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Updated: 2 weeks 5 days ago

It's TIME!!!

Thu, 2014-10-02 13:16
In the immortal words of Bruce Buffer...

The 2014 hunting season is now upon us, and it is a very special one indeed. It is Lisa's very first season with a gun. For many years, Lisa has been 'hunting' with a camera. Many of her awesome images are posted right here on this blog and some are featured in Pointing Dogs Volume One: The Continentals. But this year, armed with her brand new Yildiz A5 side by side (a sweeeeet gun!), she will be doing her best to put some free-range, organic meat on the table. And I will try to capture as much of the action as I can with my still and video cameras.
So stay tuned. I will be adding photos and videos to http://www.craigkoshykphoto.ca, in the gallery located here: http://www.craigkoshykphoto.ca/p533396465#he46a0c4
Henri pointing a snipe for LisaZeiss pointing sharptails for Lisa
Lisa's first duck in hand.Lisa's first duck, right out of the oven.

Better Cold Than Sorry

Thu, 2014-09-11 02:48
The fact is, it’s hard to freeze a working dog to death on even the coldest days. But it’s quite easy to accidentally kill a hard-hunting dog on even a mildly warm day. — Brian Lynn

Every year, right about now, hunting publications everywhere run articles warning hunters about the dangers that early season heat can pose to hard driving gundogs. And I've done my best to heed those warnings, even up here in the great white north were anything above zero is considered a 'mildly warm' day.

But last year, despite our best efforts, Henri gave us a scare. We were in North Dakota in late October hunting pheasants. The days were cool and nights were down right cold. Since the dogs were spending nights in the truck, we put insulated covers on their kennels to keep them warm. And the covers worked like a charm. Despite plenty of frost on the pumpkin outdoors, I always found the dogs comfortably warm inside their kennels each morning.

During the day, as we ran one dog, we would leave the others in their kennels. We kept their kennel covers on but we cracked the windows on the truck to make sure things didn't get too warm — even though the outdoor temps never got above 5 degrees (40F).  Again, it worked like a charm. Every time we got back to the truck, we found comfortable dogs eagerly awaiting their turn to hunt. And then Henri's eagerness got the better of him, and of us. 
Eager HenriOn day three of the hunt, we decided our first stop would be a small patch of great looking rooster cover. Since Uma is our closest working dog, she got the nod.  45 minutes and three roosters later (Uma was on FIRE!!), we were back at the truck. As I opened the tailgate I saw our dog Souris in her crate fast asleep, shivering. Next to her was Henri in his crate. But he wasn't asleep, and he sure as heck wasn't shivering. He was laying on his back, panting, wide eyed. His bright red tongue was hanging out like he'd just run a marathon in the desert!

Henri was showing the classic signs of heat stress. We needed to cool him down, fast. Fortunately, the grass right outside the truck was cold and wet with melted frost. So I opened Henri's crate, picked him up, put him on the ground and said "down!". He was more than happy to oblige. He plopped down and began to roll in the grass as we poured an entire jug of cool water on his belly, under his arms and inner thighs. 

In a couple of minutes Henri was up and around, seemingly no worse for wear. We dried him off and took him for a short walk just to make sure he wasn't woozy or wobbly or suffering from any lingering effects. And right there and then we decided that 1. Henri would not hunt that day. We'd give him some time to recover from what was probably not a severe case of heat stress, but what could have easily been much worse and 2. from now on, when we leave any dog in a crate while we hunt with another, it is better to be cold than sorry.

Henri overheated in a cold truck on a cold day. He was in a crate that was covered with an insulated jacket. And such a setup is designed to keep a dog relatively warm when it is sleeping or just chillaxing waiting for its turn to run. Unfortunately, when we started the day with Uma instead of the usual 'first stringer' Henri, well, let's just say that he did NOT take it lightly. Henri did NOT sleep or chillax. In fact, it seems that while we were in the field with Uma, out of sheer frustration and indignation, Henri decided to paw at the bottom of his crate like he was digging to China. There is no way of knowing how long it took for the crate to heat up, but as Henri threw a tantrum, heat up it did. And heat stress suddenly became an issue.

And there is also no way of knowing what would have happened if we'd been in the field with Uma for longer than 45 minutes. Clearly, Henri had stopped doing whatever he was doing to heat things up before we got back. His brain said 'cut it out you idiot!" and forced him to just lay there and pant. So would he have recovered on his own just by being still (and panting his tongue off)? Or would the temperature have remained high enough, for long enough, to cause permanent damage...or worse?

We will never know. And we never want to find out.

Since Henri's near melt-down, we've installed wireless temperature gauges in the crates so we can monitor them from the cab of the truck as we drive. And we've decided that from now on, when we are in the field with one dog we will leave the others in kennels with all the cover flaps off and all the windows open. The dogs will just have to get used to shivering. It’s hard to freeze a working dog to death on even the coldest days. But it’s quite easy to accidentally kill a hard-hunting dog on even a mildly warm day.

Stay safe everyone!

Opening Day, Waterfowl 2014

Mon, 2014-09-01 22:46

This morning, my nephew Craig James and I headed out at insane o'clock for the waterfowl opener. We had scouted a great new spot over the weekend and were pretty sure that we'd be bringing home some fresh duck for diner. And we were right. By 8:30 am, we had 6 mallards and 3 teal, all fetched to hand by my go-to dog Henri. By 9 am, temps were rising fast so we decided to shed the chest-waders, lace up the upland boots and head to the field in search of snipe. 
Snipe are migratory, so we can hunt them when the general waterfowl season opens, usually a week before the upland season. But in some areas they are actually found in the very same pastures frequented by sharp-tails. So we had a hunch that we'd come across both. And we were right again. Henri had a total of 10 points in a little less than an hour. 6 points were on snipe and 4 on sharptails. All the snipe were singles, the grouse were in pairs for the most part, but one point was a sort of 'popcorn all around him' kind of thing with probably 8-10 birds flushing in one's and two's.

As for our shooting, well... it sucked. We only shot at snipe of course (sharptail season doesn't open till next week), but we missed them ALL! I blame it on the new shells. You see, I ran out of my regular snipe cartridges, so we had to use a new load, Kent TealSteel #6s. And sure, they went 'boom' just fine when we pulled the trigger, I am sure they are a decent load. But blaming them is easier on the ego than blaming our rusty shooting skills, so I will stick with the 'bad shells' excuse until I start knocking down more snipe with them. Then I will change my tune to 'these shells are awesome!'

All the photos in this post are from today's waterfowl hunt. I didn't take the camera with me for the snipe hunt and now I regret it. I am pretty sure I would have shot better with my Canon than I did with my side by side. 

Do Spaniels POINT?

Fri, 2014-08-29 14:07
An illustration from the Quadrupedum Omnium Bisulcorum Historia by Ulisse Aldrovandi, published in 1621.
The writing on the left reads: Canis Hispanicus auribus demissis, Espagneulx Gallis, Can Limier Gesnero
 “Spanish dog with hanging (or drooping) ears, Gallic (i.e.: French) Spaniel, Lymer type dog”

Like the term “braque”, the word épagneul can be a tough nut to crack. For English speakers, an approximate pronunciation would be Ay- (rhymes with “say”) Pan- (rhymes with “dan”) YUL (rhymes with “pull”). Ay-Pan-YUL. The origin of the word is unclear. Gaston Phébus wrote in Le Livre de la Chasse 1388 that:There is another type of dog that we call chiens d’oysel and espaignolz, because this type comes from Spain, even though there are some in other countries.Chiens d'oysels from Le Livre de la ChasseFrom this and other lines in Le Livre de la Chasse, many have concluded that épagneul means “from Spain”. It is also considered by many to be synonymous with chien d’oysel (dog of the bird) and to refer only to long-haired pointing dogs. But not all authorities agree on these points. Jean Castaing wrote an excruciatingly detailed analysis of the word épagneul in his monumental book, Les Chiens d'Arrêt. He suggests that épagneul may not mean “from Spain” since épagneul-type dogs probably developed somewhere further north. He presents a fairly good argument that is supported, in part, by other authors, that épagneul could have come from the Old French espanir which means to “spread out”. In any case, getting to the bottom of the word’s origin does not really help us with the main problem that it presents today: Spaniels don’t point, but épagneuls do!
Épagneul type dogs on a cart. They could be Brittanies,
but are more likely "épagneuls du pays" (country spaniels)
of mixed/unknown ancestryIn English, when it comes to sporting breed nomenclature, the word “spaniel” is used almost exclusively for breeds that flush game and never for breeds that point game. So when the name of a pointing breed such as the Épagneul Breton is translated as “Brittany Spaniel”, it causes all kinds of confusion. In fact, the “spaniel” part of the Brittany’s name was such an irritant to many English speakers that it was dropped altogether by national breed clubs in the US and UK. Today, most English speakers just call it the Brittany. 
Pont-Audemer Spaniel with Ruffed Grouse
(Manitoba, Canada)
To add to the confusion, none of the other épagneul breeds from France—the French, Picardy, Blue Picardy, Pont-Audemer and Saint-Usuge—have dropped the “spaniel” part of their names in English. English speakers who own and breed them, use the term spaniel — and soon get used to explaining that yes, the dogs point, and no, not all "spaniels" are flushing dogs. And that's not all! In French, just about any breed of pointing dog with long hair can be called an Épagneul. So to many French hunters, a Small Munsterlander is a Petit Épagneul de Munster, a Drenthe Patrijshond is an Épagneul de Drenthe and the German Longhaired Pointer is an Épagneul Allemand (or sometimes even a chien d'oysel!)
Épagneul Breton at full gallop, Picardy, France
Small Munsterlander with a nice rooster, South Dakota, USA.
In France, the breed is known as the Petit Épagneul de Munster.
And finally, there is one more curious linguistic twist. The French do not translate the English names of the flushing spaniel breeds. They call them by their English names, often with a thick French accent. So in France, you will hear French hunters call Springer Spaniels is a "Spreenn-gairz”, Cocker Spaniels is a “Coke-air Span-yellz” and Irish Water Spaniels "Eereesh Vat'air Span-yellz". 
German Longhaired Pointer in the Netherlands
In France, the breed is known as the Épagneul Allemand or Chien d'oysel.Here is the list of the various French "épagneul" breeds still being bred in France (and elsewhere) today. 
Épagneul Français (French Spaniel)
Épagneul Picard (Picardy Spaniel)
Épagneul Bleu de Picardie (Blue Picardy Spaniel)
Épagneul de Pont-Audemer (Pont Audemer Spaniel)
Épagneul Breton (Brittany [Spaniel])
Épagneul de Saint Usuge (Saint Usuge Spaniel)

Épagneul Français (French Spaniel) in Québec.
In my view, the most elegant of all the épagneul breeds.

Get The Lead Out

Wed, 2014-08-27 13:35
Lead shot has been banned for waterfowl hunting in the much of the world for decades, yet it still poses a risk to many species of birds. A new study takes a looks at the impact of lead from ammunition and fishing tackle on population levels of birds in the US (spoiler alert, it's not good!) and then explores ways of reducing that impact (spoiler alert: hunters can play a key role in getting the lead out of bird populations).

I've embedded the study below. It is a fascinating read!

Many thanks to Richard Sojda for bringing the study to my attention and to Susan Haig, the main author of the study for allowing me to share it on my blog.  

Skinny Puppy?

Sun, 2014-08-24 15:50
Yesterday, I posted an article about the new laws for e-collars in Quebec. As usual, I shared the link to the article on various social media platforms and discussion forums. Overall, the article was well received. I got some positive feedback and many 'thanks!' for explaining the nuances of the laws.
But, surprisingly, I also got some very negative feedback about the photo (below) that I posted to illustrate the article. 

The photos is of my dog Henri on an intense point in the middle of the hunting season. It is from a burst of shots that I took machine-gun style as he pointed a covey of nervous sharp-tailed grouse. When I got home and looked at the series, the one I finally chose was the frame of Henri inhaling deeply, taking in a huge gulp of scent. I felt that the shot really showed Henri's muscles, his lean, fit build and the intensity of the point. I then did more than my usual amount of post-processing to the shot, increasing the contrast, clarity, sharpness etc. to add drama and definition to Henri's physique. 
I've used the photo before in other contexts and I've received a lot of compliments on it from people who are used to seeing super-fit field trial dogs or hard core hunting dogs on a super intense point, sucking in scent. But when I posted it yesterday, it seems that some folks only saw a dog that, to them, looked like it was 'starving', 'ill',' or 'abused'.  
And that is fine. I believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion. If they feel that they are able to judge the weight and fitness of a dog in a single photo, then so be it. But basing an opinion on a single photo is almost never a good idea. And if the opinion is backed up by nothing more than a profound lack of knowledge about how hard-core, high-performance dogs actually look when they are doing what they are bred to do in the field or how photos can be 'tweaked' to exaggerate a certain look, maybe that opinion should remain private. Just sayin'
But post they did. Some folks made comments suggesting that I should immediately double or triple my dog's daily food ration to 'put some weight on him'. Others thought I should never hunt a dog in such 'poor' shape. So I thanked them for their concern (sincerely, I am sure they mean well and only want to help) and then I proceeded to explain why they were wrong:
First of all, as mentioned, the image is part of a series of about 15-20 shots taken over the course of maybe 5 seconds, as Henri was pointing a nervous covey of sharp-tailed grouse. Whenever I shoot a series like that, I weed through them after the shoot, deleting the less-than-great shots and only keeping the 'keepers'.

Here is a shot of Henri taken on the same day. To my eye, he looks anything but 'starving'. 

And here are some photos of Henri taken just minutes before I took the series of photos of him on point. 

But the one I kept, tweaked and them posted was this frame taken as Henri inhaled deeply, drinking in a huge gulp of scent. Here it is before any real 'tweaking' in Lightroom and Photoshop:

And here is the shot that was taken half a second later as Henri exhaled. Note how the muscles all look the same, but the ribs are less prominent. Obviously not a 'keeper'!
But that is not the only reason the ribs in the posted photo are so obvious. By adjusting the contrast, clarity and other things in the image, all the lines of the physique are enhanced. Here is a comparison on the 'inhale' shot, before (top) and after Lightroom and Photoshop tweaks (bottom):
So another step in the process made the ribs even more apparent. Personally, I like the look...but maybe it is because I like my dogs to look like Georges Saint Pierre (and my wife wishes I looked like Georges...)

But I can understand why some folks might look at the shot and think WOW, what a skinny dog! Maybe they are just not very familiar with the kind of athletic build many of us prefer, and maybe they are not aware of just how much a photo can exaggerate things. 
Take a look at this photo of an all-age Pointer. I took it during a field trial in Manitoba. Does his food ration need to be doubled? Or is he fit to run in the national championship? (the answer is the latter!). 

And take a look at this historical photo of a Weimaraner in Germany. Is it 'starving' or just really, really fit?

And if you want to see what Henri looks like in action on sharp-tails and snipe, and also see the effect that sucking in scent has on the appearance of the rib cage, take a look at this video. It was taken a day or two before the photo of Henri on point. Watch as he breaths in, you will see the ribs appear..and disappear.

And finally, here is a shot of the actual covey of birds Henri was pointing that day. SHARP-TAILS!!

E-collars in Quebec

Sat, 2014-08-23 15:24


 Les lois inutiles affaiblissent les lois nécessaires.  
Extrait de L’Esprit des lois

Note: The following article covers certain nuances of provincial law in Quebec. I am not a lawyer, so please take what you read here with a hefty chunk of salt. It is also about e-collars which can be a hot-button issue among dog owners and trainers. I may post something in the future to further clarify my personal views on them, but for now, I will try to keep the article focused mainly on the legal issues surrounding the use of e-collars on hunting dogs in Quebec.

If you type the words "electronic collar" and "Quebec" into a goole search, you'll probably get dozens of links to articles about e-collars (and prong collars) being 'banned' in the Canadian province. Fortunately, for dog owners who support the proper use of e-collars, the articles are wrong. E-collars are NOT banned in Quebec. So what happened? Where did the misinformation come from?

Paved With Good Intentions.The province of Quebec has long been considered the puppy mill capital of Canada. The province's vaguely worded and poorly enforced animal protection laws meant that unscrupulous breeders could keep and breed domestic cats and dogs in horrible conditions. But in 2013, after significant public pressure, the ruling party finally introduced new legislation designed to strengthen the Quebec Animal Health Protection Act. Soon after, a detailed application guide was published in an effort to help people understand the new laws and how they should be interpreted and applied by the courts. And while much of the information in the guide can be helpful, none of it is actual legislation. The guide is meant to explain the laws, not add to them or amend them in any way. 
But that is exactly what the La Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs claimed was done when it came to legislation regarding dog and cat collars. In the official act, the following line is found: "The animal's collar must not hamper the animal's breathing, or cause it pain or injury.
Notice that there is no mention of any specific kind of collar. As written, the law basically says that ANY collar you put on a dog or a cat "... must not hamper the animal's breathing, or cause it pain or injury".  And who would disagree with that? Nothing you put on your dog — collar, sweater, boots, a Halloween costume or goggles — should hamper its breathing or cause it pain or injury. So the problem is not the actual law as it is written. The problem is the way the application guide tried to explain the law.
Unlike the actual law, the application guide did in fact mention specific types of collars.  Here is a screen shot from the first edition of the guide published in late 2013.  
Translation: Non-acceptable types of collars.
Electronic collars, anti-bark or for training. These collars do not meet
the requirements of the law since they can cause pain and injury to the animal.
Photos of an electronic bark collar and a prong collar were placed under the heading "Non-acceptable types of collars". The text next to each type of collar reads: "These collars do not meet the requirements of the law since they can cause pain and injury to the animal."

La Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs takes action
Realizing that the wording in the application guide would have a huge impact on gundog owners and trainers, members of the La Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs asked the provincial government to consider changes to some of the language in the guide. A memorandum issued by the Fédération argued that"....the Application Guide, despite what it written in its own introduction, adds constraints and parameters that are not in the law, for the sole purpose of prohibiting training tools that are misunderstood due to unfounded prejudice. Moreover, it implies that people who uses these tools do so with the intention of hurting or injuring the animal, something that is absolutely contrary to the true intentions of anyone concerned with the healthy development of the animals with which they work."Just like the men and women who wrote the law, Federation members understand that ANY kind of collar can hamper breathing and cause pain or injury if it is improperly used. So they were not asking for a change in the wording of the law, they were simply asking that the application guide stick to its mandate and not add "constraints and parameters that are not in the law". Why were e-collars and prong collars singled out in the guide? Why were users of such devices automatically assumed to have evil intentions?

There are already laws on the book to address the mistreatment of dogs. If any type of collar is used to hamper breathing and/or cause pain or injury to a dog, the Criminal Code applies. In fact, anyone doing anything with any device or even their own hands that hampers breathing or causes pain or injury to a dog is in violation of the criminal code and should face the consequences. 
Another point the Federation made was that the new laws were about the conditions in which dogs and cats are kept (housed, fed, watered, bred etc.) and NOT about how dogs are trained or used for hunting. So any reference in the application guide to e-collars did not apply to them as training devices or devices used in the field at a distance.
In the end, the powers that be saw the light. The Federation succeeded in convincing them that e-collars, when properly used for the purposes for which they are designed, do not systematically hamper breathing or cause pain or injury to the dog. So they modified the language in the guide (not in the law, the language there was always considered perfectly acceptable). It now says that e-collars and prong collars are 'not recommended'.
Translation: Not recommended.
These collars can cause pain and injury to the animal. 
And that is a spot on compromise in my view. I own and use e-collars. I believe that in the right hands, when used correctly for the purposes for which they are designed, they can be highly effective tools. But I do not recommend them to every guy and girl out there with a shotgun and a gundog. I only recommend them to people who are ready and willing to spend the time and effort to learn how to use them effectively. In the wrong hand, they can cause pain and injury to a dog, just like any collar can.
So I applaud the Federation and the Government of Quebec for agreeing to make a simple change in the language of an application guide that, in the end, makes a huge difference for hunters and their dogs in la belle province. Now, if you choose to use an e-collar in Québec, you are not automatically assumed to be abusing a non-acceptable device, you will not be given a warning to stop using it and you will not face fines if you continue to use it...just like any other collar. 

Special thanks to Martin Gagnon for helping me understand the nuances of the issues and the Fédérations efforts to change the wording in the application guide.

A GPS Solution for the Great White North!

Wed, 2014-07-23 21:21
In my previous post I examined the issues surrounding the use of Garmin's Astro and Alpha GPS tracking devices in Canada. Basically, operating them in the great white north is a no-no because the devices broadcast on a radio frequency that cannot be used without a license in Canada.
But I also pointed out that the department in charge of regulating telecommunication frequencies in Canada is interested in compliance, not enforcement. There are no squads of radio-cops lurking behind hay bales on the prairies of Saskatchewan looking for offenders. So I am sure Astros and Alphas have been used in Canada for years by people willing to take the risk of maybe getting some sort of radio-rule ticket from...well, I have no idea who would actually hand them out.

Garmin Astro in action in ...?Now, however, the latest software updates for Astros and Alphas includes a 'fix' that makes the device automatically turn the dog tracking feature off when it detects that it is outside of the US (being a GPS device, it knows where it is!). So anyone currently running an Astro or Alpha outside of the US is faced with a choice: either update the software and lose the ability to use it anywhere but in the US or leave the old version on the device and risk it quickly becoming quickly obsolete. You would also have to say goodbye to any warranty repairs since sending it in for servicing would almost certainly mean a software update in the repair shop. 
So are hunters and field trialers in Canada out of luck? Will all the fine Americans who come here every year to hunt and participate in field trials be forced to run their dogs without GPS collars (or at the very least, with them automatically turned off via the new software tweak)? 
Fortunately for all of us, there's a GREAT solution!!

The TEK GPS location tracking and E-Collar training system..."...provides tracking and training versatility like you’ve never had before. The GPS Collar and E-Collar come as separate, compact modules that fit together on a single collar strap. The compact handheld device provides an instant fix on up to 12 dogs’ locations all the way out to 7 miles, lets you set multiple waypoints, and even tells you when a dog is on point or treed. You can keep control of a long chase, keep track of where that chase is going, or have the ability to do both. Whether the game is birds, bears, or anything in between, you’re always in the hunt when you track with the TEK!
Earlier today, I spoke with Darrell Douglas (the handsome fellow in the video above) about using TEK devices in Canada. According to Darrell, there are currently two versions of the popular TEK 1.0 model on the market. There is an American version (product number TEK-V1LT) that uses the MURS band. It is not compatible with Canadian regulations. But there is a Canadian version (product number TEK-V1LT-C). It sends a signal out at 915MHz on the ISM band and is therefore good to go in Canada!!
But WAIT, there's more good news. 
An all new TEK 2.0 is coming out this fall. It will have a lot of cool new features including 1:100 topo maps of Canada and the US, but most importantly both American and Canadian versions of the TEK 2.0 will use 915MHz on the ISM band. That means no matter where you purchase it*, a TEK 2.0 device will be compatible with regulations on both sides of the border! And that is GREAT news for hunters, field trialers and their dogs in Canada and the US. 
Henri wants a TEK 2.0!!
(*In order to get full warranty coverage and a bilingual manual and packaging, Canadians must purchase their units in Canada or from a Canadian reseller).

Lost and Found in Canada

Tue, 2014-07-22 21:49

Back in 2009, I wrote about one of the best inventions since fire and the wheel, Garmin's Astro GPS tracking collar for dogs. Back then, I explained that the device was not authorized for use in Canada, but would (should, could) be authorized in 2014. So today, realizing that we are half way through 2014, I called Industry Canada, the department that oversees such things to see if GPS tracking collars for dogs are now approved for use in Canada. 
Unfortunately, it's not good news:Since release of Industry Canada’s 2009 policy decision, uncertainties have been raised regarding potential uptake of MURS devices in Canada, and the relative merits of proceeding with MURS implementation in light of potential negative impacts to incumbent licensees. As a result, the Department does not feel that the introduction of MURS devices in Canada is warranted at this time, and has decided to defer the introduction of MURS devices in Canada until a clearer indication of actual need is provided by Canadian MURS advocates and/or stakeholders. Manufacturers, importers, retailers, current licensed users, and all other stakeholders are asked to take note of this provision.
So, what the hell happened? Is Canada now run by a tyrannical cabal of radio frequency Nazis? How DARE they tread on my dog-given right to track my pointy hounds via satellite!

Ok, calm down Mr. Tin-Foil Hatington. Radio Nazis aren't in power in Ottawa. The truth is actually quite banal. It boils down to simple differences in how various radio frequencies are allocated in the US and Canada. You see, all kinds devices that emit radio waves (and other kinds of radiation) are regulated by national laws and international agreements. Often devices that are accepted for use in one part of the world may not be operated in other parts due to conflicts with frequency assignments and other standards. 
So back in the day, when Garmin's engineer's designed the Alpha, they had to decide on which set of frequencies they were going to use for communication between the collar and the hand-held GPS device. They could have chosen the same range of frequencies that most e-collar transmitters use. If they did, the devices would be OK to use in Canada and the US. Or they could have also used the Family Radio Service (FRS) both from about 462 to 467MHz and it too, would have been OK. The "General Mobile Radio Service" (GMRS) band however would have only been OK to use in Canada. In the US, you need a license to use it. 
In the end, Garmin chose a range known as the "Multi Use Radio Service" (MURS) found from 151 – 154 MHz.  MURS used to be available only to permit holders for business communication applications in the US and in Canada. But in 2002 the American FCC changed its MURS policy and opened up for public use. Industry Canada did not. 

And therein lays the problem. MURS is open to unlicensed users in the US, but is still not open for non-licensed use in Canada. Industry Canada never did not open up the MURS frequency when the US did. And now, after 5 years of thinking about it (or more likely, 5 years of not  thinking about it), Industry Canada has decided that it will still restrict MURS to licensed users only. Their statement basically admits that changing the rules now would would piss off too many current permit holders. So MURS remains "pay-to-play" territory up here and will probably remain that way for the foreseeable future. 
Nevertheless, Astro, Alpha and other similar divices are not illegal in Canada per se. If you bring one up here, you won't be subject to a cavity search at the border and SWAT teams won't be storming your RV at grouse camp. Garmin Astros and Alphas, just like walkie-talkies, garage door openers, remote car starters, RC model airplanes, heck even remote thermometers or like any other device that emits radio waves, may or may not be approved for use in Canada or the US. It all comes down to whether or not they conform to the FCC and/or Industry Canada allocation of radio frequencies. And even if they do, they could be rendered 'unapproved for use' by doing something as simple as changing the antenna or modifying a circuit. Look what Tri-Tronics has to say about their e-collars:"Tri-Tronics certifies its products to operate under Part 95  of FCC regulations. Unauthorized modifications to your equipment could result in its not meeting specifications  and thus violating FCC regulations. Adjustments should only be performed by technically qualified personnel authorized by Tri-Tronics. To continue to meet FCC operating specifications, any replacement of circuit components (including antennas) must meet Tri-Tronics manufacturing specifications."Change the antenna... break the law?And while you are at it, you might want to cheque the fine print for your walkie-talkies, garage door openers, remote car starters, RC model airplanes, heck even remote thermometers. They may not even be approved for use either! 

Be that as it may, let me conclude by cutting and pasting what I wrote in 2009. Unfortunately, it still applies. If you have an Astro or Alpha and you are hunting in Canada, remember that: Industry Canada is interested in compliance, NOT punishment. And they are not in the business of skulking around hay bails in Saskatchewan with scanners looking for law breaking Yankies with fancy collars on their high falutin dogs. So if you bring an Astro up here and it did happen to interfere with farmer Brown's radio base station and tractor in the field, or with a hydro worker repairing a line, you may be asked to turn it off and to stop interfering with the frequency. No fines, no water-boarding.
However, if you then continued to use it, despite the warning, you could face stiff penalties. But twenty grand and the loss of your car? Nope. Unless your were following fire trucks in downtown Toronto and deliberately screwing with their radios as they tried to save a burning convent and orphanage, I doubt you would get anything more than whatever equivalent of a speeding ticket gets handed out by the radio/tv cops.
Of course, I'm just some guy on the net. I am not a lawyer and I am not a cop. I'm not even coherent most of the time. So take lots of salt with whatever advice I may provide and weigh the risk-to-benefit ratio of whatever action you may take. 

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the latest firmware update, for the Garmin Astro (and Alpha) now has a feature that automatically disables dog tracking when used in countries for which the radio frequencies are not authorized. 
So it seems that Garmin is willing and able to tweak the firmware from time to time in response to local laws and regulations. So why not tweak the firmware (and presumably a circuit or two in the radio) to do respond to owners and potential owners in countries other than the US? Why not update the firmware (and make a hardware update available) that actually makes the units compatible with regs in other countries?
After all, every single one of the e-collars that Garmin now makes (via their purchase of Tri-Tronics) are perfectly compatible with radio regulations in Canada and the US. Heck, even the Garmin Rhino (radio/gps unit) is compatible. Why not the Astro and the Alpha? How hard could it be?

Potential work-around: when in Canada, attach one of these to your dog?
UPDATE #2 Apparently not ALL of the e-collars that Garmin make are compatible with Canadian regulations: Steve Snell from Gundog Supply posted that "The new Pro Trashbreaker also uses MURS" so is therefore not authorized for use in Canada.

But the good news is that "SportDog has a Canadian version of their GPS and Ecollar combo TEK 1 and the TEK 2 coming out this Fall will also be available in Canada. They work off a legal frequency." 

YEAH!!!!Thanks for the info Steve!!