Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sorry for the Absence

Back to it...

We've had quite the spectrum of weather this week. From rain to relentless sun. As I write this, the wind whips at gusts of 40 miles per hour. Kona is sitting by the window, taking it all in. (How I'm grateful she's not bothered by weather.)

It started on Monday, when I woke up to my favorite trekking weather. Fog. I felt excited to hit the trails before the marine layer burned off. So much so that I nearly left the house without my shoes on.

As I drove closer to our trailhead, visibility decreased. Traffic slowed down even though the highway sat nearly empty—an unusual occurrence for us Angelenos. Right at our exit, the fog parted. It spouted off the sides of the hills that surrounded the freeway, creating a clear sky for anyone to the North. As we headed up our trail, the sky sat empty above us. Below, the hills and cities were swallowed in clouds. I had to settle on enjoying the fog from a different vantage point.
Kona wasn't disappointed about our lost fog.
She had better things to do and urged me away from my fog watching.
We ran on, following an empty trail. The marine layer came up so high, we seemed to jog along the ocean. It wasn't the weather I hoped for, but it made for a special morning.
On the Training Front
Kona has gone to two nose work classes this week! On Sunday, her regular class was introduced to vehicle searches. This means parking lot work. Kona was the first to give it a try. She didn't have the slightest idea what to do. To her credit, neither did any of the other dogs the first time around. It was a good example of how dogs do not generalize. Even though every dog in her class is solid on odor inside the training center, they were lost outside.

I was nervous about working Kona in the parking lot. First, she had to jump out of the car to a line of 10 people (human classmates), sitting in chairs, looking at her. Kona took note of them, looked around the parking lot, then decided to sniff everyone out. I was surprised that not only did everyone watching not scare her, but I think they supported her and made her less stressed.

The rest didn't go quite as well, but she made it through it. She was really too stressed to learn something new. She whined a number of times and made a couple dashes towards the safety of my car. I think I was really skating that line between good and bad stress, but I don't think I crossed it. I was able to engage her nose. She found the odor (although I think by accident) and she willingly ate her chicken treats. I plan to practice with her at home before her next class. I think if she's not dealing with learning stress, she may manage the parking lot stress better.

We were back inside on Tuesday with a mixed level class. It's fun for me to watch the more advanced dogs. Kona searched in a pileup of chairs, an open umbrella, an industrial sized vacuum, and cones galore. It really was a pileup. The more advanced dogs had to climb their way through the mess to get to the odor. Kona just had to search the perimeter.

More and more, handling comes into play. Kona's at a level where she still needs to be rewarded instantly when she puts her nose on the odor. I keep jumping behind her, thinking she's on odor, then she moves away and I have to retract my handful of treats. She's then confused because I'm standing over her, smelling of chicken. She then sits down and looks at me. I've got some learning to do.


Sam said...

I was wondering where you were! Even though I myself was mostly absent from blogging this week, I still noticed your lack of posts.

Nose work sounds like a learning experience, for sure. Kona seems to be doing relatively well with it, though! To not be afraid of a parking lot and 10 people is a big step for her.

Sara said...

I'm so happy that Kona handled the parking lot scene so well, especially since parking lots are usually a source of high anxiety for her. That is an amazing accomplishment. Maybe having a job to do helped keep her mind centered?

Have you ever used a clicker with Kona? That way you could click when she finds the odor, and keep the chicken hidden until after the click. Just a thought.

I loved your photos from you run.

LauraK said...

beautiful pictures :) I love fog, it's so calm and peaceful.

That's great that Kona was able to work with all of those people around, I'm sure she'll be doing nose work confidently in no time.

I think we all have a lot of learning to do :) Thank goodness dogs are such forgiving creatures!

KB said...

The parking lot does sound like a stressful change for Kona. But, in terms of her overall fears, going around and sniffing the humans seemed like a great step forward.

The mixed level class did sound like a blast. Does anyone use clickers for 'marking' when the dog puts her nose on the right odor? That way, it's a fast marker that can be done from a distance, and you don't have to hover over the dog with chicken.

That's just a random thought based on your description... you know much more about scent work than I do!

Barb said...

I really enjoyed your photos of the scenery on your cloud-cover run! I like the sandy ridge path you follow. As for Kona's scent training - I am following along and learning as you describe what Kona must do. it is so interesting, and I believe "working" gives dogs confidence and purpose (which is probably your point with Kona). I like that the two of you are learning this new skill together.

Kathy said...

WAs there a lot of wind when you had your parking lot work? We had such killer winds for our classes here in the desert, can not imagine if you were doing scenting with that going on. Wow, OK so now every time I do another dog thing I am suprised at how much there is for the handler to learn, so scenting is the same thing? wow, guess when I think about it, it all makes sense.