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We live in rural South Leicestershire (yes, we know Leicestershire isn't on the coast - yet!) with our two Bernese Mountain Dogs, NIVA on the right, who will be 9 years old in December 2012, and on the left, young CIMO (pronounced 'Cheemo') who will be 5 years old in February 2013. Our last male dog BRIG, sadly, died on August 13th 2007, aged 11 and a half.
In their native Switzerland, Bernese were general purpose farm dogs, often used for herding the cattle between the farms and the high alpine pastures.
One of the main things that they were used for however, was draught work, pulling their small carts laden with produce, between the farms and the dairies. Many owners of Bernese in the UK have endeavoured to keep these draughting skills alive in the breed, both in competition and by giving displays of carting.
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CIMO is Niva's nephew, and thus Brig's Great Great nephew. He was born in February 2008 and we brought him home to live with us in April of the same year. In no time at all he was attending his first steam rally at Rushden, together with his litter sister Molly.
This was also the first time he'd seen a cart! Click to view full size photo (165kb) Click' 'BACK' to return here.
Over the next few months he grew considerably and in mid November 2008, he passed his puppy assessment at one of the Fashqua Draught Assessment days. He was too young to pull a cart at that stage, but he progressed steadily through the prepatory training and in late 2009 he joined Niva cartng in a brace to give him his confidence as Niva showed him what to do.
In May 2010 at the Central Club's Open Show, he entered his first Working Cart Course competition in the Beginners Class and to our great delight (& not a little surprise!) he not only gained a 'Pass', but also won the class.
He gained his second 'Pass' at the Southern Club's Fun & Working Weekend in July 2010.
By October 2012 he needed just one more Pass at Advanced Level in order to gain his Advanced Carting Certificate.
In early November 2008 he went on a train for the first time, accompanying Niva to Earls Court, to participate in Discover Dogs - another first for him, as he helped Niva to represent the breed in the Bernese Booth on the Saturday afternoon. Since then he's attended Discover Dogs at both Earls Court & Crufts several more times, along with Niva.
NIVA is Brig's Great Niece, & was born in December 2003. She joined us in February 2004 and very quickly recognised Brig for the great big softy that he was, adopting him as her plaything and tormenting him mercilessly. Having had two very laid back Bernese in Cresta & Brig, she came as a bit of a shock, since she was probably the naughtiest, most wilful Bernese puppy we've ever had! Unfortunately, Brig declined to teach her any manners, looking imploringly to us to help him out, poor lad. Eventually though, after about 20 months, she began to turn into a very affectionate, loving dog, who just has to have her cuddles, and turned to playing with Brig rather than using him to exercise her authority on!
She's also the first Bernese we've had who didn't receive any formal training at Dog Training Classes, basically because, having discovered 'Clicker Training', we didn't want to go back to the old 'jerk & pull' methods. Lacking the focus which formal classes gave however, meant that although we taught her some basics, we probably didn't teach her as much as we could or should have.
Fortunately, we then discovered some dog training classes using clicker in nearby Wolvey, originally called Confident Canines, but now called WOLVEY WOOFERS, and thereafter, Niva finally got some formal instruction, to which she responded really well. The strides that some of the participants have made by using the clicker in just a couple of weeks has been fantastic, and a great advert for this method of training.
Niva came from Martin & Pauline Bullock, many of whose puppies have gone on to be excellent carters, so we were pleased when Niva was able to take over from Brig and allow him to retire.
To boost her confidence in the cart, before taking over completely, Niva pulled a cart in the ring for a couple of trial runs as a brace with Brig, after which we were able to retire him when she was ready to cart by herself.
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Brig wasn't entirely happy about being retired however, despite his advancing years, and tried to pull me into the arena on several occasions when the display music started, so we had to find him an alternative job to do, carrying a Bern Flag into the Ring - a task he sometimes performed well, and other times not so well, when he felt that he'd rather be pulling a cart!
Niva took quite a long time to pass the UKLA Level 3 carting assessment, but once she'd gained confidence by participating in the displays, she finally managed it. Later in the year she then went on to pass both Levels 4 & 5 on the same day. Her first attempt at the GB Club's Working Cart Course came at the Working Day in October 2005, when she passed the Beginner's Course at the first attempt. She achieved her second 'pass' at the GB Club's Garden Party in May 2006, and finally qualified out of Beginner by obtaining her 3rd 'pass' when she came First equal with Tom Murray's Flora at the GB Club's Working Day in October 2006. In May 2007 at the GB Club's Garden Party, she gained First Place on her first attempt at the Intermediate Cart Course, beating Tom & Flora by a mere 1 point.
Her second 'pass' at Intermediate Level came in July 2007 at the Southern Club's Fun and Working Weekend, when she narrowly beat Maureen Boutel's Dolly to win 1st Place again. The course was judged by Tom, so he and Flora weren't competing on that occasion, but the competition is growing all the time, with Niva, Flora, Dolly and Roy Tom's Bonnie all vying for top honours, and once we're all up against Bruce and his dogs at the Advanced Level, there's really going to be some exciting contests!
Unfortunately, she had a little 'glitch' at the GB Club's Working Day at Sacrewell in September 2007, and just failed to achieve her 3rd pass at Intermediate Level.
By way of compensation however, She passed her Fashqua /SEALS 'Level 6' Carting Assessment in December 2007, and only 3 weeks later in early January 2008 she passed 'Level 7', followed just 2 weeks later by 'Level 8', which included a very muddy and slippery 3 mile haul through the woods at Shorne Wood Country Park, in Kent.
By the end of the winter season she'd amassed enough points to follow in Brig's footsteps ('pawprints'??) and win the Fashqua Cup, which she held until April 2009. By then, she'd amassed enough points with Pete to win the cup a second time.
She finally obtained her 3rd carting Pass at Intermediate Level at the GB Club's annual Garden Party at Roade in May 2008, and gained her first Pass on the Advanced Cart Course at the Central Club's Open Show at Belbroughton in early July. Unfortunately she failed to compete at the Southern Club's Fun and Working Weekend in Sussex a couple of weeks later, as the car decided to shed all its fan belts on the M40 and had to be recovered home!
Nevertheless, she obtained her 2nd Pass at Advanced Level at the GB Club's annual Working Day at Sacrewell in September, and at the GB Club's garden Party in May 2009, she gained her final Advanced Level 'Pass'.
Following a successful run of competitions during the summer of 2009 at the Central Club, Southern Club and GB Club Working day, she finished the season in second place overall, winning the Silver Medal, with Bruce taking Gold & Bronze for Remy & Asti.
After an enforced break, following some damage to her cruciate ligament, she was back in action on the Working Cart Courses during late 2011, and in 2012 won the Bronze Medal in the Top Working Cart Competition, administered by the Bernese Working Cart Group. Only half a point separated 1st, 2nd & 3rd, with Silver being won by Elaine & Cinders and Gold by Julie Wright & Hudson.
After Cresta died, we switched our annual summer break from Devon to Norfolk, and Niva really looks forward to visiting the beach, where she is able to run like mad to burn off what seems to be her boundless energy. We used her monthly swimming sessions at Corley Canine Pool to improve her level of confidence in the water for a while, since we were hoping to do some water rescue training with her, and several times during 2005, Wendy was enticing her into the sea to try to get her used to the idea. She's coming along slowly, but seems more keen to make friends with the seals, which seemed to appear whenever she and Brig were on the beach.
Her fitness shone through at the B.A.D. Weekend in 2006 however, as while Brig received his carting trophy, Niva excelled herself by winning the Scurry. For a Bernese to be the fastest dog was unheard of - we knew she was fast but she even surprised us.
Her first appearance in the Bernese booth at Discover Dogs was at Earls Court in November 2004, with Polly, Mason, and Remy, and her Great Uncle, Brig. Brig, Niva and Polly all went up on the Underground from Ealing Broadway, and were mobbed by admirers before we'd even made it onto the platform. Although attending Discover Dogs again at Crufts 2005, we were unable to make the Earls Court event again in the November, but instead, Niva made her first appearance at East Midlands Airport assisting with a charity collection in support of Leicester Animal Aid.
She was back in the Bernese Booth again at Crufts 2006 with both Brig and several other Midland Carters - Pepsi, Tio, Mason, Polly and for the first time, little Tilly on the 'Working Day' (Thursday). She was back again in March 2007 as well, but the long walk was too much for Brig by then, so she went by herself.
She was back at Crufts again in March 2008, occupying the booth at Discover Dogs on the Working Day (Saturday) with several other Midland Carters - Tio, Champers and Cinders & Fudge.
Since then she's continued to appear in Discover Dogs at both Earls Court & Crufts.
In March '97 Wendy became interested in Clicker Training / Operant Conditioning after discovering it on the Internet. Whilst still fairly new to the operant conditioning approach to dog training, she found it to be a marvellous way of communicating with the dogs and of making clear whatever behaviour she is trying to teach.
The dogs all responded with enthusiasm to training sessions and even tried to initiate training sessions themselves!
If you'd like to know more about dog training using positive re-inforcement and clicker training, try clicking (no pun intended!) -
For a 'step by step' guide to getting started with the clicker, try - Stacy's Wag'N'Train site.
How we started carting
We originally began to cart with Jebel some 22 years ago, and participated in many of the early 'charity carting displays' which had not long been going then. A neighbour who was co-incidentally also a Steam Rally Organiser heard about our exploits and asked us to provide a display at our local Steam & Vintage Rally at High Cross in Leicestershire. We roped in some friends with Bernese who lived not too far away, and so the 'Central Bernese Carters' were born. Other rally organisers saw the display and booked us for their own events, and at the end of our first season of displays, we decided on a change of name for the team, in order to differentiate it from the Central Bernese Mountain Dog Club, for whom we were also active with carting training events. Thus we became the....
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