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Thread: Bernie is to be retired, strictly. How do you tell a working dog this?

  1. #1
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    Default Bernie is to be retired, strictly. How do you tell a working dog this?

    Bernie is a mature GSD, who tore his CL, we did moderation management with him. He recovered, with a very nasty gait. Has never ever shown pain, though my vet assures me, he will be in considerable amount of this at this stage of arthritis.
    Pain killers turn his guts to liquid, opiate based and he cant poo and becomes constipated.
    supplements going in for joints and arthritis.

    Here is the problem. Every day we work him. For 45 mins each morning. Now he is not allowed to. "work him" = round up cows, ducks, us, tracking, and water retrieving. Every day.
    Now, he must stop, and become a couch potatoe. Under vets orders. I explained, he wont like that. And we are on day 2 of him not coming out. He's very distressed, it breaks my heart. This is hurting more than his leg i believe!
    I have to walk the other 2, but must leave him behind. He is the pack leader, this has upset the other dogs, that can hear him screaming from across the fields, and are running back n forth when he calls out.

    I know its only 2 days in, but has anyone got experience of working line dogs, who have worked daily, being told to stop. How do you get them to do this?
    Forget puzzle balls type distractions, they take him a nano second.
    He is very high prey drive, spent his 2nd year doing schutzhund, where i built drive to fever pitch and learned to work him in that zone. He loved it. I loved it, and for 7 yrs we have both been enjoying this. Now i cant get him to stop.

    I asked about a sedative, and was told not appropriate, as it would need to be too high a dose and would cause problems with guts also.
    Im at my wits end, and have been in tears on my walks, my best mate is not at my side, i can hear his screaming for my entire walk of the others.
    This is so not working.

    I have considered, is this PTS time? I need to give this a real hard go, to retrain him to be a couch potatoe first. But his qaulity of life has taken a sudden dive.
    He takes a fair while to get out of bed on these 2 degree's mornings, but once upright, turns into Bernie again, but with this awful gait, where his patella is slipping out of socket on each step forward. At a run, it seems to stay in somehow.

    My vet suggests PTS time is very close, because of what sort of dog he is. He says i am unlikely to change his drive, after 7 yrs of training it in. That from bernie's perspective, he is no longer able to do most of what he loves. His jobs.

  2. #2

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    Very sorry to be reading this. A very difficult situation to be in - for all of you.

    Is Bernie allowed to do any exercise at all - like slow on lead walking ?

  3. #3
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    Oh gosh what a hard situation to be in
    I don't know how suitable this would be, but would you be able to sort of wean him off working rather than just stop all together. You could slowly lessen the time he spends working every day.. then maybe it wouldn't be such a shock?

    I agree with Riley, can he do slow lead walking?

  4. #4
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    I think you might need to teach him a new game... long drop stay game.

    So when you start out he needs a really high rate of re-inforcement - which is going to be tricky because I suspect something energetic is more his style than food.

    Would he get joy out of just chomping on something rather than the run and chase side of it. eg the geddit/give game but without the tug?

    Susan Garrett went through this a bit with her oldest (now RIP) Buzzy... but she had the drop stay game going from when he was a puppy. So when she got each new puppy she could put him in the drop-stay and chuck him rewards (and he and all her dogs are trained to value food and tug equally)...

    Otherwise - with my dog - it took her a few months to stop screaming when I put her in a crate and went out. But she got over it eventually. Not the best way to crate train a dog but I didn't know any better at the time.

    Bernie is smart enough - you could train him to do something joint-friendly instead of the herding thing? But you'd definitely have to put some dedicated attention on it for a while.

    I'm thinking for the other dogs - for a while - that maybe you need to drive them somewhere else out of ear shot for their exercise, and bring them back smelling of vet (methylated spirits?)...

    Here's hoping Nehkbet has some ideas.

  5. #5
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    i think driving the other 2 away from him for exercise is going to be worth a try.
    He is not allowed any exercise, just inside home for rest of life. Crated when not supervised to prevent play with tothers. I spoke to his breeder, he is the only CL pup in 3 generations, so its not genetic CL stuff. And all generations have been working line and working. So hard going on joints, and would show injury rapidly.
    I know his breeder, and believe him. Plus i know bernie's parents, they were fine joint wise, and still working at 6 and 7, when they were bred to retire current dogs.
    They both died of heart attack. Bernie's brother and sister are the replacement herders. Bernie was allowed to come to me, because he knew that i would work him.
    He recommended time limit how long i will try train out his instincts, that i have drawn out over many years. Then if unable to settle into his new way of life, PTS. Bloody hell, seems very friggin harsh!

    A measley annual check up and vacc, and my vet says, lets hold off on the vacc. ? Until you have had time to consider your options.

    I wish id learned to train food drive. But it wouldnt stick.
    So, if it took you hyacynth, a few months, to stop dog screaming. I'll give it 6.

  6. #6
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    I am so sorry for you and Bernie being in this situation. If this was me, and knowing PTS time was close, I'd dose him up on pain killers, give him laxatives for constipation, and let him work til the end. To my mind his, and your own emotional trauma, is worse than physical pain. This probably not the best advice, but what I would do.

  7. #7
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    OrthoPets: Orthotic Brace or Prosthetic Device for Dog or Animal, including Stifle, Hock, Carpus, Elbow, Knee, Wrist, Ankle, or Paw which can be bought from dogsinmotion.com.au in Melbourne.

    Why did your vet say to make him a couch potato? That will kill the dog faster then letting him run about - between muscle wastage from lack of use and going insane. I had a problem with my working bitch, she suffered acidosis and burned away all the muscles around her spine and back end. She had to be confined, not allowed any play, modified diet etc and it took months to get back to some normality. Now she has to be permanently watched and given certain supplements after exercise and hot weather. Retiring her was a long slow process from being queen bitch and running around constantly to trying to turn her into a couch potato. Once the initial screaming fits calm down they come to realise how bloody nice it is not to have to keep going. It's just a shock to the system to an animal bred with a massive work ethic and a pain threshold through the roof.

    tracking and scent detection with prey toys can be your best friend. Bernie doesnt have to move far or break into a run. As for the scent detection you can do that indoors with a few free cardboard boxes with lids, some false scents etc. He's using his mind without wearing out the body as much as herding would. When you take the others out ONLY then will it become Bernie's meal time, in a crate through a food toy that is difficult to access. Leave the TV on loudly too and add some Troy Behave paste to his meals, 4-5ml at the beginning and wean down to 2-3 as a maintenance dose. Your best friends will also be Sprinter Gold Energy E oil, it has antioxidants in there too to lessen free radical damage to the joints.

    It can be done, give it time and get a realistic vet if this one is too doom and gloom. You cant lock any dog up to do nothing and expect that to lengthen it's life. Inactivity is a bigger problem. I would also be looking into semi regular chiropractic and even some massage/acupuncture to help Bernie's muscles and skeleton cope with the wobbly gait that now puts uneven pressure on his body. I've had 2 HD/ED dogs now I've learned a few things along the way
    http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/Mali_nut/K9LOGO.jpg

  8. #8
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    I'm so sorry for you as there's nothing worse seeing these wonderful dogs with health problems...you know your own dog far better than anyone else...if he's not in any pain keeping him from running around etc is much better than putting him to sleep...anyway GSDs as you know learn very quickly...he might like it in time.

    My GSD Rex is nearly 11.5 yrs old...his back legs are wobbley and sometimes he falls over when he has a scratch and is inside most of the time...his eyesight is not 100% but his quality of life is still good so there's no way if a vet told me to put him to sleep would I do that.
    Chloe & Zorro
    Rottweilers and German Shepherds are Family

  9. #9
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    I have a working cattle dog. She had bilateral cruciate surgery at age 6. I retired her at age 9 which she hated with respect to the working side of things but I didnt stop her coming on walks etc. She is now 14 and if she wants to come on our daily hikes around the farm then she does. If she shows signs of limping, mainly on her front legs, but she also has a hitch in one of her rear legs of late, I take her out for a short walk with me. She loves that. However being the matriarch she loves to come on the group walk and still screams when I leave her. So what the heck if she wants to come, come she does.

    I rarely use pain medication. She gets cartrophen shots and supplements. I also learnt how to massage her which she loves.

    The other thing I do is put all the dogs in the car and take them to a far flung paddock. Let them all out and give my old girl and amble. Then I put her back in the front seat and go off with the rest for a good walk. The old girl doesnt mind this at all and settles nicely in the front seat. I dont know why this is. Maybe because in her mind she is on an outing and she is used to being in the car from years of trialing. She finds it much more palatable than being left at home.

    I could never just leave her to be confined in the house for ever.

  10. #10

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    Sounds like it's time for a few new jobs!

    How about scent work or Treibball?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBJ9DVp9dyM

    I'd certainly be considering a second opinion on the vet too - I dont know a single vet who would advocate complete "couch potato" and tell you to hold off on the fax until you've made up your mind.

    There has to be a nicer middle ground.

    Hang in there

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