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.


Sam said...

I don't know is this is any help to you, but I've had great luck teaching a quick sit from a distance. Marge often goes out on a 20' lead on our walks and as long as she's not running full speed (and I know better than to ask for the behavior in this situation), she'll drop into a sit regardless of her position. Perhaps proofing a sit this way so that she sits in any situation (ie. ahead of you on the trails) might be something that's clear to her? It's definitely come in handy for me.

Sara said...

Oreo and I play "red light, green light" when we're playing ball. I run around with the ball, stop and say, "red light" and he stops right away. I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with my movement stopping, but I think if I said it at another time he might stop.....I'll have to try it.

Love that last photo.

KB said...

Great photos of your sunrise run!

As for heel, when I'm teaching a youngish dog, I need to remind them to heel after I deliver each treat. Otherwise, they tend to think that the exercise is over when they get the treat.

As for 'Whoa', I've had good success with distant 'sits'. I start with my dog tethered some distance from me with a small rug under his feet and have him sit in place. Later, I remove the tether and the rug is the reminder to sit in one place (i.e., on the rug). Then, we start finding barriers like a single step or a curb, and we walk up to it. I don't stop but I say 'sit' as we pass it. The idea is that the dog sits before stepping off the barrier. At first, I have to pause and even turn toward the dog to get them to stop their forward momentum, but then they learn pretty fast.

Of course, before moving on, I do all those steps in a lot of situations, indoors, outdoors, in the city, in the country, etc.

When we finally take the show on the road, I use a 20' long line, like Sam suggested. I let my dog drag it, and if they appear like they're not going to stop and sit on cue, I step on the line. That stops them, and then I re-cue them to sit.

It takes patience but it eventually works. It can be a lifesaving skill if your dog ends up on the other side or the road or on the other side of a barbed wire fence and you don't want to call them.