate. Puppies bite and jump and have tantrums, that is part of being a puppy and it is our job to teach them what it is we want them to do. I was very nice in my response to the guy who wrote the post - you can catch more flies with honey, right?  Well, actually you can probably catch more flies with a big pile of dog crap, but, I would prefer not getting kicked off one of the only Berner forums that I can still tolerate.  You can be sure I didn't recommend rolling the puppy, or poking her or pinning her to the ground so she learns "her place in the pack".

There is so much good information out there about dog behaviour and training, I don't know why people are stuck on the outdated notion of the dominance theory. Especially when you have a Berner who tend to be gentle, willing to please and sometimes a bit sensitive. I don't know why this stuff bothers me so much. I guess because I couldn't imagine how terrified a little, impressionable puppy would feel if they were suddenly pinned to the ground by the person that was their world. It makes me sad.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Many people really struggle deciding when is the right time to retire their dog from agility (or any other demanding dog sport). It can be a tough decision especially in a sport that you and your dog really love.  Some people are forced into the decision if their dog becomes injured. Other people avoid the decision altogether and continue to compete with their dog long after their dog really should be, often covering up their dog's discomfort with meds so that he can make it through a training session or a weekend of competing. Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do and I really do think most people make the decision that is best for their dog, not just for them.

I decided to retire Bosley from agility last year. It was an easy decision.  He had accomplished more in agility then I ever imagined, being that he is a large, not-so-driven dog.  Although Bosley still liked training, his weakening pasterns had me concerned. Being a dog that weighs nearly 100 pounds, the strain of agility was taking its toll.  He never had any major injury, which is most likely due to his conditioning and that he is a well built, balanced dog. But, his pasterns had given him some trouble in the past and I decided to retire him rather than risk them getting worse or causing a more serious problem somewhere else on his body.

Bosley has not done any agility (except for a few jumps and tunnels in our yard) since early last summer. Since then, I have noticed that his pasterns are looking better and it no longer looks like he is walking with his pasterns on the ground. They are not the same as they were when he was young but they have improved a lot since he has not been jumping and straining them so much.

I am sure Bosley doesn't care that he is not doing agility anymore. He still has other things he is training in and as long as he gets his turn doing something, he is happy and content.  At the end of the day, that is all that really matters.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BIg Brother

Bosley has been an amazing big brother to Rundle. I wasn't sure how Bosley would adapt to his new role, but I think he is really enjoying it.  He is gentle with Rundle and now that Rundle has learned it is not nice to bite tails and ears, Bosley doesn't hide out on the bed or couch anymore.  The best thing is that Bosley actually plays!  Bosley has never been much into playing with other dogs.  Even in puppy kindergarten, when the other puppies were playing, he was wandering around the room trying to find treats that people dropped.  He played with Maggie on occasion, but she was so over-the-top in her playing style, that they didn't really mesh in the playing department.  Outside of our home, I think there has only been one dog that has ever really got him to play.  Bosley is just not into playing with other dogs.

Now that Rundle is here, that has changed!  Bosley actually plays - he plays tug, and chase and bitey face.  He is very tolerant of Rundle's playfulness and will usually join in when Rundle asks.  Bosley even asks Rundle to play by grabbing a toy and shoving it in Rundle's face.  It is very cute and makes my heart smile to see Bosley playing.  Bosley even played bowed to Rundle - this is something he has never done before, ever!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Gift

Sometimes we don't know that we have been given a gift or what that gift means until long after it has happened.

Last weekend our local kennel club held an obedience/rally only trial.  I was on the committee so it was a lot of work getting prepared for the show.  I don't really mind, I like obedience trials and although I wasn't entered, I was looking forward to it.

It is funny how things pop into your head at times.  I was on my lunch break from ring stewarding and was driving back to the show site.  Suddenly I remembered the last time I was in the obedience ring with Maggie.  It was just a couple months before she got noticeably sick.  She was so happy and cute in the ring - heeling with her cute bounce and tail wagging.  She won her class that day - not that I cared, I was just so thrilled to have a happy dog in the ring that day.

It had been the first time in 5 years that Maggie had seen an obedience ring.  Her very first time in the ring I was so nervous (it was my first time in the obedience ring too) that she decided something must be terribly wrong and that obedience was a very bad thing.  It took a huge break from training and then only training in bits and pieces to make Maggie think that obedience was fun again.   Having a sensitive dog means that you need to be careful about your own emotions and that was something that I didn't know the first time I took Maggie in the ring.  I should have waited until I was more confident.  I will always blame myself for shutting her down for all that time.

As I was driving back to the show site last weekend, I was thinking about all of this, getting very teary that I didn't give Maggie the chance she deserved.  Then it struck me.  Maggie forgave me.  She gave me the biggest gift that day and it was so much more than a blue ribbon.  She didn't shut down in the ring and was happy, smiling at me the entire time.  She even made the judge smile.  That was the biggest gift she could have given me and I wonder if she knew that it would be her last time in the ring, the last time competing with me.

hank You, Maggie.

Friday, May 31, 2013

New Addition

This week we welcomed a new addition to our house.  Meet . . . Rundle!

Playing Tug With The Camera Strap

Rundle is a cuddly, fun, freckly-faced little puppy who has made himself right at home.  He loves to play and thinks Bosley is the best buddy ever.  Bosley however, has a slightly different opinion of the entire matter.  Bosley has been very tolerant to having his tail chewed on, his paws nibbled and is extra tolerant of the puppy thinking he should nurse.  Puppies!  Bosley has discovered that the bed and couch are great places to stay out of the reach of those sharp puppy teeth.

Bosley Teaching Rundle To Share
So far Rundle has been so much fun, in that busy new puppy way.  He loves to play and chase and is a bit full of mischief.  He is learning about housetraining, puppy manners and playing tug.  Although it is a lot of work, it is fun having a puppy in the house again.

Bosley Showing Rundle The Importance Of A Good Nap
Rundle even has his own blog.  I decided to start a training blog so I can keep track of our progress as Rundle learns all the new things that puppies must know, plus training for hopeful future performance events.
Here is the link to Rundle's blog:  Raising Rundle

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Agility Time

Tomorrow we go back to agility class.  We have not done any agility since our ATChC in September.  That's a long time to be away but I really needed a break and I think Bosley needed a training break as well.  Also, our winter classes are held in a horse arena. It is dirty and dusty and I spend 3 days after being in there coughing, so I decided not to do winter classes this year.

Now that we have our ATChC, I don't feel any real need to be working towards something agility related.  Yes, it is still fun and we will still trial a bit but I don't feel that bit of motivation that working towards a title brings.  I can work on post-ATChC titles, but with how little we trial it is unlikely we will get too far (but a Bronze Gamblers would be nice as that tends to be Bosley's best event).  I would really like to get an AgMCh in CKC agility, but considering there are so few CKC trials I don't know how realistic of a goal that is. I know it is possible if we work at it, we are half way there, but Bosley has had some trouble with his pasterns (no lameness, but they have gotten weak) and so I don't know if I want to jump him at CKC height.  Things to think about.

I am looking forward to going back to class.   I miss my agility friends and cheering everyone on, and seeing people and their dogs grow as a team.  I miss running with my dog and having him chase his bully stick around the course.  It is amazing how quick you lose touch with everyone and everything when you are away for a few months.  I was looking at the class layout for the week and I saw one of the skills we are supposed to practice is blind crosses.  Haha - we used to be threatened with having to put money in a "blind cross jar" if we did one of those!  I guess I was away for longer than I thought :)

Hopefully we don't suck too much tomorrow and we both remember what we are doing.  Regardless, it should be fun.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


This is another "catch up" post from last year.  

The very next weekend after our DDX test, we went to Medicine Hat for an agility trial.  We trialed very little in 2012 - only a few weekends and usually just one day weekends.  We trained in agility on and off over the spring and summer, but most of my concentration was going into training for draft.  

We entered 3 things each day in Medicine Hat.  Bosley only needed 2 qualifying runs for his ATCH - a Snooker and a Jumpers.  You always hope you get those last needed Qs, but I know not to get my hopes up too high. 

Saturday had an awesome Snooker course.  I knew it was totally do-able for Bosley.  We were going along good, only had a few more obstacles to go and I was feeling confident and then ... Bosley decided to practice his distance skills and take a jump that wasn't any where near our intended course. Tweet - off the course we went.  

Jumpers was the last run of the day -  I am never sure how we will do in jumpers because the times are usually very tight for us.  They have been a lot better since I dropped Bosley to veterans, but still, he needs to have a nice steady run in order for us to make time.  The course was tough (as all masters Jumpers courses are) and I wanted to get a but of extra oomph out of Bosley at the end of a long day.  So, I had a friend hold him near the start line and I went and hid.  I came back right as it was time to go to the line - I grabbed Bosley, who was super excited that I came back - dropped his leash and ran.  Bosley was perfect!  He got all the tight turns and the backside of the jump and I got all my crosses in where they needed to be.  We easily made time for our 4th masters jumpers Q and the last one needed towards our ATChC.

Sunday came and I grabbed the course map for Snooker.  My heart dropped - it was an awful Snooker layout - lots of distance and lots of tunnels.  Bolsey does not like tunnels and the really slow him down. I was doubtful we could do it.  Oh well, there are more trials, and we would give it our best shot.  Bosley ran great, tunnel after tunnel combination.  We were getting closer and closer to having enough points to qualify but I knew the timer was going to go at any second.  The timer buzzed and we left the course.  I was adding up our points in my head, still not sure if we made it.  I couldn't wait, so I asked the scribe for my score sheet and added them up.  We actually made it!  Bosley earned his ATChC!  

It took us 3 years from our first trial to our ATChC.  That may not be very impressive to most agility people, but we trial very little - only a handful of times a year.  Bosley is the 6th Berner to earn an ATChC and I believe he is only the second Berner male to earn this title.  I am very proud of my big boy and the things he does for me.  Bosley is a great partner, has taught me lots and I really couldn't ask for a better dog.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Test Day

Sorry - this is going to be a long and boring post about our DDX test last year.  I want to make sure I write it down so I don't forget the details of the day. I don't expect anyone to want to read all of this. 

We headed out late Friday morning to drive the 8 hours to Regina. If anyone has ever driven through southern Saskatchewan you will know this drive is, to but it mildly, boring. Not much to see but prairie and the further east you travel, the flatter and more boring the drive gets. Fortunately, the drive was uneventful and we arrived in Regina in the early evening, found our hotel and then took a drive to find the test site so I wouldn't be stressed trying to find it in the morning. I also wanted to get an idea of what kind of terrain we would be dealing with - I knew Bosley was well conditioned for any type of terrain, so I want worried about that, but it is nice to know what you might encounter at a test. The test site was at a private acreage and from the road I could, not see anything too daunting, but you never know what the judges will find as obstacles. There were lots of trees and a pond all surrounded by farmers fields. I could not see anything really challenging in the way of steep hills, but I could not see everything from the road - so I would have to wait until the morning to see what challenges the judges set up.

The next morning we headed to the test site to set up and get ready. There was lots of shade for the dogs and everyone there was friendly (as draft people tend to be). Bosley got to share his x-pen with his Berner cousin Sophie who was entered in the DD test.  Equipment check went well and we had lots of time to inspect the load and to figure out the best way to secure it in our cart. The test load was money!  Pennies actually. 2012 was the last year that the penny would be made in Canada and to celebrate going penniless, the test committee had bags of pennies as the weight. Luckily, the pennies were packed nicely in the boxes that they come in from the bank so the load was stable and easy to secure.  It was time for the test to begin. 

The DD dogs went first with their basic control exercises then it was my turn to do the ring cart manouvers. I got Bosley ready and we went into the ring. I'm sure all the judges and spectators thought we were going to fail right then and there. Bosley pulled me into to ring, was sniffing and not paying any attention to me at all. Not a great start. One judge even said "don't let him pee on anything".  I got his attention took off his leash and put him in a stand stay to go get his harness. Once Bosley realized his cart was there he settled down and was ready to work. I harnessed him and we walked to the cart where I hitched him up. So far so good. The judge did their inspection and we were ready for the exercises. There were lots of people sitting around the outside of the ring talking and as soon as we were ready to go the entire place went quiet. I could feel everyone watching us - no pressure there!  First was the backup - 4 feet and it must be perfectly straight.  Bosley has a strong backup and went back straight on our first try.  On to the beside the cart work.  The ring had several trees in it as obstacles and we negotiated the course well - I didn't expect any problems here.  Next was the behind the cart work.  We had been working so hard on this and it is a very daunting part of the test as this is where most DDX teams fail.  Bosley started strong as we headed into the first turns.  We then needed to pass though two pylons and then do a slow.  The slow was the weakest part of our behind the cart work.  I called "easy" and Bosley  didn't slow.  I called it again and he turned back to look at me and I thought he slowed but wasn't sure if the judges would think that he slowed enough.  On to another turn that took us between two trees - we made it thought them without bumping anything and then two more turns to finish.  Bosley went wide on the last turn and I had to really work to get him back on course.  That part of the test was done.  I felt good about everything except for the "slow".  

Next was the freight haul part of the test.  We loaded the cart and began the haul.  There was nothing significant for hills - a longish gradual incline and a small ditch that were no problem for Bosley as I had been making him do steep long hills and steep ditches in training.  There were a few tight spots in the trees that we needed to negotiate but overall the freight haul went well.

Last was the backpacking portion of the test.  By the time we got to this part of the test, it was later in the afternoon and hot.  Backpacking is not Bosley's strongest event and I was worried he would want to lay down since it was so hot or would pee on something (both are fails).  I put his pack and and loaded it and we were ready to go.  The backpacking portion of the test can be very challenging with major changes in terrain.  We started by walking through the farmer field and then down a gravel road. We then turned off the gravel road and down a ditch into what seemed to be an old pond.  There was very high grass (Bosley could not see over it) and the ground was uneven with thistles and low underbrush.  I tried to stomp down a path for Bosley so he wouldn't step on any thistles while keeping a close eye on him so he didn't try to pee on anything.  We then came up out of the grass onto another gravel road.  Bolsey kept trying to leave the road and head down the ditch on the other side.  I finally realized it was because there was a pond on the other side and he must have smelled the water and wanted to go get a drink.  We finally turned off the road and went into the trees (and shade).  We walked thought trees and long grass and then down a long stretch that was between the trees and the farmer's field.  We got to the end and turned around and walked back, cut through the trees again and then we headed back to the ring area.  We got back and I unloaded Bosley (hoping that he didn't lay down at the last minute), put his pack on the ground and we were done!

It was finally time for the awards.  The only thing I was unsure about was the "slow" during the behind the cart maneuvers.  The judges came out, gave their speeches and then were ready to announce the qualifiers.  Bosley was the only DDX dog competing and I was holding my breath.  We did it!  They called Bolsey's name!  I was so happy - we worked so hard and to pass on our first try was thrilling.  It was a long road and many, many hours of training to get there, so it was so rewarding to have all 3 judges pass us.  

So, now we just get to cart for fun!  Not that it wasn't fun before, but there are no more tests for us to enter.  There are brace draft tests, but when you do not have a second carting dog, it is hard to use and train someone else's dogs and I'm not sure Bosley would appreciate being hitched to a cart with someone else.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Easter Berner

Happy Easter from the cutest (and most tolerant) Easter Berner!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012.  The memory of certain days will stay in my mind forever.  November 12, 2012 is one of those days. November 12, 2012 is the day we said our final goodbyes to Maggie.

It was about a year ago when I noticed Maggie seemed to be drinking a bit more water than usual. Then she had an accident in the house. She hadn't had an accident since she was a puppy so I knew something was wrong. A trip to the vet revealed she had an infection and after a couple days on antibiotics she seemed normal again. We finished the antibiotics and everything seemed good. A couple weeks later, the same symptoms appeared again.  Another trip to the vet and more antibiotics but this time I asked for blood work to be done. The blood work came back with high Creatinine and BUN levels.  They were more than three times as high as normal. The vet did an ultrasound and found significant scarring on both kidneys. To try to bring those values down, Maggie spent a week at the clinic getting IV fluids to try to flush her kidneys and bring those levels down. It helped a bit, but not as much as we hoped. At this point she was eating okay and seemed very normal but it didn't take long and her appetite started to go downhill. I cooked her special kidney friendly meals but when she didn't want to eat them I would give her anything she wanted just to keep her eating. Much of my days revolved around finding things that Maggie would eat - what was good one day, she turned her nose up at the next.  Scrambled eggs, roast chicken, A&W hamburgers, steak.  Anything Maggie would eat, she would get.

To try to keep Maggie's kidneys working as well as they could, I was giving her sub-Q fluids at home. A litre every day. She was such a good girl about the whole thing and would lay on the couch and get her treatment.  I am certain the sub-Q fluid treatments were a big factor in keeping Maggie's kidney levels stable - they kept her hydrated and took stress off her already damaged kidneys. Unfortunately, it didn't work forever and her values started to creep up and she began to get too weak to have the quality of life that she deserved. It was a very hard thing to see - her mind was still active and her eyes still bright but her body was too weak to go on.

November 12, 2012 we had to say good-bye.

Friday, March 22, 2013


If anyone actually checks this blog, you will have noticed that you couldn't access it. I am still here but made my blog private for a while because there are some crazy people out there. I may elaborate more on that later, but then again the crazies are still out there, so maybe not. So for now, all comments will be moderated before being posted to the blog.

I am planning on updating the blog on a more regular basis. I have some posts in the works - some good, some not good.  So hopefully I will have a new post tomorrow or maybe even later today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quest For A DDX

I decided this spring that I was going to be ready for a Draft Dog Excellent test in the fall.  A lofty goal indeed, as I had never seen a complete DDX test and wasn't too sure what to expect.  All I knew that it is a tough test with a very low pass rate.  There is also a huge intimidation factor (at least for me) surrounding the DDX - you hear all kinds of horror stories about the courses set by the judges and what is expected.  And then there is the whole "handling from behind the cart" that fails many, many teams.  Intimidating indeed.

I started my training by going to an informal training session where a couple of experienced draft people (judges) were willing to answer my million questions.  The rule book is vague in many spots, so I wanted lots of clarification of what was and was not allowed in a test.  I also wanted some help on getting started with the behind the cart stuff.  I got some good advise and tips and went home ready to train.  Most of my training concentrated on 3 things - behind the cart work, conditioning and backpacking.

Behind the cart work:  We practiced this every day that we were out with the cart.  I won't lie - it was hard.  I used a target and a clicker to get started, but I really wanted to fade the target quickly.  In the beginning the whole thing was a disaster.  Getting Bosley to walk ahead in a straight line was the hardest - he really just wanted to make a big circle so that he could get back beside me.  So baby steps with this - clicking a rewarding for just walking a couple steps in a straight line.  I took a trick from agility distance training and would throw a container of goodies in front of him to reward him going straight ahead.  Once Bosley had some confidence that he could actually work in front of me, I started adding in the turns.  Another disaster.  Once he started the turn he wouldn't stop until he was back beside me again.  Patience is the name of the game in draft training, good thing I have lots of it.  So, I decided to use Bosley's strengths to help with our training (duh).  Bosley has an awesome halt with his cart, which is a huge advantage when doing draft work.  I started using his "whoa" before and after all turns and it worked - things actually started to come together.  It was a bit choppy, but it was getting there.  Good enough for a test?  I didn't know.

Conditioning:  This is a huge factor in draft work.  In a test, you never know what the terrain or conditions will be like, so you need to prepare for anything.  We would alternate days of hard hill/strength work with days of longer endurance work, always with a loaded cart.  By test day, Bosley was easily pulling 80 pounds up and down steep hills, through ditches and over rough terrain.

Backpacking:  The dreaded backpacking.  When we started training, Bosley hated the backpack.  I put it on and he didn't think he could walk.  Poor boy.  But once we started hiking more with it, he got used to it.  He never did learn to love wearing it and every time I increased the weight (he needed to pack 16 pounds for the test) he would walk like he would sink into the ground at any second.  The good thing is that I always kept cookies in his backpack, so he knew he would get a treat when we were done and that really kept him motivated.

Five months of training finally came down to the test weekend.  I was feeling OK going into the test but still unsure of what to expect.  I am the only one of my local dog training friends that does carting work, so I had no feed back on how I was doing or what I could do to improve.  I just had to trust that my dog understood his job and that I trained him the best I could.  So, all that was left was to pack the car and head off to the test.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blogger Fail

Wow, it has been over a year since I have last blogged.  That doesn't mean that nothing has happened for the past year, it just means I have been very neglectful about writing about anything.  For various reasons, I stopped posting, then once I got out of the habit it was hard to get started again.  I am going to try to blog on a more regular basis - hopefully I can get back into the swing of things.

Since I have a year of catch-up to do, I think I will start with what is going on right now, and then work my way back through the events of the past year.

Bosley and I reached some big goals this past summer and so now he is on a training vacation.  We have been doing bits and pieces of obedience work, but for the most part we are just going on walks, cuddling on the couch and taking a well deserved break.  At first it was odd not to be training daily and then it was kind of nice to just kick back and relax but for the past couple weeks Bosley has been letting me know that he is about done with break time.  He is always looking for ways to engage me - which usually means that he will retrieve anything he can find (shoes, hats, toys, my pajamas) and bring the item to me in hopes of a game of play or a cookie.  Mental breaks are good and hopefully he is just as enthusiastic when we get back into the full swing of training in the next couple weeks.

Since we accomplished a couple of our big goals, I now have some new goals in mind that should keep us busy for a while.  I don't want to over-do my first blog post in a year, so I will write about those goals in another post.  I also need to blog about the details of our recent accomplishments, but that will be for another day as well.  Hey, I haven't blogged in a long time, so I need to stretch things out :)