27 May 2008

Conditioning agility dogs based on their custom personality profile.

So I was looking at the calendar, and decided that it was time for the Team to get back into the swing of things so we're all back in shape for summer trials. Timmy seems to have stablized for now, happy enough to spend his days just laying there, sometimes getting his head stampeded on by the rush of small dog feet flying across the house, but not really noticing. He hasn't really improved, but he hasn't really gotten any worse, so we're going to see how long he can hang on like this. I just live with less sleep than I would like, and we have to plan and schedule things around taking care of him. Which is fine by me but requires organization.

Dog agility trials? Time to start conditioning and training again. Timmy would want us to. We never entered the Sunday DAM team trial for this weekend because I was worried Ruby would still be lame. And Timmy was so bad, I just wasn't sure how to deal with a weekend away. Ruby only just started to seem her normal self again last week, so it's just as well, goodbye to our only chance to get her Team Q on a Sunday. She started doing a little bit of conditioning this week, slowly building back up from her vacation, seeing if we can actually keep her sound for the summer trials. So we have been doing a little bit of hiking, trying to get some muscles into all of us on some good old fashioned hills. I think for Ruby, just getting her in shape and tough and strong is even better than practicing agility. And maybe trimming some of the flab off of my non conditioned self.

It's sort of a quandry, finding enough places to hike around here. Sometimes we go to Pogonip, which is officially an onleash place, but not heavily patrolled. Fun dog leash roulette, the way Lighthouse Field is now. Pogonip is a lot more land for a ranger to worry about than 33 acres, and a lot of it is heavy forest and probably not where the Rangers are going to be out and about. Ruby just stays off her leash the whole time. She hates being in Pogonip on a leash, and looks around all spooky and paranoid, like things will get her if she is tied up and can't get away. Off her leash, happy as a clam to trot by my side. She has the best instinct and common sense of all the dogs when she's out. One deer kick fiasco aside. I wonder if it was her past as a wild dog. Like she was so aggressive when she was young on a leash because her life before that had never involved being attached to something that could impede her own self preservation.

The other dogs, a whole different story. Otterpop and Gustavo just like to run and chase each other at flat out warp speed at all times, not really thinking in terms of we are out in nature where there are potential coyotes and deer and joggers and secret homeless campsites. They just think run. They should probably wear helmets. Otterpop usually wants to stay near me, but also likes to run ahead, like a trail scout. Gustavo, just likes running and running and running. Not for any reason other than running. He always checks in but he has no interest in actually Walking With the Group. Without Gustavo, Otterpop used to stay closer in with me and Ruby but with him, it's just insane running and body slamming. So those two stay on a leash until we're deeper into the forest where it seems like they'll do less damage and not go barreling blindly around a corner into unsuspecting joggers with their sedate golden retriever or stroller full of sticky babies quietly trotting along the main path. When they're on a leash, they pull me along out in front like a little team of driving ponies, so we all kind of run along the whole path anyways. Is sort of like jogging but jogging being pulled along by shrimpy little dogs.

I can't ever imagine Gustavo or Pop as feral animals, fending for themselves in a forest, living off of squirrels and tiny birds and nuts and berries. Ruby, not a far stretch. She's a natural and I think lived like that before I got her. Otterpop, she's a working dog. She belongs on a ranch, helping out her person with important jobs. She just wants her one person and she just wants her occupation. Which, in lieu of being able to actually work on the ranch (her old important job at the old ranch was lay down in the dirt by the gate when I was on a horse, just in case I needed her) has become agility and fetching sticks and being supervisor of the other dogs. Gustavo? Neither working nor feral. Even though his favorite thing to do is run as fast as he can, he is a house dog at heart. Even though he was a street dog, I know he always hoped to live in a house, sleep on a bed, sitting on laps and eating from actual bowls.

That difference in drive is what makes him such a puzzle. Ruby, I channel her prey drive. Otterpop, she is happy to work and is closest thing to a herding dog as chihuahuas get I guess. Gustavo? Who lived in the streets off of charm and cuteness and a sweet nature? Who loves to sit on the beds of old men whose eyes tear up when they pet him and ask me when they get to go home? Who the toddlers love to drag around? But has the speed to keep running through that tunnel a bunch of times and keep slamming the teeter down. And chase Cats! We kind of channel a lively party for him, tiki torches and little umbrella drinks and the promise of cupcakes with sprinkles at the end. Um, is that the Premack Principle? Not sure. Maybe I just call it party drive?

1 comment:

Urban Smoothie Read said...

i think hiking is an important part of conditioning. we did it once a week, although pacco would prefer it to be daily.

i will suffer dislocated arm if i were to put her on leash.