Friday, February 26, 2010

Final Class

Last night Kona went to her final CGC class. We arrived a few minutes early so I stayed in the car and fed Kona treats through her crate. I (finally) learned it's possible to enter through the back door of the training center, which is connected to the parking lot and avoids having to walk the block around the corner on a very busy street.

When I took Kona out of her crate, she was very anxious and yanked me across the parking lot. The puppy class before us ran overtime, so we stood by the backdoor for at least five minutes with a couple other classmates. Kona was on high alert and spent a fair share of time whining, but she was still able to take treats and even sat when I asked her to. (Although she could only stay seated for a couple seconds-a good sign of her anxiety).

When we finally went inside, most of our classmates where already seated. Kona eyed the wall of 8+ dog and handler teams. Then her tail came out and she pulled me to the other side of the room. She wagged her tail in search of someone to greet. Was this my dog? Our trainer has a rule that the dogs cannot interact during class, so she found the first solo human. A man! She wagged her tail and gave him a full sniffdown. We were off to a good start.

For our last pre-test class, each team went through a run through of about six or seven of the ten tests. Kona preformed just as expected. She retreated when approached by the examiner. (She had just ran up to this same person five minutes earlier, took treats and even tolerated some pats. Seems weird, but just what you'd expect from a fearful dog. She's OK when she controls the interaction, but feels uncomfortable when the tables turn.) She didn't run away for the sit for petting, but she didn't stay seated and ducked if a hand went over her head.

She did great for the obedience tests and was perfect on her loose-leash walk. To my surprise, she stayed right at my heel during the distraction test when the examiner walked by with a rolling suitcase.

We ended with the supervised separation. For the sake of time, I left her for two minutes, instead of three. This test could go either way next week. Apparently, the big thing that makes the dogs fail for being anxious is if they vocalize at all. I thought Kona would fail for pulling herself to the end of her leash/as far away from the examiner, but that may very well be fine. She did whine a bit yesterday. The funny thing for Kona is that if she's really scared, she'll probably just pull to the end of the leash and not make a peep (and pass). If she's more relaxed with whoever is on the other end of the leash, she's more likely to whine (and fail). That's fearful Kona versus anxious Kona.

All in all, Kona had a great night. She was more friendly with people than I have ever seen her before. I like to think it's because she's becoming more brave, but I know a lot of it has to do with her becoming comfortable with the facility, and having seen these people several times before. But still, she was one brave doggy!

This morning, I planned on going for our really really long run. But..I stayed up till midnight watching the Olympics! So when I woke up this morning, I decided that I would take Kona out with her long leash for a fun hike. Besides, she deserved something special today.

The sunrise greeted our arrival.

I had Kona start on her short leash, and in good I just-got-out-of-the-car-and-I'm-nervous Kona fashion, she pulled her tail down and pulled her way up the trail.

By the time we reached the top of our first hill, the sun was on the rise and Kona settled down a bit. I put her on her 20' line and let her run for the next couple miles.

We were on Kona's favorite trail and she explored like a maniac. It's always fun to see her run. She's an insane athlete, and if I'm not quick enough to redirect her, she'll be mountain goating up the side of a near vertical wall.

When we reached the high point of our hike, Kona jumped up on the green bench where she posed for pictures on our snow run a couple weeks ago. Today, a westernly wind blew into her face and she sniffed away at the moving scents. Another good morning.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back to the Ridge

It's been three days since Kona has been able to get out for a run. I left her at home and hit the trails solo yesterday and her face as I walked out the door just killed me.

Thankfully, Kona's toes have mended enough that we were back on our foggy ridge this morning.
I love overcast weather and almost asked the sun to go away as it tried to shine down on our trail.

The grass surrounding the trail was covered with dew, so Kona had a belly bath while she explored.
Kona seemed a bit more tense than usual today, but it may just be that I was feeling a bit off and over sensitive. We also may be getting back into sync after having our routine thrown for the past few days. Whatever the case, I was still glad to be out with my Kona Dog and she still felt relaxed enough to do some exploring.

I had to cut our run a bit short because my ankle brace started hurting my heel, despite my monster backpacking socks. I'll have to come up with a better padding system so Kona and I can get out for a proper run.

On the Training Front

Tonight, Kona heads to her last CGC class before her test. We practiced heel-walking in the yard yesterday and we'll be put to test tonight. I have some video of Kona's heel work and distant sits, but I haven't had any luck today in my attempts to upload it. I'll have to try again another time!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Busted Pedicure Means Time Off

I'm done trimming Kona's nails. From here on, it's a monthly dew claw trim. That's it. What happened? I only got through five of Kona's rear nails yesterday and managed to cut down to the quick on three of them. One of them is really bad. I know, it happens to everyone, but I've never done that before and nail clipping is horribly stressful for Kona to begin with.

I spent many many weeks several months ago desensitizing Kona to nail trimming. I went through everything you can think of and she was fine with it all. I could handle her feet, her nails, put the clippers around a nail, put pressure on the nail with my fingers. Here's the problem. Kona is scared of the actual clipping part and there's no way to slowly increase the intensity with that.

So what happened during this process is that I would get her tolerate the whole nine yards over many days, then would clip one nail. She would become terrified. She hid, tucked her tail, avoided me. Then we'd have to start the desensitizing processes from scratch, only to end with the same result. The whole thing became stressful for both of us, so I ditch it and took the thinking that, well she'll be scared with the nail clipping but it will only happen once every four or five weeks.

Now Kona is terrified when I bring out the clippers. The poor soul doesn't have it in her to bite me, but she manages to make her little body weigh 200 pounds and her eyes bulge out of her head. It kills me to see her this way.

So in my attempt to get things done quickly yesterday while Kona pulled her feet away from me, I did a really bad job. What kills me with things like this that don't seem like a big deal is that I lose Kona's trust. It's happened with different things before so I know we'll be back to normal soon enough, but it's still a stab in the heart.

What do I mean? After something scary happens with Kona, she'll avoid me, scurry around with her tail tucked, hide from me, and even shake when I come too close. I've learned to leave her alone when this happens. If it was something small, it'll only happen for a few minutes. More often, it's several hours. Unfortunately, there have been times when she has been afraid of me for several days. (This happens mostly after trips to the vet.)

So, that's the nail trimming saga. Kona's a little on edge today, but she's doing alright. I'm making sure not to ask much from her. Unfortunately, she is a bit of a physical mess. I cut one of her nails so short that it keeps reopening. I thought she would be able to handle playing in the grass, but after a couple of minutes she gave me "the look" and hunkered away. Her nail was bleeding again.

Kona will be taking time off from her trails. I unfortunately think it may be several days before she's able to romp again. If anyone has had experience with a nail reopening like this, I'd love any advice. I'm aware of things like kwik-stop. The problem isn't the initial bleeding not stopping, it's that any activity reopens the nail. I was thinking of bandaging it, but I'm not sure how much that will help. For now, I'm just trying to keep Kona from moving around too much.

Until our next run together, we'll keep dreaming of sunrises and mountaintop views.

On the Training Front

Kona has started a new class! Nose Work. She went to the first class on Sunday. I'll write more about that in a later post. We're also getting ready for her final CGC classes. We're preparing mostly by working on heel-walking in different settings. Several of the texts require her to keep on walking/sitting and ignore a distraction of sorts, so I'm trying to nail down her ability to focus on me.

We've also taken the advice to work on distant sits. This is something we had worked on some in the past, but it still needs work. I've noticed that Kona gets stressed when I ask her to do anything from a distance. She usually won't sit on the first command and she gets real squinty eyes and will often tongue flick. I think I need to approach it more slowly with her.

Small steps.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thinking of Snakes with Queen Pouncer

I opened my email this morning with a letter from a local canine hiking club. The club organizer sent all of us this article about a dog down south who was recently bit by a rattlesnake. While my mind is often on alert for big cats, rattlesnakes are the potential danger we will most likely encounter on our hikes.
Thanks freestock, for your image.

While our weather here doesn't get cold enough for snakes to "hibernate" during the winter, I've never seen one during a winter hike and they usually don't come to mind until late spring.

Last year, I didn't think much about Kona and snakes as she was too nervous to do much exploring. But now, it's the sniffing and pouncing that keeps Kona spunky and stress-free. Every article I've read about dogs and rattlesnakes suggests to keep dogs leashed and away from brush and rocks. That's no easy task for Queen Pouncer.
There's that conservative voice in me that says I'll keep her out of the chaparral. But that means that I have to tug her away from her adventures.

A rattlesnake vaccine has been developed, but I have my suspicions about its effectiveness. There are also rattlesnake avoidance trainings for dogs, but they all use shock collars, which isn't an option for the painfully sensitive Kona Dog. (I'm also not sure how well a one time training works for dogs when they don't generalize well.)

I feel better knowing that of the handful of dogs that I've read about and know who have been bitten, all survived. I will be making calls to see which local vets stock anti-venom. And from here, well Kona, maybe you can steer clear of trouble.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Misty Morning

Yesterday, Kona and I took it easy on a mini ridge hike. I noticed during our run to the Flats that my ankle brace was hitting my heel strangely. After spraining and then re-tweaking my ankle a couple extra times, I don't have enough lateral support in my joint to trail run. If my ankle starts to turn, I can't catch it. Luckily, I found a great brace that is ridged enough to stop lateral movement in my ankle, but also has a joint on it so I can run without a problem.

When the weather heated up, I ditched my heavy weight backpacking socks, but losing that cushion left my brace to hit my heel and left me with a blister. So Kona and I took a rest yesterday and were ready for a peak run this morning.

Kona is much more relaxed on the climb of this trail than she was last summer. Previously, she wouldn't stop at all until we reached the top for official "sniff hour." In recent months she has been relaxed enough to stop along the way up.

I took advantage of her breaks to enjoy the low clouds that began to surround us. The higher we ran, the more the sky blanketed us.

Whenever Kona finished sniffing, she would look up to examine the canyon below us and the hillside to our east.

When we reached the top, the mountains directly in our path became invisible from the moving mist.

Kona hesitated before leading me to her favorite sniff spots.While Kona's confidence shows on our way up, she still has a hard time on the descent of this trail. She starts out loose and eager, but once we're down to the one mile marker, she tenses up. I don't know what gets to her exactly. I think it's a combination of being able to see and hear the city noises, running into more people, and perhaps anticipating the street we're heading towards. Whatever it is, she's not happy on this stretch.

She refused treats when we got close to the street. I was glad that I didn't have to hold tension on her leash the entire time. I have to keep her close and be ready to respond if she dashes, but I was able to put tension on her lead when she made fearful pulls, but then relax as soon as she stopped.

I want to help her with these trail to street transitions. (Thanks Sara for pointing out the significance of transition times.) After I got her secured in her crate, I spent just a minute or two sitting next to her with the car door open. As Sam suggested, I fed her treats while we watched cars and people go by. I think this will be the start of a new routine for us.

On the Training Front
We skipped out on yesterday's CGC class as another field trip was scheduled. We only have one more class until test day! Our plan for Kona is just to see how many of the tests we can do. Depending on how she responds to the examiner approaching her (he's a man she's never met...not the best set-up), I may tell the examiner to skip the sit for petting and handling tests.

Maybe it's bad, but I feel good about Kona's comfort level with strangers. She's perfectly fine when they ignore her and even at home, where she becomes territorial, she settles down much more quickly than she use to. She does need to be safe with people when she has to be handled, and when the unexpected extended hand flies over her head. But, I don't think she's missing out on life if she never becomes at ease with handling by strangers or stays aloof around people she doesn't know. Oh how my outlook has changed over time!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Run to the Flats

I craved a long run, so headed out to one of our trails we haven't seen for a few weeks. Our destination was the "Flats" that sits covered in trees in the middle of the picture below. I'm not sure how long this route is, but we were out moving for a couple hours.Evidence of our winter storms covered the trails. Even the fireroad had become a technical run with rocks, debris, and crater footing overtaking the trail. After about a half mile on the fireroad, we headed North on a singletrack. Every time I run this trail I'm amazed at how I didn't remeber how steep this section was. I thought the same thing again today.

Soon the trail opend to another fireroad where we climbed into the eastern sun. It wasn't long before we made it to the flats and looked down on the city. This must me a stomping ground for local animals as Kona always goes on a sniffing rampage. I let her drag me around the trees, quickly shifting my gaze from my feet to the forest above me.
After a couple minutes of frenzied sniffing, I stopped to take in the view. (Of Kona's fenzied sniffing, not mine.) I was surprised to feel slack in Kona's leash. When I looked down, she gazed peacefully down the hillside. She didn't whine or insist on moving. I soaked up the moment.Our descent proved a bit harry, as it often does on steep terrain with a pulling Kona Dog. At one point on the trail, Kona crossed behind me from my left to my right side and ran right next to me with a slack leash. I have no idea what prompted her to run like that, but for the two or three minutes it lasted, I had a big grin on my face.

When we reached flat ground, we headed up the fireroad to cool off by the creek before we made our way back to the parking lot. Kona made several splashing entrances into the water.

Our trip back to the parking lot wasn't as successful as it was the last time we were there. Kona was too nervous to care about the treats I threw on the ground. She walked very slowly when we crossed onto the concrete. When we reached the car, she made one quick sideways dash, but when I told her to sit, she did. She took a couple treats before jumping into her crate.

Our finish wasn't perfect, but I think that overall both Kona and I had a good morning.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What was I Thinking?

The longer days have snuck up on me and dawn passed before Kona and I reached the ridge. Kona seemed extra frisky this morning as she raced from one side of the trail to the other, following sent trails. Most of the pictures I took turned out as a blur of red fur, or of a quick shot of Kona's rear.

She followed the path of a cottontail, then quickly zoomed to the other side of the ridge. While Kona kept her watchful eye downslope, I enjoyed the recent bloom of flowers.

As we made our way to the midpoint of our hike, I put Kona on her long line so she could burn more energy even as I trudged along slowly. Kona was tense for awhile, and instead of using the extra freedom to explore, she ran to the end of the leash and pulled me up the trail, just as she does on her normal lead. I became frustrated.

I stopped several times to turn my back to Kona and take several breaths. My mood was low to begin with, and combined with the tension I often feel from being connected to an anxious dog, and the pain from reawakened tendonitis, I was agitaged. I knew taking any frustration out on Kona, even a yank on her line, wouldn't do either of us any good.

When we turned around to head home, I unclipped her leash. Kona's fear response is flight. She has a prey drive that has no sense of self-preservation. What was I thinking?

I wasn't. I was responding to my fatigue and frustration. Off Kona ran. She charged up the fireroad and very quickly became smaller and smaller. I held my breath. I gave out a frantic "Kona come!" Kona stopped, turned to face me, and didn't budge. In hopes of preserving that command, I didn't call her again. Instead, I turned around and took a couple jogging strides on the other direction. Kona sprinted towards me twice as fast as she first ran away.

I gave her a handful of treats and sent her on her way. I still wasn't thinking. Kona got about 30 feet ahead of me when a tire blew out on the freeway below. I held my breath again. Kona rotated one of her radar ears in the direction of the bang and then went on with her exploring.

I let Kona romp for about five minutes. I didn't call her back to me again until I needed to re-leash her. I did kneel down a couple times, which is Kona's cue that we're playing hide and seek. Although she seemed to run with abandon, she kept a quarter eye on me. I knelt for only a couple seconds before Kona would notice me and race in my direction. When I did need to leash her, she came when I called her.

Kona and I were the only ones on the trail this morning. The sun was too high in the sky for either coyotes or rabbits to be out. The fireroad we traveled stretched rolling hills than ran directly East and West, making it impossible to turn a corner and disappear from sight. All of these factors kept Kona safe. I also forget that although her training seems to be in its infancy, it's still solid. I'm not going to make a habit of unleashing Kona, but I have to say that she did really well.

Before we left, I stopped to catch a view of Downtown.
As I thought of the scurry wakening below the highrises, I was relieved to feel my frustration melt to gratitude. I felt grateful for our empty ridge and for my safe and happy companion that I got to share it with.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Toasty

80 degrees toasty. When Kona and I started our run this morning, it only took a few feet before I began to melt in my long sleeve shirt and fleece vest. I unfortunately was using the pockets of my vest to stash my keys and all of Kona's supplies, so I couldn't leave it behind. I decided early on to make our run shorter than planned.

As we crested our first hill at 6:30, the horizon glowed read and yellow. It seemed like even the skyline forgot the season, leaving behind the pink and blue hues of our winter sunrises. By our second hill, I pulled out my sunglasses.

When we reached the high point of our run, I practiced Kona's heel walking. She did great, though I always keep these mini sessions only a few seconds at a time in order to not lose her. Later down the trail we ran into two off leash dogs that we hadn't met before. Kona stiffened during their greeting, as she almost always does. The furry pair were mellow guys and went on their way after a short sniff. Kona then got a burst of energy, perhaps a release of the nervousness left by greeting the two new dogs. Off downtrail we went.

I decided to practice a sit-stay on a new portion of trail. After I made sure there weren't any humans or dogs around, I told Kona to wait and ran down the trail. She stayed beautifully until I vanished around a corner. She then broke her sit and followed me at light speed. I rewarded her for coming straight to me. I figure at this point in her trail training, wanting to keep me in sight is a good thing.

Both Kona and I were ready for a helping of water when we finished our run. I'm glad that the weather forecast calls for a gradual cooling the rest of the week.

My camera went MIA this morning, but here's Kona last week. She managed to soak in a few rays this afternoon too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Day of Challenges

We don't have CGC class this week, but everyday presents chances for training. This morning, when Kona and I arrived at the start of our ridge hike, a car with three teenage boys parked in front of us. I figured I had two options. Wait for the group to move up the trail, or bolt out of the car quickly to get in front of them. We bolted.

As we moved a few yards closer to the trail, the guys popped out of their car. Kona took note. We moved a little faster in the direction of the trailhead and right into the line of a charging Sheltie. We were surrounded.

We meet The Sheltie often, so I knew she wouldn't cause harm, only hackle raising from Kona. The Sheltie moved past us, towards the street, and out of sight. Unfortunately, while we were distracted my the charging pooch, the guys gained on us. Then, Kona stopped to sniff her favorite sniffing spot. A few feet onto the trail, she stopped to sniff again.

Until she saw the black lab running like a junior higher on Redbull.

Kona hauled like a Bernese, showing the effectiveness of her no-pull harness. Nothing mattered anymore. The guys no longer existed. The noise of the freeway went silent. Oh, the power of a labrador. When we reached sighting range for the lab, the big guy paused, reared, and charged. Oh my.

He proved himself the stereotyped lab-enthused, energized, crazed, and sweeter than something you'd buy for fifty cents at the icecream truck. Kona offered her rear for sniffing and off the big guy went. Then he came back for another round. This time, Kona lunged as he swooped by, trying to catch him with her mouth. Hm, maybe not so good. Then, he turned around and he and Kona trotted side by side for a few moments/seconds.

I have to give Kona credit. She often makes me nervous when she meets other dogs because if they make her uncomfortable, she'll let them know it. She'll also hold her ground when another canine isn't being too nice. But, she does all of this with a good deal of control. She could have lunged with aggression when the lab came at her a second time, but her pounce was a, "I kind of want to play with you, but dude, you've got to calm down a bit." The point seemed to be taken.

With all the distractions, our hike ended before I knew it. We were headed back home where three painters had taken over the house. Kona didn't know this yet.

When we got to the doorstep, Kona knew immediately that someone was in her house. I needed to get her inside, so I kept her leashed and hoped she wouldn't bark like she intended to eat someone. Thankfully, only one painter was in the house and Kona peered at her from down the hallway, approached with caution, and backed away before she got within reaching distance. Kona didn't make a sound. The rest of the afternoon came with a few growls, but by the end of the painter's day, Kona was in her bed and didn't get up when they walked to the front door to leave.

Looking at today, Kona had a nervous response to everything, but her reactions were milder than I expected. While she still has generalized fears (with specific big triggers), it's encouraging to watch her reactions move from scared to nervous and even down to just cautious. The work will never finish, but it's important to watch the progress along the way!

Kona shows off her dew freckles after her hike. (The noise of a trash truck flattened her ears as I took the picture...)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Morning

Yesterday afternoon the sky opened, bringing hours of intermittent downpour and thunderstorms. When I loaded Kona's crate in the car this morning, I found ice covering the windshield. Being a true Southern Californian, I overdressed (extremely) to make sure the frosty sunrise wouldn't turn me into a snowman.

When we arrived at our neighborhood trail, we were greeted by snowy foothills.

While the higher peaks in the forest will sport snow for much of the season, the closer foothills will be dusted only a couple days a winter. The snow level dropped close to 3000 feet last night and would probably last only through the morning. It was a special treat for our run.

As we took off uphill, I took several breaks to savor the mountains. (Sorry for so many out of focus pictures. The autofocus on my camera has gone wonky and only likes to focus up close, in bright light.)
Kona didn't like all my breaks. Here, she holds her tail down, showing her discomfort. She thankfully wasn't too anxious to miss the good scents that drifted by.

Today I felt strong and added a loop that I'll often pass when I'm not as energetic. This east-facing trail opened to the sun. In the photo below, the morning's frost evaporated in the warm air.
When we reached the highest point of our run, I stopped to practice some obedience with Kona. While Kona still has trouble giving me her attention throughout our runs, we have certain stopping points where we always practice something. The routine seems to have helped her as she's always able to focus and often gets a burst of confidence and energy after our mini practice.

Today, after a round of walking in heel, Kona jumped onto a bench and I was able to snap a photo. The background on this picture is clearer, making it easier to see the barren foothills. Last year's fire ravaged this range and turned the forest into a giant sand dune. Mudslides damaged several homes last weekend and I've heard it will be five years before enough vegetation returns to the hillsides so that the foothill communities will no longer be at risk for debris flow.

I'm awed by nature's power and grateful to soak up its beauty.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beach Video

Here's Kona's beach video. I love her reaction to a wave biting her rear. It comes right after her shake.

Thanks for such a fun day, Kona Girl.

Monday, February 8, 2010

How was Your Weather Today?

Today was my weekend. Kona and I headed up the coast to Santa Barbara for our first big outing together. We started our morning with a hike and ended our afternoon with a romp on the beach

Kona chopped blades of grass to quench her thirst.While I took in the ocean view, Kona looked downslope for pouncing opportunities.
On our way out we took the trail by the creek. Kona always finds something interesting in moving water.
I couldn't get Kona to drink from her bowl, so I said a prayer to the gods of protozoa and bacteria and let her take her fill.We hopped rocks along the creek for part of our way out. As we crossed to rejoin the trail, I realized that I was pushing through a field of poison oak. (Sent a plea out to the urushiol gods. It may have been too late. Should I pay, the view of the creek was worth it).

Off to the beach!

Kona forgot her fearfulness and romped like a crazy dog. I have some video, but Blogger seems to be having trouble with it. I'll try to post it later.

Nothing like a Winter day with my dog!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beaming on a Rainy Day

Just as promised, I woke up to rain. Kona and I turned into Westernly Wicked Witches and skipped out of our morning run. Besides, Kona had a big night last night and missed a few hours of sleep.

After last week's field trip, I nearly swore off CGC class altogether. I'm glad I didn't. Back at the training center last night, Kona couldn't keep still when she wasn't working. When she was working, she was right on cue.

It was a fun night of relay races. We had our dogs sit-stay, ran down to pack a suitcase, rolled the suitcase back to our dogs, circled our dog, ran the suitcase back, unpacked it, ran back to our dogs, and then ran them at a heel to pass it off to the next team. Kona got a modified rule set. I just rolled the suitcase halfway to her, since she wasn't going to hold her stay with a big wheeling thing coming towards her. With that small change, she did great.

For the second race, we had our dogs sit-stay and then we did three jumping jacks. Next, we put them into a down-stay and ran around them. If they stayed put, we passed a tennis ball off to the next team. This one was easier for Kona, since I was right next to her.

The only serious CGC business we worked on was the supervised separation. I put Kona in a down-stay in front of a kibble pile and walked around the corner into the kitchen area. Apparently, she did great for the first two minutes, but then got nervous and ate her food pile.

After our turn, we went back to our seat right next to the kitchen. Then, as all the other handlers sat in the kitchen to leave their dogs, Kona walked right in there with them, tail wiggling nearly every time, to beg for treats. A couple people even got a few pets out of her. She even pawed at one lady's leg who wasn't getting her begging face quickly enough. I was beaming at my courageous dog!

While she was anxious most of the night (she couldn't sit still while we waited), she was able to focus when I asked her to. Even when something made her more uncomfortable (she doesn't like someone taking her leash, and as we stayed in the waiting room before class, a boy talking loudly outside left her shaking in the corner), she bounced back.

When we made it home, she walked the five feet to her bed and collapsed.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Forest Closed

I packed my gear for a long run. Extra water, cup of Kona kibble, dog bowl, poop bag, sun glasses, camera, phone, another half cup kibble. Kona and I were ready for our first big run of the year. I planned our route up a fireroad that reaches a vista point at the four mile mark, which makes for a good turning point. We hadn't been to this trail for over a year because we have to park on a busy street and Kona panicked the last time we were there.

Today, I figured a way to bypass some of the scary traffic and hoped that Kona's improvements would show.

When we arrived, the parking lot was empty. This is a popular pre-work mountain biking spot, so I had a feeling that the trail was closed. I found the sign at the start of the road that leads to the trailhead that confirmed my feeling. Fortunately, I knew we would have at least a mile that's closed off to traffic that we could venture down. It's a paved road, but meanders through a canyon.

Oh, Kona Girl was on edge. Right from coming out of the car, the traffic and new surroundings turned her into a freight train. For the first half of our walk, she pulled like mad and wasn't into taking food. My only consolation was that she stopped a number of times to sniff things.

About a mile in, we went as far as we could go.
The fire that moved through the area last September burned over 160,000 acres. The trail we were headed to was burned completely. The Forest Service seems to have it closed indefinitely due to possible rock slides.

I knew this was a possibility when we headed out, but it's unfortunately difficult to find updated information on our trails.

I tried to make the best of my changed plans and my scared dog. For some reason, as soon as we turned around, Kona's tail came out and she was all for exploring. We walked down to the creek, which was filled with debris from our last storm. Some debris piles appeared man made to divert waterflow.

Kona was anxious-excited, but it felt good to see her explore.

She moved around with a gleam of nervous energy in her eyes, but she was enjoying herself. I hope I can help her get to this state in more situations.The closer we got to the street, the harder it got for Kona. She became very flighty. After she refused to take food, the only thing I could think of was to start jogging. I hadn't run with her up to that point because it's too hard for me to jog when she pulls so hard. Before Kona goes into a panicked, sideways flight, she slows down to fixate on whatever is scary. I thought if I could keep her moving forward, maybe her fear wouldn't escalate. She didn't make any sideways dashes, which was good. She also didn't start jumping on me (real panic) like she did last time we were here.

Our run turned into a walk and became much shorter than planned. Kona was scared for much of the time, but seeing her interested in exploring, even if only for awhile, was something.

I think we'll stick to trails with quieter street approaches and maybe one day, we can come back here with more success.

On the Training Front
CGC class tonight! (Without a field trip=)

Thanks for all the suggestions for teaching heel and whoa. We'll keep at it and let everyone know how it goes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Morning Run and New Training

An evening at work kept me from posting yesterday, but Kona and I had a great outing together. We started the day with a sunrise run on one of our neighborhood trails.

While the Eastern sky shined pink, the moon lingered in the West.
I'm beginning to feel my running legs again, so Kona and I moved quickly up our first hill. At the top, I stopped to photo Kona next to the rock creation, but she let me know with a tongue flick that she was having none of my camera nonsense.

I still managed to get one shot in.
As we descended the next hill, I worked with Kona on her heel position. This is a new command we've worked on for CGC class. Kona is terrible on a leash, and since she has just started being able to take treats from me on our runs, we're far away from learning to keep the leash loose all the time. But since she's willing to take treats now, we've practice heeling on many of our descents.

Kona does great when I treat her every 10 or so feet. On one hand she gets it. On the other, it's challenging because we've never worked on a command that's moving and continuous. Most commands Kona knows are just one action. Kona can hold a continuous stay, but that's a stationary command. With heel, I'm giving her a moving command that she still has to be released from. Challenging. Especially for a spazzy Kona Dog. She can stay by my side if she keeps her focus on me, but when we're running together, she does need to look up at the trail. To be continued.

When we reached our turn around point, I stopped to watch the sun peak around the hill.

Kona took advantage of the pause to find something downslope to pounce.

I finished our run feeling strong. Kona finished with too much energy.

On the Training Front
Along with our heel work, I'm trying to heal Kona 'Whoa.' I'd love for Kona to be able to slow down and stop on command while we're on the trails. I decided to use a physical barrier to start. I put Kona on leash right in front of a line up of chairs so she would have to stop. After a few times, I added the whoa command.

I soon found our challenge. Kona didn't need the barrier. When we're outside working together, she focuses on me and will stop when I stop. It's also hard to send her out in front of me, where she always is on the trail.

To see if she was getting it and not just following me, I set her up to be stopped by the chairs, told her to whoa, dropped her leash and walked around the chairs. She stayed, so I thought we were onto something. Then I caught myself putting my hand in the stay position as I walked by her. She knows this cue well, but needs to know how to whoa with only a verbal cue, since she will be in front of me.

While I think we're onto something, I'm not sure how I can get this to the point where it will translate to the trails where distractions abound. If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears! It's a challenge, but it's a ton of fun to work with Kona on something outside behavior modification.