Monday, March 1, 2010

A Nervous Run and Nose Work

I'm finally getting into the swing of our longer days and got out the door this morning to see more of the sunrise. Kona and I hit her favorite neighborhood trail. I decided to park down the street from the trailhead to get another good hill in and for Kona to have some more concrete time. I dream of one day walking Kona through the neighborhood on a loose leash, watching her tail high in the air. For today, we would tackle the quarter mile hill before we reached the trail.

Kona did well. She was more nervous than usual when she hopped out of the car, but she didn't seem bothered by the street. It helped that the neighborhood still slept and we didn't hear any house noises and didn't have a single car pass us.

When we reached the trail, the sun was on the move.

On our first descent, a stream of water from Saturday's rain carved into the trail. Kona seemed extra tense to me, so I stopped and tossed a few rocks into the inch-deep water. I was glad to see Kona respond and try to dig out the culprit splasher.

I kept Kona on a tight lead on our next descent. Her nerves were making her yank extra hard, which makes running down hill a bit dangerous if I give her any room to pick up speed. Keeping her tight and close makes her uncomfortable, so when we reached a more level section, I let out her leash. She stayed nervous for most of our run.

I tried to enjoy the morning. The sun woke up the mountains and canyons, promising another beautiful winter day.
I took Kona down a trail we haven't explored. It borders homes and zig-zags its way towards the streets downhill. I don't know that it was a good choice to head down a trail that would be challenging for Kona when she was already unnerved. We turned around after a quarter mile.

We then headed up our longest climb of our run. I was quickly reminded how much faster an extra quarter mile downhill goes compared to its reverse. Kona took time to sniff, but still held her tail down tightly. I decided to leave out a loop of our run. I didn't know why Kona felt so uncomfortable, as this was her favorite trail. Her yanking began shooting pain through my arm, which shortens my patience.

We made our way back to the car through the small stretch of neighborhood where we started. As expected, coming back this way was harder for Kona than going through it the first time. We past a couple homes that had cars idling in their driveways that made Kona dash for safety.

It's always a bummer to see Kona so unhappy. We just have to keep trying and hope for better next time.

On the Training Front

I took Kona to her second Nose Work class yesterday. The training is similar to scent work taught to narcotics dogs. It's a new sport that had it's first sanctioned trail just a couple years ago.

At Kona's level, the dogs are learning how to search for things with their noses. We've practiced with nine identical boxes, with one containing a pile of treats. At first, the boxes were lined up in a row. Yesterday, things got more challenging and the boxes alternated from being on the floor to being on a chair. For our final search, the boxes were spread across the room, interspersed among upside-down chairs and cones.

I've played search games before with Kona, so she got the game quickly. One of the challenges of the class is that the dogs have to stay outside in a crate area, or in the car while they wait their turn. Unlike all other classes, where we hang out in the room together while the dog's take their turns working, Kona has to spend a lot of time by herself. At first, I was bummed about this and worried about leaving Kona. Now I see it more as a positive challenge. Kona is more stressed with the new set-up, but she's still able to work as soon as I bring her in for her turn. It also gives us several chances to practice our transitions from the car through the parking lot.

It'll be fun to see how she does as the class becomes more challenging. In a couple weeks, the dogs will be taught their first "real odor," a natural oil, and will have to learn to search for it, rather than their treats. Should be fun!


Sara said...

Sorry you had a nervous Kona run today. It's always tough when you don't really know why one day is better than another. I think it doesn't take much to set our dogs "off", and then it is hard to get them back. Hopefully a fresh start the next day is all she needs.

Your nose work class sounds really interesting, and a good way to work Kona's mind. I didn't know they had competitions! That's cool.

KB said...

I've been reading a book about someone with Asperger's Syndrome, and I started wondering how many dogs have syndromes that cause their nervousness that we humans can't understand...

Despite Kona's nervousness, it must have been nice to see the sunrise. I love sunrises!

As for scent work, does Kona get nervous about that? My nervous dog, K, who is incredibly different from Kona gets nervous if she makes the wrong choice even once. Then, she just starts making random choices in a big hurry, as if she just wants the game to be over. If I can keep her calm, her success rate for choosing a container with a particular odor is excellent. I've started to think that maybe the indoor work is just too scary for her. If I put a container with a scent in the middle of a huge field outside (under the snow), she can find it really fast and never gets nervous. Anyway... these creatures sure do challenge us to figure them out, don't they?

We had a toenail issue... like Kona's sort of. I hope to blog about it when I find time.

Kathy said...

that nose work class sounds so awesome! I wonder how my doggies would do. I want to go on one of your early morning hikes, the pictures are always so pretty.