Wednesday, 20 February 2013

when a successful behavior causes an injury to a dog

Dogs are very specific about behaviors they've learned. One of our favorites with Penny is to drop something as we walk along, and then after a minutes or two, cry, 'Oh, no, where is it?'

Penny races back, touches the lost item with her nose, we shout for joy, and she hurries back to us for her reward...
leaving the found object where it is, for a human to collect.

Pretty good trick, lots of fun for us all.

A couple of weeks ago, as we walked at Rosanna, Penny played in the creek and I was throwing her Whirl Wheel into the water, but I accidentally threw it onto the opposite bank, up a metre-high steep embankment.

In retrospect, I know what I should have done. Walked away, philosophical about the lost toy. After all, what did it cost? Fifteen measly dollars!

But I said those words - 'Oh, no, where is it?' and allowed Penny to laboriously pull herself up that little cliff, through the long grass, across the scrubby plants, until she found it. And, to my dismay, she headed back, down the cliff, across the creek and waited for her reward, having shown me where it was.

I had a second chance to let it go, forget the toy. But did I? No - I let her go back again and again, changing my instruction to the usually reliable, 'Find your toy! Get the toy!'

By this time there was a circle of humans gathered, cheering Penny on, and she received a spontaneous round of applause when she figured it out and came back with the toy in her mouth.

So I have only myself to blame that she now has a limp. We went to the vet a couple of days later and he thought it was a problem with the left shoulder, but that it showed no 'structural damage'. It should recover with rest. (By the way, he asked me what I thought I was doing, letting Penny go through grass that most likely hid a poisonous snake...)

But it isn't better. I think we didn't rest enough. (For instance, we went walking with our puppy friend.) So now we're having a no-walks policy for about five days. Lately it has been horrible hot weather here, too hot even at 11 pm to go out for a walk, so that suited us fine.

Today is cool - thank goodness! So I lifted Penny into the car, to convince her we were off for her usual walk, and then lifted her down at a local park that I'd normally consider too boring for a visit. She mooched around in the shade for seven minutes - don't know why I chose seven - and home we came.

She found some interesting smells, I contemplated nature for a while, and I guess it was a win-win.


Mary said...

It's a win-win if she gets better! Let's hope she does.

Mitch and Molly said...

Go easy, Penny, and we're hoping that you'll be as good as new in a few days!

Love ya lots,
Mitch and Molly

parlance said...

Mitch and Molly, thanks for the good wishes.

parlance said...

Mary, you're right. We'll know she's a winner when she's no longer limping.

Lilli said...

Hopefully Penny's shoulder is soon ok.


parlance said...

Thanks, Lilli. We actually went out for a ten-minute stroll today and Penny's shoulder seemed to be much better.

curator said...

It's hard for muscles to calm down when it's hot! But if she is better today, what a fine sign that is. Rest up well, Penny.

parlance said...

curator, thanks for the encouragement. Penny went out early this morning for a thirty-minute walk and seems to be okay.