Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Canines: wild and domesticated

Frenzied barking excitedly punctuated last night. The dogs acted like fierce protectors against unseen intruders. This morning, my first clue about who'd caused such chaos appeared on the trail that we use to access the forest. It was a packed path of coyote tracks. It looked like a dozen of the tawny canines had walked this snowy path, leaving a swath of pawprints.
When I checked our wildlife camera, I discovered that the visitors starting passing through early yesterday evening. I think that this red fox has decided to make this area his territory. He's appeared on our camera numerous times over the past couple of months. He visited twice last night.A few hours later, a trio of coyotes arrived. The three stayed for a couple of hours, passing in and out of the camera's range.
It's interesting to see three traveling together, clear evidence of pack behavior. I've read that biologists believe that coyotes started working in packs after humans extirpated wolves from this area. The coyotes were filling a niche that had opened with the absence of the wolves. I wonder what's happened to coyote behavior in areas where wolves have returned?
Finally, from about 2 AM until 6:30 AM, a lone coyote appeared repeatedly. In the many photos, he seemed obsessed with something up in the trees, staring upward in almost every photo except this one. I chose this one because it gives a clear view of his face. Needless to say, our resident canines nearly burst with explosive energy when they smelled the fox and coyotes. They seemed to barely register my existence.
So, I tried very hard not to lose patience with them, and we went back to training basics. Although I really wanted to peacefully pedal through the forest, we practiced a bunch of recalls before departing the coyote territory. I know that I'm preaching to the converted - but dogs do not generalize rules easily - so I take advantage of specific distractions, like coyote scent, to teach them to follow my cues even when that particular distraction is present. Below, they've almost completed a recall, sprinting and then, shortly later, skidding to a halt in front of me.Even after we left the coyote travel zone, the dogs remained hyped with adrenaline so I spent a lot of time on training games with them. Below, K is doing her 'paws' cue, where she rests her front paws on whatever object I point to. I taught her this trick after a back fusion surgery that rendered me incapable of reaching down to touch her collar or pat her head unless she met me halfway by putting her paws on something. In the photo below, I was trying to get R to do the same trick, and you can see that K looks worried about his uncooperative antics.
Next, the dogs practiced making eye contact for a treat. R almost had it right except that he kept his eyes closed at first. I wonder if this game bored him so much that he momentarily dozed off.
Then, once he opened them, I rewarded him. He looked less crazed today!
Finally, after spending what felt like an eternity on training, the dogs seemed under control, and we started peacefully chugging through our beautiful forest.Some aspens hung onto their golden leaves through yesterday's storm. Seeing bright yellow leaves with a snowy background is like a warm breeze through my soul. Alas, more snow is forecasted for the weekend so those leaves may swish to the ground soon.

In the thin layer of snow, we spotted wild turkey tracks. It looked like a turkey had strutted back and forth on my neighbor's land, almost like a sentry on patrol. This vision made me chuckle because my neighbor treks far and wide searching for wild birds to hunt, and it looked like this big bird had wandered his land for quite a while. I decided not to tell my neighbor about his feathered visitor.
After I dropped the dogs off at home, I headed out solo, going east and downhill to find some warmer air. In one lower elevation meadow, the aspen leaves still had a green tinge. Amazing!
The clouds meandered among the forested eastern hills and a few willows added a splash of yellow in the nearby meadow.
I passed a favorite spot, still adorned with bright leaves on the aspen trees. These trees must barely eke out an existence on the boulder-strewn cliff's edge. The clouds on the horizon obscure a glimpse of the mountains.
As I rolled along the ledge trail, beyond the cliff, I spotted a huge ribcage, picked clean of all muscle, down a ravine. I decided not to navigate the snowy rocks to look closely at it but, based on its size, I guessed that it was a bull elk.
I finally rolled home, truly exhausted after a not-too-long ride. I think that my autumn lull is hitting hard. Although I no longer formally train for competition, my body still follows the same yearly pattern as when I was a competitor. Part of that annual pattern was a loss of fitness in October - so it's happening right on schedule!

Enjoy your weekend!


  1. Tank woo fur sharing that inkhredible pakhk of wild pups!

    Such gorgeous khreatures -

    It was nice to see the red fox too - one our khat blog furiends (Khanadians) had a pawesome short video today from a mom and her vixen playing in their yard!

    Have a great weekend!


  2. What a gorgeous pack of coyotes. It must be so cool to live in the wilderness with various species of wild animals.

    I've begun practicing what I call "annoying" recalls with Marge, such as when she's running at the end of her long line or snoozing on the couch. She still does not like recalling, though, when she is hot on the trail of some interesting scent, which is part of the reason that she never gets any true offleash time.

  3. There's nothing to beat the surprises nature has in store for us. Is that snow on the ground? You'd mentioned frost but snow! How cold must it get in real winter?

  4. Excellent canine antics. We really love your wildlife camera.

  5. I agree - I love our wildlife camera. It's so cool to peek into 'their' world.

    Angus: Yes, that's snow. At our high elevation, the only months that average zero snow are July and August. Snow occurs in all other months of the year. Today is actually a lot like 'real' winter, although I suspect that some more fall weather will grace us before the long winter sets in.

    Sam: For those recalls, my trainer always says that your goal is to make Marge's arrival the most fun thing imaginable. If food is her fave, my trainer times us - we need to give high quality treats (e.g., steak) for a full 30 seconds, one treat at a time. Or, if toys are more fun for Marge, play tug for 30 seconds and then give her a tasty tidbit. Mainly, my trainer says never to do a recall unless you plan to have a full-fledged party when your dog arrives. My trainer also emphasizes practicing them every time you're out with your dog - up to ten times during a play session. I've watched many many dogs go through classes with my trainer, and they all end up with good recalls. Marge seems very smart so I bet that you can train her to come when called almost no matter what's going on!


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!