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.


Sam said...

I really am amazed at how you analyze your dogs's behavior exactly the way I analyze my dog. Sniffing always makes me feel better too. LOL

Sorry you couldn't have had a better time on the trails. What a bummer that it was closed.

Good luck at class!

Sara said...

Exploring is a great sign that Kona has "let her guard down" and is relaxing. That's a sign I watch for in Oreo too. Like Kona, a tight leash = stress!

Good luck at your class. I hope you go home feeling better than you did last week.

KB said...

Have you read about Calming Signals by Turgid Rugas (not sure of author spelling). It's a bunch of behaviors that dogs do to calm themselves and to calm others around them. Sniffing is one of them. A dog might sniff at nothing just to make herself feel better. Or, if a big scary dog is approaching, the dog might sniff the ground instead of looking at the other dog. No one is really sure how much of this is meant to be communication to other dogs and how much is simply self-calming.

But, it's interesting reading... and there's now a DVD showing the calming signals in action.

It sounds like Kona uses a lot of self-calming behaviors. Maybe you can somehow reinforce them... I don't know how. I'm simply speculating...