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: