Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Bite Work - Tito

Club helper George working with Tito and the bite pillow

Nice pulling.

Hard to tell who is having more fun in this photo, George or Tito :-)

The smoke from the fire gives a really nice effect.

The beginnings of the bark and hold.

The take off for the escape.

Club helper Rich.

Springtime Visitor

I took these photos in May of this year of this visitor whom I found in my yard, and completely forgot about them until recently when searching for other photos. We often see Garter snakes in our yard.

Tracking Training - Remembering Your Track

One of the most important skills a person must learn when teaching a tracking dog is remembering where your track is. This becomes essential as soon as you move on from basic straight line tracks and introduce corners and articles. You must know where your track is. If you do not know where the track is, you are of no use to your dog. Over the years I have heard many different methods people use to mark important points on the track. Everything from flags, to coloured chalk, to large bolts tied with bright ribbon, to picking natural landscape markers have all been used by tracklayers. Ask anyone who tracks regularly with their dog, and I'm sure you will hear a few other suggestions. Certainly, on a dewy morning while tracking on short grass, one can often clearly see the footprints of the track that has been laid. Especially if the track is run relatively soon after laying it. The trouble begins when you cannot see your track... how will you remember where it goes? Where exactly the corners are? Where exactly you dropped articles? These are all skills we must master as track layers if we are to be successful at teaching a tracking dog. Dogs are very observant creatures, and if we use artificial markers on the track, such as flags, it won't take long for your dog to become "flag smart", and quickly realize that a flag must mean something; a turn, an article. Also, when placing a flag or other object along the track as a marker, this flag will undoubtedly have your scent on it, something that will clearly draw the dog's attention to it. Dogs should never be faulted for "indicating" these objects, as we spend a considerable amount of time teaching our dogs that articles, any article, with human scent on it should be indicated along the track. So, what do we do about this? One of the best ways, albeit most challenging, to remember where our track lies is to teach ourselves to use natural landscape markers while laying a track. This is much, much easier said than done. It can be especially tricky on large fields that have mostly uniform vegetation coverage. Things get even more complicated if we are laying more than one track for more than one dog in a given training session. Imagine laying two or more tracks, with multiple corners and multiple articles along each track... that is a lot of pressure, especially of we are using trees off in the distance and random weeds out in the field for "natural" markers. It has been on more than one occasion that I have forgotton which weed was marking a corner, and which weed was marking an article... sometimes my dog does it correctly anyway, sometimes no. In the latter case, if I cannot remember what was supposed to be happening at that point on the track, I have failed my dog. This is definitely a skill that needs to be practiced and nearly perfected. I still use artificial markers on my training tracks when needed, as I believe it is still more important to know, really know, where your track is, than to risk losing the track or forgetting where corners or articles are on the track - the latter two being absolutely crucial.

Below you can clearly see the footsteps of the track on the short grass on this dewy morning.

This field below would be a difficult one to pick out natural landscape markers due to its mostly uniform vegetation. The trees off in the distance would be useful for distance markers, especially since they turning colour.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Agility Blessing

Agility Blessing

May the tunnels not have too much suction,

May the course be fun and fast.

May your dog not stop to say "hello" to the photographers they pass!

May the table not be too slippery,

May the chute house no scary beasts,

May all the yellow parts be touched with one little toe, at least

May the wind be always at your back,

May no bars fall on the ground,

May the A-frame have no stop sign on the top,

May the judge's whistle never sound.

May your dog obey all correct commands,

And ignore the ones that are wrong.

May your heart be light, your feet be sure, and the bond with your dog grow strong.

At the finish line, may great joy abound, regardless of your score,

You have your dog, your dog has you, and who could ask for more?

Written by: PJ Hughes

Saw this on my friend Helen's blog, and I laughed out loud the first time I read it. It is very funny, and so very true.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Horrors of SLO - Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy


Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (SLO) is a disease affecting the nails on a dog's paws, which causes complete loss of the nails (Onychomadesis). I had not heard of this condition before, which is why I was unaware of what was really going on with Cole when his first nail lifted off back in April of this year. It was a warm April afternoon, just before the easter weekend, when the nail on the most lateral toe on his right hind foot lifted off. This was the result of a traumatic injury; he was running around in the yard, ran too close to my husband, clipped his shoe with his left hind foot, screamed and when we investigated, we saw a nail that had been ripped off right to the nail bed, quick exposed underneath. The nail was not loose enough to pull off (we tried), so I took Cole with me to work the next morning, and with the help of some topical anesthetic cream, the nail was sucessfully pulled off without the need for a sedative. I really thought nothing of this at the time. Since I've been working in the veterinary field for 14 years, I have seen many nail trauma injuries where the nail must be pulled off. We bandaged his foot for a couple of days, and waited for it to heal.

Not long after this initial incident, perhaps a couple of weeks, another nail lifted off right to the nail bed. This time I could not confidently say that a trauma had taken place. Shortly thereafter, a third nail lifted. Just picture the hood of a car lifting up, intact, and then staying up in the lifted position; this is exactly what was happening to Cole's nails. The entire nail, intact, would detach from the quick, and lift up, staying attached at the nail bed. Upon closer inspection, nothing else out of the ordinary was apparent.... no swelling, no infection, no oozing, no abnormal appearance of the nail or surrounding tissue, just a nail that lifted up, leaving the quick exposed and the dog in significant discomfort. None of these nails that detached in this way were loose enough to be pulled off. The only option was heavy sedation or general anesthetic, or wait for them to fall off. After the 3rd nail lifted, I began asking questions to my veterinary friends and colleges... One DVM had heard of this, and had treated a few dogs, all them GSDs or GSD mixes. Others had heard of it, but were not familiar with it, and others simply had not heard of it. I decided to put a post on my favourite GSD online forum. I would never recommend this in place of veterinary advice. But I do like these forums, as there is so much traffic on there, you are almost certain to get a response from someone who has either had a dog with a similar condition, or from someone who knows someone who had a dog with the condition. This then sets the ball in motion for you to get more info, what you were after in the first place. Also, having dogs with rare medical conditions myself, I find it very comforting to communicate with others who are actually living with and managing these dogs as part of their daily lives. This is invaluable to me. In short order, I got a response from a couple of members who referred me to some links on SLO, including a yahoo group dedicated to the disease. I also had the added benefit of having a friend who was just finishing vet school, who did some research on VIN for me. Being an RVT, I don't really have access to the GOOD part of VIN. After some reading and some discussion, we are pretty certain that Cole has SLO. The only way to a definitive diagnosis is through ampuation of P3 of one of the afftected nails, something that is not actually recommended.

Cole had to suspend all activity, including his much loved agility career, which was just starting to take off. He could not run, play, go for walks, or even play fetch, his absolute favourite activity. I did try a few times to keep his agility lessons up, but even if he was having a good week with no nails that were lifted at the time, often just the activity alone would be enough to cause one or two more to become lifted off. The nails that were lifted but still attached were the most painful periods for him. Once the nails finally fell off (anywhere from 7 to 10 days typically), he was so much more comfortable. I also found that if he did little or no activity, thus significantly decreasing the chances of the nails lifting off due to trauma, that the nails took much longer to actually lift off away from the quick. This meant that by the time they actually did lift off, the quick was already blackened and somewhat hardened, and less painful for him. The nails that were lifted prematurely from trauma (such as from playing fetch), left a very tender, pink, raw, painful quick exposed. Also, because they were lifting off over a period of months (he has one nail left to come off as this is written - remember it started in April), putting him under sedation or GA everytime a nail lifted to have it pulled off was not practical or a good idea.

I am trying conservative treatment for him first, as there is some evidence that some people have had success with this. If this does not help, there is the option of him going on long term medications that have been reported to have some success.

At this time, Cole seems confortable, and pain free. He has lost all 18 of his nails, except for one, which will be gone soon. Some of the nails appear to be growing back, albiet deformed. I will have to closely monitor the nails that are growing back, and keep them as short as possible. Soon he will be able to continue on in agility again, which will make him really happy.

I did not get any photos of the nails that were lifted off prematurely due to trauma, thus exposing the quick when it was red and raw.

Below is a lateral view of the left front paw. I am holding digit # 3, of which you can clearly see the entire intact nail has lifted away from the soft tissue underneath, yet still remains attached to the nail bed (Onycholysis). The quick has turned black, and has started to dry out.

Below is the same toe, from a head-on view. Digits 2 - 5 are all visible here. Digit #2 has already had the nail fall off, digits 4 & 5 still have the nails attached.

Below is a lateral view of the left hind paw. Digit #5 is clearly visible with the nail detached from the quick, completely lifted off, yet still attached at the nail bed. These nails are slightly movable, but cause considerable pain when touched.

Below is the same digit as the above photo, but looking at the toe from a head-on position.

Below is a medial view of digit #2 of the right hind paw. The nail has fallen off, and the underlying soft tissue has turned black and dried up. The nail is in the process of growing in, but it is deformed (Onychodystrophy).

Again, a medial view of the right hind paw. Here digits 2 -5 are visible. I am holding back some of the hair, and the new nails growing in that are deformed (Onychodystrophy) are seen here, especially on digits 2 & 3.

Below is a medial view of the left front paw with Cole in a sitting position. Here we see digits 2 & 3, with #2 missing the nail completely and a dried up quick, and another view of #3. Here it is easy to see what position the nail is in when the dog is weight bearing.

This is a lateral view of the right hind paw. I am holding digit #5. This was the very first nail to come off, as the result of the trauma described above in April. Here we can see a new nail growing in, but it is deformed (Onychodystrophy), and not really attached to the underlying tissues.

Dorsal view of the right front paw. Digits 2 - 5 are visible here. All the nails have come off. There is regrowth of nails, especially # 3 & 4, but they are deformed.

Lateral view of left hind paw with Cole standing. Digit 5 is seen here with the nail lifted up while Cole is weight bearing.

Lateral view of left front paw with Cole sitting. Digits 4 & 5 still have the nails in a normal position, yet they have become detached from the underlying tissue, and it is only a matter of time before they lift up. This is another view of digit 3's lifted nail, alongside the 2 that are still in normal position. It was much harder for Cole to walk without pain when nails on his front paws were in the lifted position, as opposed to the hind paws.

Palmar view of left front paw. Digit 3 is visible with its lifted nail. Digits 4 & 5 still have their nails in a normal position, but they have detached from the underlying tissue (Onycholysis). They appear as a loose sheath covering the quick.

Glossary of Terms:
Onychodystrophy - malformation of the nail
Onycholysis - loosening or separation of the nail from its bed

Onychomadesis - complete loss of the nails


Yahoo SLO Group -
Brief description of SLO, plus has a great link to a published study from the UK -

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Head Shots






Monday, August 3, 2009

2009 AAC Agility National Championships - Ottawa, Ontario July 30th - Aug 2nd 2009

This years Agility Association of Canada's National Championships were held at the Napean National Equestrian Park in Ottawa, Ontario. Firstly, let's all remember that it is a privilege to compete at this event. One must qualify in order to attend, and there are no second chances in agility. This is Blaze's 4th time qualifying to compete at the national level, and our 3rd time actually competing at a National Championship. It is still certainly a great thrill to be able to participate in this event. There were a total of 581 dogs entered in the National Championship, divided into 16 different height/class categories. This year was the first year that the "Double Drop Veterans" height class was introduced. Blaze competed in the 16" Double Drop Veterans class, meaning he is a veteran dog jumping 2 heights lower than his regualation height. There were 51 dogs in our division, and we finished in 17th place. I had 3 small handling errors, which in essense cost us a top 10 finish at this years Nationals. Blaze was such a good boy, he did everything I asked him to, and when he wasn't sure what I wanted because my handling wasn't clear, he really tried to figure out what it was I wanted.... I am so lucky to have such a great canine partner! We are also lucky that our dogs don't care about placements, or ribbons, or improving on last year's performance. If that were the case, I might be traded in for a better handler! All they care about is having fun. Blaze loves agility, and someday I hope to be the handler that he deserves.

Blaze in the weaves during Steeplechase 2 on the Friday.

My friend Helen also managed to get our Steeplechase 1 run on video, and has kindly posted it on YouTube, here is the link: