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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sunrise ride and dog training class

Today, we rolled onto the firmly packed trails early, just as first sun rays filtered over the eastern horizon. The sunrise embued the snowy mountains with an otherworldly aura.
The melted and then refrozen snow formed intricate sculptures around tall golden grass, flattened juniper shrubs, and pine saplings. The long shadows embellished the alien moonscape and allowed me to take a photo of me and K without using my camera's timer.
K's fur glowed in the sunrise, looking like rich milk chocolate.
By the end of our ride, the sun glowed high above the hills to our east, and another bluebird day had emerged.
After our ride, K and I went to drop-in dog training class, held at a dog park about 3000' below my home. The transformation in the world as I dropped in altitude on our wall-like road astonished me. It's commonly said that for every 1000' loss in elevation, autumn-winter is 10 days behind. By that logic, the season today at the mile-high elevation of dog training class was the same as a month ago at my home. Moreover, under normal climactic conditions, the temperature rises by 5.8°F for every 1000 ft of elevation lost. And, as that rule predicts, it was 15-20 degrees warmer down at dog training class than at home.

As you can see in the photo below, brown grass, rather than snow, predominated in the foothills behind our dog class site.
K behaved confidently for most of class, after she quashed her pre-class hyperactivity. During the opening play session, she rarely hovered next to me. Clinging to me is her modus operendi when she's nervous. We knew only a couple of dogs in class today but, in the photo below, she took the initiative to meet some of the rowdy puppies.
Looking at the photo above, K's usual demeanor with other dogs is obvious. Her body, head, and tail are lowered. She wags her tail widely back and forth, just a bit below horizontal. She never approaches another dog's head straight on, but comes in from the side or back. Her body language constantly broadcasts that she's not a threat and is willing to appease the new dogs if needed.

Interestingly, when K and R recently met our local dog pack of seven running with their human, the 'enforcer' of the pack, a German Shepherd, approached R as if she meant to establish who was boss. Despite K's long-lasting fears of the enforcer, she body-blocked for R, stepping between him and the GSD. That diffused the situation, and R has been much less fearful around the pack than he used to be. The surprising aspect of the story was K's courage relative to how skittish she tends to be around assertive dogs. Although she didn't take an aggressive stance, she moved into a position to block for her brother.

We ended class working on down-stays. At first, I kept K on the outside of the group, where she could monitor everyone's activity. When she's in her 'nervous' mode, she breaks out of down-stays if she can't see all the other dogs. However, today, she calmly acted like the dozen dogs and their humans didn't faze her. So, I tried moving her to the middle of the pavilion and then gradually worked myself away from her. Each time she let me step a little further away, I returned and rewarded her. By the end, I could chat with another handler at a distance while K lay by herself. Although K's eyes stayed glued on me, she stuck like velcro to the ground and showed no distress. Way to go, Girl!
After reading about the trials and tribulations of other dogs with fear issues, I feel lucky, in an odd way, that her sporadic fear problems are medically based. When her thyroid levels dip too low, it causes her to be fearful and unpredictable. And, over the summer, her smoldering chronic pancreatitis probably contributed to the crazy swings in her behavior. By controlling both of those medical problems, we seem to have reached calm seas for the moment. Let's stay there!

I have a new challenge ahead of me. I want to start taking R to training class on alternate weeks. However, I feel like I'll break K's heart. She loves going (when she's feeling well), and she's my special girl. But, I'd like to learn to work as a tighter team with R, for those days when he joins us on our morning mountain bike ride. Today was going to be R's first day... but I chickened out when I looked at K's face. Has anyone else faced this dilemma? Any advice?

Although I enjoy dog training class every time (it's the fastest-passing hour of the week because I become so focused on working with K), I'm always glad to flee the bustle of the city and glide down our driveway into the peaceful forest. Even though it's a chilly winter day up here and a warm autumn day down there, I'm happiest up here in the thin air where I can gaze at the alpenglow over the mountains every morning if I want to.


  1. The khanine in the pavilion shot looks like my brother Steve's heart dog Gretchen (aka Gizzy) - she lived to be 18 or 19!

    Once again, thank for the great pics!

    K did look richly enticing! And the alien moonscape shot was way khool!

  2. Love the picture of the morning sun on K. Beautiful.

    As for the advice, my situation is different. In your case, you take one and the other one stays alone. In my case, they are staying with 4 brothers and sisters, so I am not sure it is the same thing.

    However, I am the benevolent alpha, so if I decide something is going to happen, then it happens and they are ok with that. My bet is K would curl up and wait on your return.

    I would test that in a very short way - Leaving with R for 5,10, 15 minutes and then returning. K's fear may kick in a little challenge, but I am betting it works.

    Good luck.

  3. That first photo looks like a painting. I so love your writing. "another bluebird day had emerged" - beautiful.

    I agree with The TH Dad - do it in small bits, leave her with something extra special by way of a treat. She'll figure it out and do just fine.

  4. I can't offer any advice on the multi-dog issue, but I hope you figure it out soon! The Thundering Herd's suggestion sounds as good as any.

    I really love your trainer's set up, being able to drop in and out of the class. The fact that it's at different locations is pretty cool, too.

  5. I have something of a similar problem. Our Ellie is consistently well-behaved and follows commands. Perhaps because they often run free on the trails, Lucy sometimes "forgets" that she needs to pay attention to my location and come immediately on recall. So I have to take her out for some one-on-one reinforcement.

    Despite the broken-hearted looks, I simply take off with Lucy rather matter-of-factly. I suspect the separation problems are much more on my part than Ellie's. I think she is fine once Lucy and I are gone.

  6. Great work in class! I'm off to class this eve...a new has lots of things she needs to bring, so we'll see how it goes.
    Beautiful pictures!

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  7. She is beautiful in the morning sun. Well, she's is beautiful anytime, but especially in the morning sun.

    I'm glad to hear class went well. Lilly doesn't like that location. It's also the way-farthest one for us. I had too much work anyway.

    That is interesting that K body blocked for R. Good girl!

  8. I also feel guilty these days, always spending so much one-on-one time with B, but I have also feel like it has been something of an emergency to work with her as much as possible, so I am motivated to do it despite my guilt. I usually tell the other dogs that we are off to do baby dog stuff that wouldn't interest them - stuff that is totally beneath them. It makes me feel better, anyway.

  9. Great post. We had the same issues with Digby. When we first took him to training classes he would hide under my chair and attempt to dig through the floor to escape from all the other dogs. Wilf by contrast took to training classes like a duck to water.


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!!!!!