Friday, September 01, 2006

Physical Therapy and Tika Walkies

SUMMARY: Kaiser needs more PTs. And maybe I have a Tika solution.

Argh, both the Santa Teresa and Santa Clara physical therapy depts are booked solid for 3 weeks or longer. And since my doctor wants me to attend to one joint at a time, it's looking like there will be no respite for my knee or shoulders before nationals, just the ankle (maybe--first session now scheduled for Sept 22 and I leave for nationals less than 6 weeks later). I'm really worried about the knee. If I walk more than a mile or two TOTAL in a day (I'm talking about shopping, walking around the house, checking to see whether any chocolate has crawled into my kitchen cabinets when i wasn't looking, that sort of thing), it gets stiff and swollen. And the nationals site is HUGE; it's about a 3 minute walk from the parking area to the crating area and maybe 5 minute walk from the crating area to the farthest agility ring. I walked a bleep of a lot last year and I expect to do the same this year--if I can. Don't know what I'll do if the knee swells up and I can't walk after the first of 4 days.

Kaiser said to just call back every day and see whether there are cancellations. Just what I need to be spending my time doing.

Meanwhile, I think that taking Tika for a walk is one of many things that takes a toll on my knees and shoulders. I've succeeded in teaching her how not to walk on a leash using several different methods. Primarily I've taught her that, when I step forward, she rushes ahead to the end of the leash, then I stop, then she yo-yos back beside me, then I take a step forward, then she rushes to the end of the leash, then I stop, then she yo-yos back beside me, then I take a step forward...

Anyway, a bunch of people called me one day to tell me that there was a cool dog program on TV about people taking rescue dogs and turning them into real working dogs within 6 weeks or some such deadline. (Don't know why people called me about this one when no one calls to tell me that agility is on. I blame others for not taking responsibility for my TV watching. After all, everyone KNOWS I have no idea what's on TV. But that's another matter.) Anyhow, what I got out of the whole program was this:

A sheep rancher was training a Beardie (Bearded Collie) to behave himself. When she first took him out on leash and he lunged ahead of her, she just brought him back beside her, stepped on his leash until he lay down, told him that good sheepdogs follow their handlers, praised him, and finally released him. We saw her do that exactly once. Then, next thing we see, they're walking around the ranch and he's bouncing left and right, off leash, but BEHIND her the entire time.

Wow, I said to myself, myself being the only one listening at the moment. How did she do that? That's what *I* need for Tika.

Eventually becoming bold (it sometimes takes me a while to get started), I started taking just Tika out on leash and, every time she passed the plane of my body, I pulled her behind me and stepped on the leash to get her to lie down. In the past, I had tried telling her to lie down when she was forging and yanking, but that put me in the awkward position of praising her for obeying when it was supposed to be a consequence of behaving badly. So, no command, just the downward pressure on the leash.

OK, now YOU try getting your foot onto the leash while there's an active dog attached to it, and then pull it so that the dog is lying down. This requires coordination, timing, various assets like that of which I'm not always in great supply. But, behold chillens, it seemed to have an effect! Within a day or two of starting this, she'd be walking calmly at my side for many steps rather than the half dozen max that I think I've ever gotten with other methods. Now, we have to restart every time we go out, but it comes back quicker each time. However, when I have her AND the other dogs on leash, it goes completely to pot.

So today I realized that I have to bite the dog bullet--I took her out with the other dogs and vowed to practice the lie-down thing. Discovered quickly that I couldn't do the step-on thing at all with the other dogs in tow, so I resorted to grabbing her gentle leader right below her chin and leaning down to get her to the ground. Not excellent for back, knees, or shoulder. But, by yiminy, by the end of the walk, the other dogs were a little confused, stunned, and disoriented, but Tika was walking mostly nicely at my side most of the time.

This just might work. I just need to practice it ALL THE TIME. Hate when that happens.

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