Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dog Blood Donor

Over the holidays I applied for Lexis to be a blood donor through the Blood Donor Program at the University of Guelph.

We live close to the OVC and Lex fits their requirements perfectly. She's the right breed, size, age and she's friendly and healthy. The OVC replied to my application saying they have a waiting list but are keeping our application and we may be contacted in the future.

If we are contacted I will need more information before going through with it. Lex is very active and I will be trialing her starting next year, I would not want her in danger and am curious if this would affect her training. She's also intact and I have no intention of spaying her at this time, I would need to confirm that isn't a problem.

I found out about this program a few years ago when I had a foster in their clinic for an emergency. A dog blood donor was not something I ever would have thought about before then, but it's obviously needed. It's been on my mind since but none of my dogs have fit their criteria until now.

Have a look for a dog blood donor program in your area and see if your dog is eligible to help. Blood can save a dog's life... it could save YOUR dog's life.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas toy review - Orbee Ball

My dogs love the Planet Dog Orbee World Balls, this time I bought the one that glows in the dark.

So far the glow lasts a reasonable amount of time, great for playing in the park at night if you have a flashlight to recharge it.

If allowed, Bullet will pick the world off an Orbee ball before ripping the rest of it to shreds. Overall this takes him a while so I agree with it's chew-o-meter rating of "5 out of 5 chompers". Not indestructible but tough.

One thing I have to watch out for with this ball is the extreme bounce. Bullet is crazy and will leap up to catch it in the air. I can't release him until it's dead for his own safety. The last thing I want is him breaking his leg or ripping ligaments from his contorted acrobatic freestyle routine.

Dogs love to chew this ball. It's soft and makes a wonderful squishy sound when filled with slobber. Some would never allow this behaviour with a Schutzhund dog, convinced it encourages a chewy grip. Others feel that how a dog enjoys a toy reward is unrelated to how it will behave on a sleeve. Right now I'm gravitating towards the "never allow this behaviour" camp. I strongly believe that if you have a dog with chewing tendencies letting them practice it can't help but create a bad habit. After saying that I do bring it out occasionally because the dogs really do love it.

Some of the heavier solid balls can be dangerous, but this one is soft and safe for the teeth, so if caught in the air there is no danger of a tooth getting damaged or the dog getting hurt if smashed in the face.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Because I can.

I recently changed the spelling of Lexus to Lexis. The fact Lexus is a car name bothered me. Really, really bothered me.

Don't worry, I consulted Lex about this change and she shoved her Kong in my face. (We've determined that means she's happy with the new spelling.)

Not only is it a nicer looking word, it also works better for future "A Lexis on Fire" posts - when she earns a new title.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beschützer German Shepherds

When my friend asked me to design a logo for her kennel she had a few specific requests. She wanted it modeled after a picture I took years ago of her female, Arlie. (Arlie is Lex's dam) She also wanted flames incorporated next to the kennel name.

Sketching brought me closer to a solution and I was really excited with where my pens were taking me. Usually I work-up multiple designs but this concept would be time-consuming to execute properly and I was that confident she would like it. If not, I'd go back to the drawing board and keep this drawing for myself.

Combining the flames with Arlie running gave my friend all she asked for. It captured the power and speed of the breed, mirrored the complex flame-like patterns of the GSD coat and accurately portrayed the spirit of a working dog.

My friend recently started a blog of her own, check it out: Beschützer GSD. As she is French Canadian some of her posts will be in french.

Beschützer is a German word that roughly translated means defender, guardian, heroic champion.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

God loves a Terrier

God loves a Terrier is the best song from one of my favorite mocumentaries "Best in Show". Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara rock!

If you have ever shown a dog and haven't seen this movie go and rent it. Now if you have never been involved in the world of dog shows you may not like the movie and find it over-the-top stupid. But that's what makes it so funny – the characters aren't that far off real life. Sad but true!

Enjoy the preview:

I love this quote by Buck Laughlin (played by Fred Willard) for obvious reasons:
"That's my favorite, the Miniature Schnauzer. You think they'd wanna breed them bigger wouldn't ya, like grapefruits or watermelons."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear Neighbour,

First off, I hope this letter finds your family in good health and that you are ready for Christmas. Did you get your children everything they asked for this year?

Now what about your dogs? You know, those two creatures you accepted full responsibility for when you brought them into your life? Forget about buying them a gift for under the tree, what they want most will cost you nothing. They are trying desperately to communicate their wishes but you seem to need a translation, so here it is. My Christmas gift to you.

The barking 24/7 means:

I'm lonely. I'm bored. I want nothing more than to be with you. Let me inside!

The scratching at the door means:

I'm lonely. I'm bored. I want nothing more than to be with you. Let me inside!

The whining means:
I'm lonely. I'm bored. I want nothing more than to be with you. Let me inside!

I try to understand your reasoning. Why do you even have dogs when you ignore their existence?

Do you have them for protection?
Neither of your dogs could or would do anything to protect your home or family in their back-yard prison. Get an alarm system.

Do you have them as lawn ornaments?
Buy a statue, your yard will look much better and you will save the minute a day you currently must spend feeding and watering them.

Do you have them for the children?

If that is the case let the dogs play with them! And socialize that Mennonite Mongrel puppy, because if he continues down the path he's on, with his poor temperament and lack of socialization skills I deem him most likely to bite a child. If this does in fact happen, I want to you know that it will be 100% your fault, but unfortunately the dog will pay the price for your stupidity. I can only pray the price it pays will be a new home where he will be a part of the family, but that is unlikely.

I have to ask... What happened to your last dog?

Did she lose her puppy appeal? Did she grow to large? Were the craters she was digging in your back yard bothering you? Did she escape and get hit by a car? Did someone complain about her barking?

She had an excellent temperament you know, happy-go-lucky and able to entertain herself. She was great with the children, but maybe you didn't see that? When you yelled at her for getting in the way she didn't take it personally and went back to amusing herself. This is much better than the puppy you are raising now but it could be that you don't recognize the signs. Your current puppy desperately needs to get out into the world. He needs to be handled and socialized, you aren't going to be as lucky with him as you were with her, this I guarantee.

Maybe you really don't know and I'm expecting too much from you. Let me help you out:
People don't like listening to your dog's mournful cries day after day. It's disrespectful to everyone around your home, not to mention to the dogs themselves.

So what do your dogs want most this Christmas? To be a part of your family and your best friend. You'll find that by giving this one gift of friendship you'll receive it back a hundredfold. Try it. You'll like it.

Sincerely yours,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tracking on white

Tracking on fresh, deep snow isn't something I'd do often, but it's fun to see how the dogs handle it. Sometimes you are surprised at how things play out. That is one of the things I love most about tracking, you never know what's going to happen next.

Bullet tracked with his usual speed and intensity. When you can see your track you can make it more challenging since you don't need to rely on your memory of where you laid it. This track had a lot of corners, serpentines and I used a cross track I found as a proofing exercise. The first time I crossed it he made the wrong decision, a small correction got him back and he was more thoughtful on his discrimination the next time. He didn't make the same mistake twice. I also ran my track parallel to it and he aced that test.

Their noses stayed deep and while you'd think they'd eyeball the track I didn't see that happening with either dog.

Lex has been doing great with her articles so I was surprised when she walked right over the leather in the snow. She didn't even hesitate. No big deal, I chose to bring her back, platz her and reward her "indication". Yes, she didn't find it, but I truly don't think it registered as an article in her head and I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt in a situation like that. She's still a new tracker. I didn't want to ignore the article she missed but I didn't want to correct it either. I chose to reward as if she'd found it herself. She had no problem after that although I had to give up looking for one that got completely covered:

I know it was down there somewhere!

Lex still has food in nearly every footstep so in this snow I placed it in the heel of my print so it was not visible to her on the white. Bullet only ever gets food after an article indication so him looking for food on the track is a non-issue.

After tracking we had some fun in the snow:

Bullet heeling with Kevin... Kev had his ball so Bullet threw himself into the "sweet spot" to get it. He knows how to work a situation to get his reward.

Kevin getting ready to release Lex for her toy:

More snow than toy in that grab.


Catching snowflakes on her tongue.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


If a Giant Schnauzer were a punctuation symbol, they would be the exclamation mark.

They love to emphasise all endings with power and wonderment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Group shot attempts

Last year around this time:

This year:

Much better!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Competition-focused action movies are often romanticized. The basic screenplay might go something like this:

- Introduction of the main character.

- A conflict brings in the arch nemesis, showing you the challenge that can't be ignored.

- There is then the scramble to find the best reluctant/retired/injured/old master trainer and persuade him to help.

- Training begins.

- An unforeseen obstacle causes them to fail in training and give up.

- They then drag themselves out of the muddy pit they've wallowed in, regroup and take everything more seriously, with incredible intensity, usually in an unrealistic amount of time. This is where you see training in horrible conditions, working through pain, with dramatic music in the background. Everything is in fast-forward.

- The main event starts off well but then things become really challenging. They fall down, break a bone, nearly die! But does that stop them? Almost. But their training kicks into gear and they tear their eyes from the light to fight. And win!!! They accept their trophy broken but victorious.

- The end.

There are no award-winning screenplays or fast-forward buttons in Schutzhund. No shortcuts. No adrenaline pumping, inspirational soundtrack pushing your every step. Real life isn't romantic. Schutzhund takes a lot of forethought and dedication as training a dog to a SchH3 takes years. It can often be incredibly boring... Driving long hours to your club. Watching a track age. Waiting for your minutes on the field with the decoy. There are times you stand in the pouring rain or bone-chilling winter winds for hours. You will get filthy. A hand will be at the wrong place at the wrong time and end up bloody. Your dog will get injured. You will eventually get knocked off your feet and land hard.

If you don't enjoy the journey you won't last in the sport of Schutzhund. Each time I declare I'm quitting Kevin just laughs, he knows me too well. You see, I'm always quitting, but more importantly I'm never serious about it. Well, RARELY serious about it, and then it's not for long.

Schutzhund has shown me how a sun rises on the horizon and filters through rising mist. I've smiled at killdeer providing cross tracks right in front of a dog's nose. Enjoyed being alone in a field, quiet but for the frozen grass crunching underfoot with my breath crystallizing before my eyes.

Because of Schutzhund I've traveled nearly every road in Southern Ontario. Friendships have flourished where neither age nor profession matter – we are all equal on the training field.

The satisfaction is great when I can walk 33 feet behind my dog as he pinpoints with his nose exactly where someone walked over an hour beforehand. When I can complete an entire obedience pattern confident my dog is happily in position by my side. When I hear the loud thunk of him hitting the sleeve with a powerful, full grip and see him take the decoy down.

Turns out Schutzhund might be romantic after all. And very worth it. And so I continue striving towards my goals, one training day at a time.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Training 2010

With November half over and Christmas approaching I'm internally reviewing 2010 and planning for 2011. It won't be long until white flakes hit and stick in great numbers.

For me, training in 2010 has been amazing. And frustrating. And extremely rewarding. And irritatingly bang-your-head-here hard. Every year I glean more experience and catch a glimpse of how much I still have to learn. I'm thankful for my friends, helpers and my dogs.


There are a lot of exercises to teach a Schutzhund dog and it's easy to ask too much of them, especially with young dogs. Winter is a perfect time to let their training percolate. What they've learned in 2010 will not be forgotten but eagerly recalled once training starts again. Time is our friend. Even if we love our job we never refuse a vacation.


Play = Work = Play, but even play can slip into a monotonous routine. As humans we often fall into patterns without realizing it. We get bored and I truly believe our dogs do too if we are not careful to add variety to our training and be thoughtful in our rewards. A great solution can be as simple as switching gears and doing something different, even for a little while. Take the pack out to free-play in the snow. Cross train. Our Canadian winters give us a natural break for introspection - to analyze ourselves, our dog and our goals.

That's what I plan to do very soon. Along with some good old hibernation. Then watch out 2011, I'll be ready for you!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's official

Lexus is mine, I received her CKC registration in the mail today so that makes it officially official. I'm now a "Shepherd person", wow. Still never saw that one coming.

When I asked Lex what she thought of staying here forever she shoved a Kong in my face. I took that to mean she was happy although I have a feeling all it meant was "play with me".

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The naked leg of a Shepherd

The schnauzers have hairy legs so you don't get to enjoy the working sculpture of muscle, tendons and veins that you do in the Shepherd leg.

Each toe is able to mould to the ground, giving them the best leverage possible.

Even when not in motion their legs have life.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Danger in the woods - Animal traps

Hiking or Geocaching with your dogs in unfamiliar areas is not without risk. Today I've been researching one of those risks - animal traps. Learn the basics now rather than in the heat of the moment.
NOTE: There is no graphic content in any of the following links. They are safe for all to view.

"Trapping remains a socially and economically important activity for many people in Ontario. The province is considered one of the world's leading suppliers of wild fur. Trapping also plays an important role in current wildlife management."

Read more about trapping in Ontario: The Ministry of Natural Resources

Finding your dog in a trap would be unpleasant, but it can happen and if you spend any time in the wild it's best to be prepared. Education, licensing and reporting are all required for trappers, but unfortunately not everyone follows the law and/or accidents can happen if you range into the wrong areas. I personally know of one dog who got caught in a trap in Ontario. The size of the dog vs the size and type of trap used determine how dangerous the trap will end up being.

Here are some informative links you may want to check out:

Not all traps are the same. Some are meant for live captures, others to kill. Find an illustrated overview of traps on has step by step instructions on how to release a Conibear/Bodygrip trap. The Conibear trap is meant to kill and knowledge of it can save your dog's life.

It's important to keep the dog from struggling if it gets caught in a snare, and heavy duty cable cutters may be required and might not be a bad idea to carry in your pack. How to release a dog from a snare.

This excellent video was created by a vet and demonstrates how to open a foothold trap. (What you see in the preview is a bully stick. I promise, nothing graphic.)

Hopefully none of us will ever have practical need of this information.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Petting Lexus last night I felt... something. Something not right. Something on her head near the base of her right ear. Ewwww.

My brain fired off three possibilities in quick succession:

1- Cancerous growth and she was going to die
2- Tick
3- Burr

Please God, let it be a burr I gulped as I prepared myself to take a closer look. Kevin lucked out of being involved as he had just left for work. I was alone, submerged in my own drama.

Damn, not a burr. And since cancerous growths don't usually have legs I had no choice but to accept possibility #2 as the truth.

A quick google search showed me how to properly remove the tick. Grabbing rubber gloves and tweezers I took charge and forced myself to get over my irrational fear of this tiny invasive creature.

Those little parasites can be hard to pull out I discovered! Lexus was great, she held still as I pulled slowly but firmly. Out it came. Along with the head. Whew. Not having a container to place it in I quickly took a few pictures and flushed it down the toilet. Bye bye icky tickie!

Cleaning the area I took note of the large swollen bump where the tick was removed that I'm going to keep an eye on. I also raked through her entire coat to see if I could find any more. All was clear. Bullet then got the same once-over.

Lexus has recently begun to blow her coat so after a long walk through the woods on Saturday I gave her an intense bath, blow and brush. Sunday she was running through forest and field, with a swim and I gave her another full brushing, but not as thorough as Saturday's as I focused on undercoat removal. So I'm thinking it could possibly have attached on Saturday or anytime after that.

The tick looked exactly like the deer tick in the middle of this group shot I pulled from here. Same size, shape and colour. I haven't been able to find a website that shows me if I can determine how long the tick was feeding by it's size, therefore how long it was on her.

I've been searching the web for information on lyme disease in dogs or any other complications. Looking for what I should do now. I've found advice ranging from taking the dog to the vet immediately to just watching them for signs of problems. I'd rather not overreact but I can't figure out what overreacting would be in this case. I'm afraid that if I call my vet he'll convince me to medicate/vaccinate, 'just in case'. I'd rather not unless it's necessary.

So I've decided to wait and see, if anyone reading this disagrees I'd love to hear from you, please contact me.

When you take into account everything I do with my dogs and where we travel, I'm very surprised I haven't had this happen before. I'm thinking that keeping a comb in my car and brushing them out before driving home might be a good thing to do from now on!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Bullet, GeoDog Excellent!

Having such a beautiful November day off gave me an opportunity to take Bullet out caching. (And work off all the Halloween candy I ate!) Bullet found 15 of the 17 I logged today and his drive to find them didn't diminish - three hours later his 15th find was as intense as his first.

Here is a picture of one cache I didn't ask him to search for, the most difficult of the day. This was hanging on a branch in the forest. Clever!

He's an amazing geocaching partner. He fully understands what the game is and has no problems with metal ammo cans, small containers hidden well out of sight, caches high up in trees or under things. Now that he's nailing them I'm going to start racing him to the finds... try and get to them before he does.

Running through the bush sometimes results in injuries, when Bullet started limping I immediately checked his paws only to find this thorn between his toes. Ouch. I pulled it out and off he ran.

Bullet finding a cache hidden in a rock cliff:

Bullet finding an ammo can in a forest:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Life is good

We recently rented a cottage and spent a week up in the Haliburton/Algonquin area.

Our criteria when it comes to a cottage:

Must allow dogs
Have a large area dogs can run free
Be very private
Cost as little as possible
Have a place dogs can swim safely
Be open in the early spring or fall
Be clean
Preferably heated

We don't spend a lot of time in our cottage so it doesn't have to be large or pretty. I'd prefer if it wasn't - the less we need to clean and the fewer things to be broken the better. It's our base camp, most of our time is spent hiking and now caching with the dogs. We make our own food, eating before we leave in the morning and when we get back at night, with a lunch and snacks packed for when we are hungry during the day.

The spring or fall is the best time to go, there are no bugs, the trails are nearly empty and it's gorgeous! Perfect temperature for hiking. In the early spring many of the trails haven't been cleaned of fallen trees and some bushwhacking may be required, and the trails tend to be muddier. Yet you'll pass even fewer people than in the fall which is perfect for us.

We hike.

My Bully.


Kevin with the girls.

About as top of the world as you can get in these parts.

We cache.

Our first earth cache on the Spruce Bog Boardwalk trail in Algonquin. GC1626P - A waterlogged desert.

Bullet doing an excellent down stay at the cemetery gates while I search for a cache. He's usually by my side helping me but not here.

Caching helps you discover trails, places and landmarks you never would have found on your own.

Although some discoveries have you scratching your head wondering "why?"!

At the end of the day we make a fire or crash with a book.

Other than not working, our vacations aren't that different than everyday life. We just get to do the same things in new places.

Life is good :)