Friday, April 16, 2010

Finding Energy and Nose Work Info

It's been one of those weeks where I feel like I'm running on only a bowl of Wheaties—I haven't had a whole lot of energy and have had the patience of someone low on blood sugar. Not too inspirational. I'm not sure where the downer mood came from, but I knew I needed to get out for some real exercise in an attempt to zap some life into me.

My determination showed. We were the first people at the trailhead parking lot. When we hit our first steep climb, I was ready to push hard. As always, Kona waited for me to hurry up.
We made it up the climb and merged onto a fireroad. The more I run a trail, the more relaxed I feel on it. Kona and I have crossed this trail enough times that I no longer feel spooked about what may lie high up the mountain walls. I instead marveled at the steep terrain.

Kona decided marveling was quite boring.
As we continued to climb, rustling off the trail caught Kona's attention. After a few moments of waiting, a family of quail mad dashed cross the fireroad. Quail are such goofy birds, with their pompom heads and awkward flying attempts. I think Kona thought they were silly looking too.
When we reached the top of our climb, we both had energy to spare. Kona seemed to have a hard time relaxing, even though we were at one of her favorite sniffing grounds. It took awhile, but she did loosen up.
I decided to explore the area a bit. We headed to the high camp that sat just above us. The area is used for group camping, often for scout troops. Huge picnic tables took away any feeling of solitude, but I enjoyed the forested surroundings. Most of our trails stay at lower elevations and in chaparral forests. Big trees were a welcomed change of scenery.

Kona became very interested in a crow's nest. She was frustrated that I wouldn't let her get any closer to the big birds.
When it was time to head back, I decided to make our run longer by skipping the steep singletrack and sticking to the fireroad which would connect us to the creek. I thought Kona would enjoy a new trail and have fun in the water once we reached the bottom.

I don't know if Kona had a memory of our Disneyland run up this trail, but our descent and the remainder of our run wasn't too fun. Kona's mood didn't change suddenly when we turned downhill, she had been having a tough time from the start, but she got worse during the descent.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got Kona into her crate. I think I need to come up with a plan to help Kona, especially with her hyper vigilance. I'm sure there will be more on that later.

Nose Work Info
My apologies for not posting this yesterday like I said I would. It was that whole "running on a bowl of Wheaties" thing.

I'm really liking Nose Work for Kona. It's much easier for her than other classes we've tried because it's hard for her to focus on me when she's nervous. In Nose Work, she doesn't have to pay attention to me! Engaging her nose seems much less stressful than following commands.

The classes we're taking are set up as a progression to have dogs ready to trial. Nose Work trials are sanctioned by the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW). The folks at the NACSW wanted to open the training taught to detection canines to companion dogs. Add in competitive trials and you have a new dog sport!

The inaugural Nose Work trial was held in August of 2008, so the sport is in its infancy. From what I can find online, it seems as though the founders of the NACSW have been traveling and presenting Nose Work workshops to handlers and trainers in hopes to spread the word and keep the sport growing.

I have a feeling Nose Work will be around for awhile. I don't know of another sport where you follow your dog instead of giving her commands. There's still a huge component of teamwork and I'm beginning to see how handling does play a huge role (you need to learn how to not mess up your dog's search). I like the dog/handler dynamic. It reminds me of Search and Rescue work, but scaled back and simplified.

I plan to keep Kona in classes as long as her stress levels stay at a mid to low range. Hope to have more Kona Nose Work stories in the future. In the meantime, we'll keep chasing our shadows on the trails.


Barb said...

Great photos and commentary on your run - felt as though I was there with you, though all I did this AM was run 45 min on the treadmill! (Believe me, your scenery and the wildlife plus having Kona along was the better way to go!) That last shadow photo is wonderful - do you have her lead attached to your waist?

Sam said...

That looks SO steep! It reminds me of the time when we climbed up the side of a "mountain" that's situated in our woods. We couldn't find the trail and wanted to get to the top, so we just started climbing to see where it got us. The views were awesome - thinking that if it doesn't rain tomorrow, maybe we'll go back to the woods for a hike.

Thanks for the info about Nose Work. I'm glad Kona has found something that she enjoys. I'm betting that as she gets more and more familiar with what she's supposed to do there, she's going to feel a lot less stressed.

Sara said...

Nose work seems like a perfect match for stressed dogs. Cool stuff. I'm sure it provides them with a lot of mental stimulation.

Kathy said...

thanks so much for posting that info....and OMG that picture of Kona climbing up that hill, that looks trippy, she is really so awesome. Maybe it is the time of year,...I have felt so wiped out and tired this last week and with all the pretty weather I want to have a lot of energy! LOL

LauraK said...

That nosework stuff is so neat. I am so jealous of that gorgeous grass that Kona is standing in. Kind of funny how people in Colorado think that grass can be "gorgeous". Haha. We just don't get the opportunity to see it that lush and tall :)

Riley and I went for a run this morning and I am severely out of shape- I'm trying to get back into running, and it takes a while! Props to you for running all the time, hopefully I can do that someday!

LauraK said...

Oh and I checked out that nosework website and they have classes in Colorado! Maybe someday down the road when Riley's agility career slows down(hopefully not for a while!) we can get involved in that. Super cool :) Thanks for sharing!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

That one steep photo is crazy steep. Wow!

Nose work is fun. Hard, I think. We've worked at it in a thinking game kind of way. Dogs love it, though.

Priscilla said...

I hope your blood levels rise!!!
I'm sure being up those hills for the first time would be a spooky experience for me!
It's great that Kona enjoys nose work too!

Dawn said...

Very cool, this nose work stuff!

KB said...

I love the photo of Kona climbing the vertical wall.

I used to do canine SAR, many moons ago. And, the hardest thing to learn was to read and trust my dog. I'd look at the terrain, check out the wind, and make a plan for searching our sector. Then, I'd have trouble breaking the plan when my dog's body language screamed that a different plan would be better. I very gradually learned to trust my dog's nose more than my plan.

It's a lesson that's stuck with me in my nature explorations. We can learn SO much if we learn to "read" our dogs. I'm going to look into nose classes in our area for K. It'll be hard for her though - she's so sensitive that she often shuts down if she 'fails' once (even if all I do is withhold treats)... and failure is how you learn.

I'm glad that Kona loves it!!

Thanks for the wheel advice. Part of my surprise was that this was a different wheel from the one where the previous 3 spokes broke. I know *that* wheel is on its last legs... I think that I'm going to buy one new wheelset and have it ready next time a spoke snaps.

My local bike shop loves me. I destroy equipment faster than any other customer. They've honestly told me that... and are trying to talk some companies into using me as a tester! Now, that would be fun!