Oz Working Dogs - Assistance & Working Dog Equipment

For assistance/service dog equipment, as well as guide, therapy, detection, search & rescue, police and dogs in training equipment check out my website http://www.ozworkingdogs.com.au - I make and sell vests, capes, belly bands, harnesses, handles and more... and will post to the world!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fear periods and other such bumps in the road

So, the trainer I so very much admire, Susan Ailsby, has been having a small amount of trouble with her 5 month old Portuguese Water Dog pup, Syn. For no reason at all, Syn suddenly became irrationally scared of her, wouldn't obey her 'come' cue, and would actually run away. She followed a more 'traditional' dog training idea at first to help Syn, which wasn't helpful, but then realised what she was doing wasn't helping and used a more positive, helpful idea to help Syn overcome her sudden fear.

This brings us to fear periods. I am not talking about the fear of a woman's hormones either. ;) During their life, many dogs go through periods of time, which can be quite short or can last for months, when they become unable to deal with their own fear. It isn't that they just become scared all the time, because all puppies become scared. A happy and well adjusted puppy will soon be able to conquer their fear and investigate whatever it is that made them scared, like say, a flapping plastic bag. One going through a fear period will stay petrified of that evil unpredictable scary scary bag. So much so, it may take the pup months to get over a fear of bags after that - only because he met that bag during a fear period.

Trainers and behaviourists come up with all sorts of ages for fear periods, but they seem to vary widely. Some of the most common ones I've read are four weeks, eight weeks, four months, seven-eight months, a year, 16-18 months and sometimes 32 months. The important thing is, as dog owners and dog lovers, that we are aware of the existence of these fear periods. You should never force your dog to confront his fears when he is obviously going through a stage of being unable to conquer his fear - it will make it worse. You need to show him a way out of the box he has built for himself, and so here are some ways to do so!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heat stroke in assistance/service dogs and what you can do about it

Updated 13th December 2013
(Knightley 2 years 4 months 2 weeks 1 day old, Apollo 1 year 3 months 1 week old)

I have been reading a fair bit on the topic of heat stroke and the particular dangers for assistance dogs. Here in Canberra the summers are usually fairly hot, with our hottest days coming in at about 39-40 degrees celcius (102.2 - 104 degrees fahrenheit) and many days in the mid 30s. Occasionally we have days in the low 40s (up to about 107.6 degrees fahrenheit), which are really horrible.

However, when it comes to keeping a dog cool, we have one blessing; we are really really dry. Go a couple of hours west of us and you are in the beginnings of what is known as the 'outback', ie basically semi desert. Go further west and you hit the real rolling sand dunes type desert. Anyway, keeping a dog cool seems to rest on one main thing, and that is evaporation. When there is already more moisture in the air (otherwise known as humidity!), evaporation doesn't take place anywhere near as well, as it is like trying to put more moisture where it isn't needed! Hence being dry helps keep your dog cool. We do have some humid days, in fact last summer was bizarrely wet and humid, so I need to be careful when working my dogs when we have both heat and humidity. Apollo especially seems to suffer from heat.

So how does it work? Well as I think we all know, dogs lose heat, ie they sweat, through their tongues. This is because their saliva is constantly evaporating from their tongue, cooling the blood that is running through it. As the dog breathes, the hot moisture rich air from their lungs comes up in a breath, and they suck down nice cool fresh air that runs over the tongue and further helps evaporate saliva from the entire tongue surface, drawing cooling air right down into the lungs. This is the main way dogs have for managing heat, however they also lose heat through their nose leather and foot pads.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Calling all those with Owner Trained Assistance Dogs in Australia

So as the title says, if you're out there PLEASE comment. I'm a member of quite a few yahoo groups and forums to do with dog training and assistance/service dogs, and on one of them, there is a brave person trying to do something about the lack of recognition by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of owner trained dogs. At the moment dogs that are program trained (at least, by the main big programs) can travel on any airline in Australia with basically no questions asked, but owner trained dogs have a much harder, and often impossible road to follow. Basically it's on a case by case basis, and you have no guarantee of being able to prove your dog is sufficiently trained, so they tend to not approve owner trained dogs on principal. If only they could institute like a trainer in each region of the country who could do a relatively brief test to make sure the dog is trained, then they could get a lifelong flight passport or something. I mean, there aren't a huge number of us - yet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Clot free, and dog coat/cape arrived

So I spent the night at A&E (Accident & Emergency) the other night, then left at 2am, and then had to come back the next morning for an ultrasound of my calf to check for clots (we had a tiny bit of sleep!).... and drum roll, as I said in the title, I am clot free. So now I have to figure out why my leg is still hurting so oddly - I suppose it is 'just' my usual condition. Now my left leg seems to be hurting some too, so at least that convinces me they were right in diagnosing no clot. Just have to worry about decreasing abilities some more now though, sigh, nothing ever seems to improve, I just collect more symptoms lol. Need that puppy!

Today I had a nice surprise in the mail. I ordered a custom service dog cape/coat on ebay several weeks back, from the US, and today it came. It is for my big soft toy assistance dog called Harry, who is my only assistance dog until I get a live one, lol! However, it should be of a size to reuse on a 10 week or so old golden retriever puppy. I'll try to get a photo of Harry wearing it later and put it up here, he looks very dashing! My husband just rolled his eyes at my rather whimsical behaviour, but if you don't have fun occasionally, then you may as well be dead. It was very economical too, $8 US and $5 US postage to Australia, so like $12.20 AU in total. I figure it will be his first "Ask to pat" "In training" cape, although I may not put "Assistance Dog" on it at that early early stage of training. As they are so economical I may get another one for when he grows, I think this one should last maybe up to four months, maybe a bit more if I am lucky, the straps adjust a lot. After about six months I would probably start him on a light harness, and eventually add a very light handle. The cape came from here if you are interested in ordering your own, speaking simply as a happy customer. Note that they are not padded at all, so do not expect them to be warm. You can also get them customised with writing on them, your dog's name etc, or just SERVICE DOG.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not the usual place, but worried

So this is not the usual place to worry about this type of thing, but I don't want to load it onto anyone else at the moment, so you're going to have to cop it. Recently, whilst on the very looong flight to the UK to get married I got two DVTs in my calf. This was the second instance of clots in the last year or thereabouts, so it seems I am going to be on warfarin for life (although I am thinking about seeing a specialist about it). It also may be being caused by my autoimmune condition - I should soon find out from some blood tests done about a week ago. However, the calf in which the clots were last time is pretty sore. No way near as sore as last time but sorer than it should be, sorer than my first clot. I don't know what to do. -.- I did tell my husband that it was sore, but really only in passing. I can't decide whether it needs to be checked out with an ultrasound, whether I need to go to the hospital or what. I am on warfarin as I said, and my INR (how thin or sticky my blood is) was tested just a couple of days ago and it's really good. I've also been wearing compression stockings quite a bit recently, although not all daylight hours every day as before, as my GP doesn't think I need to wear them quite as much now it's nearly two months after the last clots and my INR is excellent at the moment. Having said that, the UK clot people thought I should wear them for TWO YEARS (I nearly died in shock when they told me that) so I don't know what to think. Maybe I have caused a clot by not continuing to wear my stockings full time???? If anyone is out there, what should I do? :(

Briefly on the dog topic, no reply from email to latest breeder.... getting impatient! They should be at my beck and call damnit. I am either going to have to start lowing my hip score standards, or go further afield for my breeders, sigh, there could be some long drives to choose and pick up puppies.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sue Ailsby's Training Levels books, where are you puppy???

So, I've been continuing my reading into clicker training. Sue Ailsby, a well known clicker trainer of whom I am a huge fan, has recently brought out books of her Training Levels - Steps to Success. I haven't ordered mine yet (seems slightly pointless without a dog!) but they seem to have been received very well indeed and I look forward to finally (hopefully) having a pup and her books and being able to work eagerly through the levels. For those out there, if anyone at all is out there, Sue's website is here http://www.sue-eh.ca/, follow the SHOP link if you are interested in the Training Level books. The levels use clicker training to transform your hyper crazy dog into a well behaved family pet and then beyond to elite competition title and service dog levels - if you wish to go that far that is! Sue is also full of good humor and writes very well.

If you don't wish to pay for the books, you can use the old (free) Training Levels by also following the link to her site as given above. There is also a yahoo group for those following the Training Levels, which we are lucky enough to have Sue regularly contributing to. There is a link to it in my links bar.
***UPDATE 29/12/2011 I have now bought the books and they are fantastic and well worth it. There is a lot of new material in the books and my puppy Knightley is coming along so well thanks to Sue and her Levels!***

I am starting to get a bit annoyed with the lack of pups! Every breeder I single out with having excellent hip scores in their lines isn't going to have pups available until November for various reasons. The first breeder, the bitch didn't get pregnant from the pairing. The second one the litter was born all girls. The next three breeders I contacted won't be breeding a litter any sooner than the second breeder's next litter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Married, back to finding a breeder and clicker training

Well, I'm back here downunder, and I now have myself a husband! He's a rather nice husband so I'm quite happy about that. Our wedding was just beautiful, and worth the rather stressful leadup which included a visa disaster and some serious health issues.

So now that I'm back in Australia, I'm back to finding myself a breeder with a suitable litter to choose from. I am continuing to have bad luck in that department. I had a very promising prospect, but the entire litter was born girls - and I really want a boy pup for the extra strength and size. Males are usually best for mobility assistance dogs, especially because I'm not a petite woman. I've sent off another email to my fourth breeder, so cross fingers on that. I am very picky on hip scores in the breeding lines, so this breeder is down near Melbourne... quite far from where I am. I don't know if I am being too picky, but I just know if my dog suffered from hip dysplasia that would be it for it's career and I'd have to either give up, or rehome or .... ?? Scary prospect. Being a recessive condition it scares me that I can never be sure, but I can at least go for as good as possible.