Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quiet Please

I packed Kona's long leash for a fun run on her favorite trail. I kept her on her normal lead until we reach the top of our first hill. The twists in the beginning of the trail create blind corners for other users to sneak up on us. Kona kept her eyes on a mountain biker as he zipped down the trail below us.
I tried to leave extra early to catch the full sunrise show. Unfortunately, today was one of those days when the sky seemed to forget sunrise, changing simply from dark to light. But as we crested our second hill, a puff of clouds gave me my fill of morning color.
On our long descent, Kona sprang from one side of the fireroad to the other. She frolicked through three feet high foxtails and scampered up near vertical hills. Occasionally, she paused to find something worth investigation.

Since her stressful CGC test, I've tried to make our outings low pressure and fun. I haven't done much trail training at all, but I did recall her twice today while she was on her long line. The first time, she came hesitantly. The second time, she ran to me with enthusiasm. I always sent her away quickly, letting her get back to exploring.
Kona seemed relaxed until we came across a few service workers who pulled up to a parallel road in their trucks. Kona fixated on them, but her stress didn't escalate too much. Just as we almost cleared the trucks, a familiar group of high schools boys made their way up a hill just to the right of us.

Unlike last time, when they flew by without a peep, today they stood at the top of a hill, cheering each other on as they struggled to the top. Kona lost it. She rarely reaches a high level of fear on our trails, but today was one of those rare days. Kona would have been fine seeing them run by, but hollering is one of the few things that almost always sends her into a panic. She tucked her tail, lowered her body, and became a freight train.

It was one of those situations where there was nothing I could do to help her. I found myself really irritated that the group of runners had to be so noisy. But really, there isn't anything wrong with cheering on a teammate. In fact, if Kona wasn't with me, the whole scene would have made me smile.

When the cheering stopped and the boys disappeared from view, I put Kona back on her long line. She headed towards her favorite stretch of trail and I hoped it would help relax her. It took her a couple of minutes, but she seemed to make a full recovery. As we hopped onto a singletrack trail, hollering started to echo around the contours of the hills and Kona transformed back into a freight train.

I hated seeing Kona finish on a down note. I did feel good about seeing her be able to recover after her trigger was completely gone (the first time the hollering started). This shows me that Kona does generally feel safe in her environment. When Kona is unsure of her surroundings, even after a trigger leaves, she's often incapable of calming down.

It was one of those mornings when I was reminded that, yes, I have a special dog. She really isn't just shy. There are many things about the human world that still terrify her. At the same time, I saw how her confidence has grown. Don't worry Kona, I like your specialness. Really, the human world is kind of scary. To quiet trails we'll go!


Sara said...

It is great that Kona was able to continue after the boys' yelling diminished, especially after being in such a high state of anxiety.

I'm not sure Oreo would have been able to get back to a semi-normal state of mind. Kids really throw him off the deep end. Good thing there isn't a "take your dog to work day", he'd never make it through 1st period in my school!

KB said...

One trainer who I know always says that it's not the initial fear that she focuses on but the ability to recover from it. Good job to you and Kona on the recovery from the first round of hollering!

I agree with Kona and you that the human world can be scary. It must seem very bizarre to dogs at times, when humans do things that make no sense whatsoever to a dog.

I'm glad that the two of you got out on the trails together and saw the colors of sunrise. That's wonderful!

Dawn said...

Kona is a very special dog, and so lucky to have you! Progress is being made, and even though perhaps there will always be fear, getting over it will become easier and easier with each experience, and your support.

Kathy said...

Kona is lucky to have someone who has had the sensitivity to understand her, and you are lucky to have that connection to such a special girl. I agree that regardless of the reactions, the fact that she can recover is soooo huge, good job on you for knowing how to handle it so Kona felt safe enough to relax again and to Kona for being so brave to be able to move on after the first time.

Sam said...

I know the feeling. I always complain about how noisy it gets in the sports field by my house come the warm weather. Then, my boyfriend reminds me that they have as much of a right to be there as I do, or maybe even more, since they have an organized league and everything. Still, I wish the world wasn't so loud. It would make my life (and yours) a lot easier.

Good for her for calming down, even if it was only temporary.

Do you think a supplement could help her? Not a prescribed medication, just a nutraceutical, maybe one that you can give only before you walk. I've tried a couple, and Marge is on one now. It's not an earth-shattering improvement, but I do think it takes the edge off in a lot of situations and helps her recover faster. If you're on the Yahoo! Shy K9s list, there's a lot of info about that kind of stuff there.

MurphyDog said...

OMD!! My bestest friend's name is Kona...and he looks almost exactly like your Konadog! Your Konadog is just a bit redder than my bestest Konadog is. They sound like they are both big chickens though!

check out Konadogs Blog...

he doesn't blog very often, but maybe if you stopped by and said "Hi" it would get him going again!

wags, wiggles & slobbers