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!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's the middle of the night, and an update

8 weeks 5 days old

Well I've just been outside in the middle of a rather chilly spring night, having a nice "chew the leash, leaves, dirt, himself, me, and the whole world" time with Knightley - which was meant to be a relieving himself time. Well, he did do that, but then proceeded to wreak havoc. It's some dog we have here. It's amazing how fast he'll drop a good squeaky toy for a nice patch of dirt or even better.... a TWIG. As my husband pointed out earlier this evening when I was going on about how cute Knightley was while sleeping, he's very cute when unconscious.

That's not to say that he is always a terror. I am continuing to work on loading the clicker some more, and am starting Sue Ailsby's Training Levels (see link above in the tabs). We have just worked on the sit, and have just started to put a cue to it. He definitely offers sits a lot. He isn't all that thrilled with the treats I am using at the moment, and I have experimented too! I've tried a few commercial treats, tiny over nuked sausage bits, and tiny cheese squares. I'm going to order some new stuff online and try that. My previous dog would do virtually anything for cheese, but not Knightley it seems, unless it's a puppy thing. Shame. I really don't want a picky dog.

We have been going really really well with house training - no more accidents since our second day.... until last night. We thought he needed a 'number 2' and took the bone he had been chewing on away from him, took him out, but nothing was evident, so he came in to be fed. He wasn't interested in the food and **I** thought he seemed to be sniffing around looking for the bone we just took away. Ooops. I did catch him in the middle of it at least, and he did the majority of it outside. Go me for misreading his signals, although they were very similar.

Offering a very nice sit

We haven't really started working on down, although I do
reinforce it occasionally, enough that I've noticed him offering
it some more.
We took him over to my parents place a couple of days ago, and he had a great time exploring their big back yard, although we kept him on a long line, as their yard isn't puppy proof these days. He concentrated so much on *exploring*, it was very cute. He had to see every bit of their yard.

Nothing really bothered him, a few things looked odd, but he very soon overcame any hesitance. Until now we have been using a small portable crate in the car, but for the trip over there and back I decided to go without a crate and just clip his harness into the seatbelt. I wanted a chance to train good car manners.
Me having a hug with a very tired out puppy. Visiting is
tiring you know?

My previous dog, Clipsy, was always a over excited in the car, and I want to make sure Knightley can relax without being in a crate. It went pretty well. I used little cubes of cheese to distract him, although I made a silly training mistake on the way over, he was doing well and so I slowed my rate of reinforcement. I instantly lost his focus and he started whining and jumping around a bit. In a very high distraction situation like that, where what I am doing is working, I should have just kept it up! Silly me, but I learnt from it on the way back and we did well. He was asleep by the time we got back - partly because he was just exhausted!!

Speaking of exhausted, at the end of each day I am completely out of spoons (read "The Spoon Theory" to understand spoons). I am certainly sleeping well!! Better than I have for many many months. I am just so very tired. Knightley is taking every tiny skerrick of energy I have.

It's several hours later now, daylight time. We've done some work on sit this morning, as well as getting him happy with nail clippers, which came in the post this morning. First I treated him for having them near him, then touching his paws with them, then stroking his paws (all of them) with them, then opening and closing them in front of his face, and then again near his paws. In some later sessions I will clip some twigs near him and treat that before I go anywhere near his nails. I want to make sure he is happy with having his nails cut. Clipsy, my previous dog, didn't like it very much!

I also plan to do some work on hand targeting today. I'll get a tiny bit of peanut butter and click/treat when he sniffs/touches/licks my hand. Once we do that a few times he should get the idea that touching the palm of my hand gets a treat. Eventually during another session we'll add a cue but today we'll just concentrate on getting the idea.

Knightley has developed a love for the flirt pole (google it if you don't know what it is), although I just bought a lunge whip meant for horses, then tie one of his favourite stuffies onto the end. It's a good way to wear him out when he's being particularly obnoxious. I call it 'going fishing for a puppy'. He wags madly the whole time. Dear little pup, so cute sometimes and such a plotting little devil at other times!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Knightley is home

8 weeks 2 days old

So, we've had our Golden Retriever puppy Knightley home for a full 48 hours or so now. It is definitely hard work, but he is such a gorgeous pup. We picked him up around midday from Sydney, and from the beginning he behaved like a dream. He was already tired as he had come down from the Hunter Valley earlier than morning, so pretty much just slept on the way home in the crate we've bought for him while he is a puppy.

This is Knightley asleep in his crate.
He was starving by the time we got home, as the breeder hadn't fed him due to not wanting car sickness etc, so he got a toilet stop outside then got his first meal in his new home. Then he conked out and slept for a while. My brother came home (my husband and I live with him) and he met Knightley which went very well. Knightley appears to love people - so far the temperament testing definitely has worked. He has a very sweet, but curious and intelligent temperament. We had little accident the first night but that was arguably our fault. He'd woken from a sleep, and I was just saying he should be taken out when it was noticed he was doing a 'number 1'. He was whisked up and taken outside.

Knightley that evening, relaxing on the couch
(lucky dog!!) with us.
Our first night together, he slept next to our bed in his little crate. There was some whining for maybe four or five minutes, but then it was over. I got up twice in the night, and he immediately did his business both times, and then my husband got up early in the morning and I slept in some. Our first full day went well. The was one more accident, but once again our fault because I wanted to eat because food was ready but Knightley should have done his pee, but was messing around without doing it. I said to bring him in and we'd put him in our pen until after we'd eaten, and he went as soon as he came in!

Knightley is very playful, and looooves his stuffie elephant kong toy. He really loves anything that squeaks, and is also happy to play tug and gets quite into it. He chews on his leash though, so I'd like to get on top of that soon. He's been barking while I've been making his meals, and every time he barks I've been turning towards him and looking at the ceiling and just stopping the preparation. It certainly stops him barking but I don't think he likes it! I think he's starting to get the idea, last meal time there wasn't one bark.

Knightley with his Elephant Kong on his
first night with us.
I've been doing quite a bit of work on priming/loading the clicker, and I think he's starting to get it. He's definitely easily distracted at the moment, so our sessions will be short at first. I'm getting focus before giving him his food, and am getting a nice second or two of eye contact before I give him his food. The breeder was feeding two main meals and one smaller meal per day. I have changed it to at first three equal meals, and today, four equal meals. I'll also be swapping him onto some 'better' food.

Today Knightley visited the vet. He was very well behaved and got a clean bill of health. I also got the vet to trim his nails as they are very long and my nail clippers for him are in the post. I fed him a couple of treats, letting him lick them between my fingers for a few seconds before actually getting them. Then vet managed all his nails without any trouble, and was fairly impressed with that. The power of food!

I can't believe that it is finally happening, that we have the puppy who we hope will grow up to be an assistance dog for me. He is tiring me out at the moment, last night I slept better than I have for months probably! He is so gorgeous though, I can't stop looking at him. I can't wait for him to grow up a bit, even though he is so very cute right now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Picking him up in 11 hours!!

Pre pickup 8 weeks old

Well, here comes the puppy! I can't believe it is finally happening!!!! We leave early tomorrow morning, as the hubby has a social engagement for the afternoon which he wants to get back for - although I don't actually think he will end up going now, as he has come down with a cold. If he does go it'll give me and him some quiet time, so that's no bad thing. I hope I don't get his cold, with my under strength immune system - especially as I only just finished getting over my cold! I need my wits about me for the next coming days with the new pup.

I got some last minute puppy proofing done tonight, as I had expected another couple of days to get ready, so it has been all a bit rushed. Everything is mostly ok, although there are a few more things to do, I'll just have to watch him very carefully until everything is puppy proofed! I'm thinking of doing quite a bit of umbilical leashing.

Last night hubby and I built a temporary fence addon to enclose our backyard. It is usually open to the street. We managed to enclose a good amount of extra space, so it'll give him some good romping room. It was a quick job, and the last part of it was in the dark and some of the posts were at distinctly awkward angles. However, it'll do the job until we can fix up the dodgier ones. Since it has been open to the street, I am a little concerned due to a dog across the road that is owned by a woman who isn't quite all there. The dog has definitely has had puppies at some point in time (many times?), and the dog herself doesn't receive the best of care. She wanders around a lot, and I am worried she may have tracked something nasty onto our property. So tonight I soaked the newly enclosed yard - all of it - with parvocide in a pressure sprayer. Hopefully that should take care of it. I may do it again just to be sure.

I've packed for tomorrow, a smaller crate that we'll be able to use for a month or two, a few chew toys, a squeaky toy, a few treats and some kibble, a travel bowl for water, a small harness and a leash. I've left a couple of things with the breeder to get the scent of the litter on it, and that will make up the bedding for the crate - for the journey and back home. That should be all we need for a three hour journey. His big crate here at home is set up all nice and comfy ready to go, and I have an ex pen I can easily attach onto the crate.

Be ready for LOTS of photos when we get back. I'm going to ride in the back next to the crate on the way back, and I'll have my camera. I'm so smitten with this puppy, I keep on showing everyone those few photos I have, and I've only seen him for like half an hour! After the three hour ride home I'm going to be head over heels!! Vet appointment on Saturday morning.

I just hope everything goes according to plan! I deserve a bit of luck right about now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day for pickup been brought forward!! Excited!!!

Pre pickup 7 weeks 4 days old

Wow!!!! Like the topic says, the day for pickup has been brought forward. We now pickup our little bundle in THREE days...... WOW WOW WOW!!!! Can you tell I am excited? The breeder is a volunteer bush fire fighter and needs to be back for the weekend, so she is going to be in Sydney on Thursday... Hubby is having to take the day off unfortunately. However, it does mean that he finally gets the weekend off that he has been longing  for, as there has been a bit of complaining from him recently about the amount of distance we have been travelling, and the number of weekends we have been away.

Anyway, there is a lot that needs to be done around the house in the next couple of days to puppy proof it. We haven't even finished building the addon the fence outside. It is going to be a very busy couple of days.

I have my training rotation ready to go, after a couple of days of settling in. Let's hope this pup is what he seemed to be last Saturday!

I think I'll probably start some training on Saturday, and Saturday's suggested training behaviours are: tug, come, handling, scale, bath, car, front door and walker. I'll drop a few of those to make it a bit easier for his first day. No need for bath training that soon after arrival, nor car manners after his long trip. Instead I might add sit to that list. It would be nice to video his first sessions.

  • Scale is where I am going to teach him to sit himself on the scale to weigh him by shaping it with a clicker. 
  • Handling is basic manners, so he is happy for me to touch his ears, feet, clip his nails etc. 
  • Front door is so he knows where to go when a) I open the front door and b) when the door bell goes.
  • Walker is getting him used to both my walker (I don't use it all that often, but it's as bridging to my wheelchair) and my crutches - I use my crutches a lot. 
  • Tug is getting a nice firm tug, and eventually getting him to tug on command and drop it on command

Each day teaches him different things, as research these days seems to have shown that you shouldn't be teaching the same thing day after day for best learning practice. Well, you can, but it should be in short sessions. I am going to try having at least a day between each complicated behaviour training session, unless they are very short ones sessions with simple behaviours. The idea of this 'breaks help dogs learn' is shown quite clearly in the improvement a dog shows overnight just by sleeping on it. Their brains work on complex behaviours even when asleep. So make sure you give them enough time to process between training sessions!

Speaking of brains, mine is buzzing with what I need to get done before the pup arrives. Time to put all my theory into practice!!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Pre pickup 7 weeks 3 days old

SUCCESS!!!!!!! Well, I will have a puppy in six days, that is.

My husband and I, with the help of the breeder, temperament tested six puppies yesterday, and the very last puppy, number six.... is now MY PUPPY!!!

Puppy three, a fairly large medium gold coloured puppy was pretty good, he tested highly (mostly excellents and goods) - but he struggled quite forcefully on my lap, for which I gave him a "NG", not good, for that test. I wasn't all that happy with that reaction - but wondered if the puppy was tired, or just hot. Apparently they had all been playing for two hours with all his brother and sisters (10 siblings!), and it was a hot day, so I thought either of these reasons could be causing his behaviour. However, I had my misgivings that he could be a rather independent, unwilling to cuddle puppy.

So when eventually puppy six came out, a slightly larger cream coloured pup, from the very first test (lap cuddle), we just knew he was the one. There wasn't a test where he didn't score an excellent or good, and the vast majority were excellent. He was so curious on my lap, crawling up my chest, licking, sniffing and wagging. His recall was excellent, he retrieved with a proper ball, he tugged with whatever he was given.... my husband and I kept on looking at each other. We knew so quickly that he was THE ONE. Wow.

I'm going to write up the whole temperament testing, but I'll put up two of my favourite photos of the pup, who we think is going to be called Knightley.
Our pup being held by my husband. We tried again and again
to get him to look at the camera, but we didn't have all that
long, so they were just quick shots intended to capture some
of the testing, and the moment of chosing.

Knightley, meet the internet.

I do hope we made the right choice, he was certainly the best there, but I am nervous about his hips, his elbows.... just a bit nervous. Can't help it! This is it. Planning time is over. It just got real.

We drive up to Sydney to pick him up on Saturday, only SIX days from now. How exciting!!!! On the way back today, via Sydney, we were looking for out of the way rest stops where we could stop to let a little pup out for toilet breaks - keeping in mind that we don't want him in places that put in contact with places adult dogs have been... since his vaccinations obviously won't be active.

Our puppy aka Knightley (maybe), having a scratch at his
new collar and looking very dirty, fluffy and cute.

So we have a week to get a few final things ready for the pup, and to puppy proof the front part of the house, where he will have supervised run. For when he can't be supervised, we have the crate and the exercise pen. We have a medium sized soft crate that will go in our bedroom for the first couple of weeks while he needs to go out during the night, then I'll slowly wean him out into the living room and into his bigger wire crate, and after that I'll give it a good wash and sell it as I am sure he will outgrow it pretty quickly!

I think I'm pretty ready for this adventure to start, very excited, and I'm very keen to see what this pup can do! Finally, I have found my puppy, my assistance dog prospect!!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wish me luck! Temperament testing time again, dog alerting to migraines?

Pre pickup 7 weeks old

So we're off on our temperament testing jaunt tomorrow. Cross fingers this time we find the puppy we want. All this travelling, extra nights everywhere has turned it into a rather exhausting not to mentioned expensive venture! It will all be worth it if in 9 days I bring home what I hope will turn out to be my assistance dog. I have to keep up my standards though. I know that if they aren't suitable - then they aren't suitable. I can't just hope and take a semi ok puppy. I want to start with the best possible blank canvas. The pup will certainly change as he grows up, but so long as I start with a pup with no perceivable problems and lots of positives at least I am giving myself the best shot at this.

I have Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt to finish on the trip, and also Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening our Relationship with Dogs by Suzanne Clothier. I'm not going to take a novel, just to make sure I read doggy stuffs.

I've also been wondering about the possibility of the dog alerting to my migraines. I know it's a bonkers idea, but I can actually trigger a migraine if I want (lol lol lol lol never thought I would *want* one lol lol lol), so I've been wondering whether I could train some sort of alert. I was reading about how they get people to breath on a cotton swab when their blood sugar is very low in order to train diabetic alert dogs (then bag and freeze the swab for training in the future). I guess I would have to actually *get* a migraine to train with it. It's a bonkers idea, but I could probably maybe abort the migraine if I knew it was coming with medication. My migraines are primarily cervico-genic (ie, caused by neck problems), so by doing certain things to my neck I usually cause a migraine. Would it be worth it to cause a series of minor migraines in order to train an alert? Is it even possible??? I'm not sure.

Please let me know if you have any knowledge of training alerts like this. Is it possible, or am I going to have to rely on innate alerting behaviour that may or may not be there in the particular dog? I will definitely train migraine response, as sometimes they are very bad.... but alerting is a whole other ball game.

I've also been thinking about my many medical appointments, and taking the dog to them. Australia doesn't have anything like the ADA hotline like the US does. There is no one to phone to find out my rights. I find myself going to appointments, often at hospitals maybe twice a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I wonder how people here in this country would take that. Especially considering this dog would be owner trained. I've *never* seen an assistance dog in a hospital. Come to that, I've never seen an assistance dog here at all. My husband saw one in our local shops the other day, so they do exist. I'd definitely have some fights on my hands, taking it into medical surrounds. I guess I would put together a laminated sheet to educate people, and possibly a small batch of 'handouts' so I can show the relevant parts of the Disability Discrimination Act. I don't much look forward to that part though.

The thing that gets my blood boiling however, is that owner trained dogs can't travel in the cabin of planes in this country (well, very occasionally they can travel on Qantas, but you have to have stellar qualifications as a trainer). I know that there are some challenges to that under way, but without some sort of countrywide PAT (public access test) for owner trained teams, I can't see us being allowed in the cabins.

Anyway, enough of me complaining for now, I have stuff to do so that we can get away tomorrow afternoon. I have changed my volunteering day to Friday, so that means we will be short on time tomorrow for getting ready to leave, so I better finish up stuff now!

Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Playing around with new design

Pre pickup 6 weeks 5 days old

After a comment about the harshness on the eyes of the old colour scheme - and I'd been wondering about that myself too... I decided to change it. So I'll be likely fiddling for a bit until I get something I am completely happy with. So expect frequent changes... I can be fiddly about these things!

I've had a cold for a couple of weeks that I just can't fully shake, so I'm in bed fiddling with my blog and reading Control Unleashed, which I think I'll do a review post on. I am finding it hard to get over this cold completely. I felt quite well up at the snow, but now I think it has put me back a bit despite wrapping myself in like 6 layers. Dumb immune system! Oh well, at least it isn't swine flu this time.

4 days until we see the puppies!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

5 days before testing and nice weekend away pre-puppy

Pre pickup 6 weeks 4 days old

So, we start our trip up to the Hunter Valley on Friday afternoon after the husband finishes work (and I might be doing my volunteer shift Friday afternoon from now on too). We'll get as far as Sydney that night, and then the Hunter Valley the next, just to make the drive slightly less tiring, as I'm going to have to test all six puppies when we get there on Saturday. Last time I was fairly organised - I had all the tests printed out and everything, but I had changed the order in which I wanted to do them, so I had to flip back and forward. It wasn't conducive to a smooth running process. So this time I'll make sure everything is in the exact order I want it to be, and since there are six puppies to score, I'll put a score box next to every exercise.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the puppies. The breeder broke her camera recently.... and whilst she has an iphone, she says she couldn't work out how to take photos with it! So I am itching to see the pups, and the breeder's setup and everything. She is raising the puppies right inside the house though, which I am happy about. I wasn't so keen on the fact that the previous breeder we were seeing raised the puppies outside. They were warm and secure and all, but they just missed out on all that human contact I would have liked to have seen. This way is better. The puppies have also been having contact with children, which is just excellent.

They are meant to be lively puppies, confident and eager to interact, so I think the likelihood of finding a prospect up there is good. The only worry I have is they are supposedly quite vocal, and sometimes dogs are washed out as assistance trainees for just being too vocal. I hope I can avoid that!

The husband and I went away this last weekend, probably the last time for several months. It was with his new work group, so I finally got to meet some of them. We went up to the Australian Alps, to the snow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Testing new litter in 9 days

Pre pickup 6 weeks old

So, as the title says, I am going up to the Hunter Valley (6.5 hours drive!!) to test six male seven week old puppies to see if any of them have what it takes to be an assistance dog. I am hoping out of six, there should be one! There were eight males in the litter, but two have been reserved. Both have been taken as pets though, so I am hoping that their choice was clueless - and it was when they were like five weeks old too.

I've had a nice chat to the 'new' breeder, and she's very much onboard with it all. She will also be bringing the puppies down the following weekend to Sydney, so we'll only have a 3 hour drive to pick up our bundle. She did offer me the choice to take him that weekend when he was seven weeks old, but it sounds like she is doing a really good job at socialisation, and it is generally thought that if the breeder is keeping up their end in that way, then it's best to stay with mother dog for another week or two. So, assuming we find a puppy in among that six, he should be ours on the 24th of this month. Not long to wait - although I thought that last time when the gorgeous pups of the previous litter failed my testing. I really hope my heart is not broken once again.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Ben: An Aggressive Dog Case Study", operant conditioning and aggression issues

Pre pickup 5 weeks 5 days old

Ben: An Aggressive Dog Case Study | Karen Pryor Clickertraining'via Blog this'

The article above is a great read, and the book Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog written by the same author Emma Parsons was quite ground breaking at the time (not so much the theory contained, but the fact that there was a book on it), and continues to be a great resource.

I have to admit, when I first started getting interested again in the dog world, I got sucked in by the populist pseudo-scientific and rather antiquated world of Cesar Millan. Only a couple of months reading about dog training and psychology quickly led me to realise that there are much better, more humane ways to rehabilitate aggressive and/or fearful dogs. Sometimes it may take longer, and may not be as 'televisual' but it keeps the stress levels of the dogs in question as low as possible - and I think that should be our aim when training and rehabilitating. You don't need to alpha roll a dog to make it 'better' - for any dog that is struggling mentally that will be an incredibly stressful experience.

The thing is, I think Cesar has some good instincts, he can read canine body language fairly well, he has great timing - and so would be a good clicker trainer.... if he could just reach out to the rest of the dog training community and realise what is going on. Dominance theory is almost completely debunked, and indeed his attitude did change over the course of his shows somewhat, but it would be a huge change for him to move away from it. However, an awful lot of trainers out there are 'crossover' trainers, so there is no reason that he can't change too.

I am sorry to say, I was a J&P trainer.