Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tricks, pain, and rock and roll.

Animal cruelty? Possibly. Entertaining though.

Today I arrived home to find Cohen limping pretty seriously. Her rear right leg seemed to be giving her trouble -- she avoided putting any weight on it and was hopping around on 3 feet. I had no idea what had happened, but I had all these images of torn ligaments and muscles dancing around in my head (or what I imagine they look like... because I really have no clue). Some simple palpating and stretching didn't illicit an obvious pain reaction, so I couldn't even figure out which part of her leg was giving her trouble.

So, I cancelled our agility class tonight, and decided to forgo her afternoon walk and just keep an eye on it. But Cohen apparently doesn't know how to take it easy, even if her leg is hurting her. She was driving me crazy. So I grabbed a hotdog, a clicker, and went to work.

It took me about 5 minutes to be able to snap the above photo. I probably had such an easy time of it since I'd previously done some work teaching Cohen how to hold a variety of objects, but I'd never pushed it so deliciously far.

We started with having her hold a toy that is the same shape as a hot dog. Then I would pick up the hot dog and have her target it maybe 5-10 times. Then we went back to her toy, and back to the hot dog. She didn't have much trouble learning that I wanted her to hold it the same way I was asking her to hold her toy. If at any point she seemed to want to lick the hot dog instead I reintroduced her to the toy to remind her of what I was asking. All told, we maybe played around with this for 10 minutes in a couple different areas of the house.

So, anyways, that's how I spent my afternoon instead of walking the dog. I think my next goal will be for her to retrieve the hot dog from across the room.

As of this evening, her limp is gone. We still stayed home from agility just to stay safe.


  1. Silly Cohen probably just banged into something. Sometimes even the hardest of dogs turn into huge wimps at unexpected pain; my Staffie/Beagle will happily smack her head into the table when running around and nearly knock herself over without a sound, but limps dramatically along if there's just half an inch or so of snow and some of it gets caught between her toes.

    How did you manage to avoid her from gulping down the hotdog? Just going slowly and keeping a close eye on her? It sounds like something that would be very easy for a dog to self-reward in doing the wrong thing, by just swallowing the hotdog.

  2. Sophie, Cohen has always been pretty good at not eating people-food despite her being able to access it. I'm not sure if it was training or her natural tendency -- she's been like that since puppyhood. Plus we play lots of ItsYerChoice games to work on impulse control.

    So yeah, we went slowly, and I kept a close eye on her. I also rewarded her by giving multiple little cut up hot dog treats for holding the big 'dog. Dogs, being not the most intelligent of the animals, tend to feel like multiple smaller rewards > one big reward.