Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mixed Bag Hike

Because we have CGC class tonight, I wanted to have a mellow morning with Kona. We headed to our local canyon where recent storms had taken down several trees. I tried to pose Kona next to this one, but she was very concerned about some dogs barking in the distance.

Kona had a rough start this morning. She took on the look of someone pulling a truck in a strongman competition. Her body was low, her legs pushed hard against the trail, and she held her tail down tightly. About a mile and a half in, we came off the fireroad and down onto a singletrack where the canyon narrows significantly.

Here, the trail vanishes and a half mile of creek crossing leads to a waterfall. Kona immediately gave a good shake, her tail came out, and she became my great explorer. She always relaxes when the terrain becomes more technical.

We didn't head out too far up the canyon. The creek is high enough to make crossing with a leashed dog a little sketchy. I also feel vulnerable through this stretch of canyon. The walls are steep and I feel much too prey-like.

Since Kona had just relaxed, I decided to stay along the creekbed for some of our trek out. At one point, Kona decided she needed to cross the creek. She hopped over a rock to find the right entry point.

Looked at me for the OK to cross.

Found her first paw placement.
Brought her back paws to meet her front paws in an amazing balancing act.

Then realized she ran out of dry rocks and returned to safety.

She did much better on the way back. The scary hurdle is always the parking lot. She has a history of going into a full panic in parking lots. Today we played, "Whoa, aren't I a Clutz." I give out a cheeful, "Whoa, look!" and toss a treat on the floor. The second of retrieving the treat helps break her focus. She still immediately looked up at the parking lot, walking veeerrrry slowly, but she kept retrieving treats until we were a few feet onto the concrete. Thankfully, we only had a few more feet to the car. I've become a strategic parker to make the approach to the car less scary.

She did make one sideways dash, but I blocked her and put my hands out. This makes her stop and sit. I've noticed that if I can stop her body (without physically touching her) her fear is less likely to escalate into panic.

I put a pile of treats in front of her as I fumbled for the keys. She wouldn't eat them. When I got the door open and asked her to hop in, she gobbled up the treats before bounding into her crate.

On the Training Front
CGC class tonight. We're going on a field trip. . .


Sara said...

While that first photo of Kona looks nothing like my Oreo, her expression/tenseness is so familiar to me. Oreo gets that same look when I make him sit and pose on walks, when he's not feeling comfortable in his surroundings.

That was a great idea to throw treats by the parking lot. You really seem to be keenly aware of your dog, and what stresses her and relieves her stress. Can't wait to hear about your class. Field trip? Yikes.

Sam said...

Ditto what Sara said. That face is SO FAMILIAR!

You sound so much like me when you talk about what you to do ease Kona's fears. Throwing treats on the floor is one of Marge's favorite games - I really need to take a video of it sometime.

Is Kona noise-phobic? Thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. Marge pretty much regards any loud boom as the end of the world.