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, November 30, 2011

Targeting breakthroughs, a BBQ and big storms

My clever boy... looking distinctly un-clever,
with his mouth full of leaves, or dirt, or
twigs.... or something even less savory......
4 months 2 days old

Knightley really impressed me a couple of days ago. Over the last week I have started training a "shake" as well as more paw targeting, and I've finally 'shaken' (get it?! terrible, I know) his expectation of doing all paw targeting from a down. Anyway, I'd been using a small tupperware lid for his paw target training (with enough height that treats could just fit under it to encourage him to start the pawing process), but once he had got the idea, had changed to a big white sticker for the "shake". The next day I thought to myself that we hadn't done anything 'new' for a while so decided for the next session I'd try to get him targeting my leg with his paw instead. At first I had the sticker half on my hand half on my leg, and he adapted immediately to pawing a vertical surface instead of horizontal. Then I took it off my hand completely and he kept on pawing the sticker on my leg on cue. What a clever dog! I moved it around on different places on my leg, and he followed it around with his paw, albeit slightly inaccurately. I was as proud as punch and felt like giving him the entire can of wet dog food I had been treating him with during our training session!

So, later in our afternoon I decided to push my luck a bit. He enjoys his nose targeting, but so far all we have done is touching my hand, and touching the end of a purpose made wand. As soon as he saw the sticker on my hand the second time, he tried to paw it. Quite a few times! Not getting a click/treat made him rather annoyed!! Anyway, I cued a hand touch, several times, had him running back and forward in front of me. At least he had stopped trying to paw the sticker. Then I did what I did before, put it half on my hand, half on my leg. He tried pawing again. Obviously we don't have it entirely under impulse control yet!! I pulled it off and did a few more nose targets. Then put it on half/half and immediately cued a touch. He got that, and received a joyful jackpot. Then it must have clicked. He pretty much got it right from then on, although he did eat the sticker a bit when I cued touch. I was able to ask for "paw" or "touch" and mostly get the right one, although occasionally he tried the other one first before getting it right. So much learnt for one day!! I was very very impressed and proud of my puppy.

I'm thrilled to have this photo of Knightley standing still,
I have so few photos of him actually standing because
he tends to move too much! Too bad his harness is pulling
him out of shape a bit, but it is thanks to my Dad I have this
photo at all. Knightley is growing up so fast!
Last weekend my husband and my parents and brother went to a nearby park for a BBQ.... and we took Knightley. It was a great opportunity for him to socialise some more, and I was hopeful that he might be able to at least get his paws wet in the lake. However, it was a rather windy day and the lake was full of dust and everyone had pretty much moved away from the lake into the trees to get some shelter. He did however demonstrate his ongoing barking problem, although it could have been worse I suppose. I had taken a freeze dried kangaroo bone with lots of meat on it for him, but he spent half his time getting filthy eating dirt and leaves. SIGH!
Knightley in his usual 'rug' position with his legs splayed
out either side. You might notice the squashed tennis ball
in front of him he managed to find on a little walk. He often
carries things with him for minutes on end, and seems to
really enjoy doing it. I hope that means he will be good
at retrieving stuff for me!

Since the BBQ his barking has been improving quite a bit, although he will still bark if he thinks it will help matters - although it never does he seems to live in hope! He no longer barks whilst my husband and I eat in the evening, and that was his worst time by far. I have worked hard at showing him that his barking is unacceptable. Perhaps I will do a blog entry on how I am tackling his barking. It is a four pronged approach combining a 'quiet' cue and treats and 'good quiet' praise for continued good behaviour, with depriving him of my company when he barks (negative punishment) which also interupts the barking, and also slowly conditioning him to my departures so that he doesn't bark when I leave the room but he can't follow which has been one of his major problems.

Also since the BBQ we have had some pretty severe thunderstorms. We often do get some bad ones during Summer - and it is just going into the beginning of Summer now. Whenever we have got even mild thunder since we got Knightley I have made sure that it is a time for fun and treats. The storm we had not last night but the previous was severe enough that we lost power twice, the gutters overflowed to the point we had flooding in the house, and there were several crashes that made *me* jump. Knightley got a little mopey as the night went on, but there was absolutely no shaking, no trying to hide or anything like that.

Frankly, there has only once been anything Knightley has been scared of, and that is the kids who live on our street. There was a group of about 8 of them, half on bikes, a couple on go-carts and the rest running... and they all came towards him at once to meet him. That is just about the only time I *ever* seen his tail between his legs, ears back slightly, and crouching a bit. He even tried to take shelter behind me. I told them to pat him one at a time, to talk quietly, and to stop running... and within a minute he was on his back grinning his doggy grin. This was less than a week ago though, so next time he meets kids I will make sure it isn't threatening so it will be 100% successful and he won't develop a thing about kids. Anyway, I was very happy to see him unafraid of a pretty severe storm, although I know it often develops later in life in dogs. Still, so long as I continue doing what I'm doing with him, he should be just fine with thunder and lightening. I mean, he has struck up a friendship with the postman, who rides his motorbike right up to Knightley and I, and then Knightley jumps up (a bit naughty but he gets off when I tell him to) to say hello to a helmeted funny dressed man on a hot piece of metal that roars into life without warning. All this without a skerrik of fear. I'm definitely proud of my puppy dog.

He's looking less and less like a puppy, speaking of 'puppy'. He's got quite a lot of his adult coat, and every time I brush him I get huge handfuls of his puppy coat coming out. He's definitely no longer that fluffball we had in those early weeks. His back is a full 65cm long (26 inches) from neck to tail, he's about 45cm tall (18 inches), and he is 60cm around his chest (24 inches). Despite that his neck hasn't grown much at a rather pitiful 34cm (13.5 inches), and he has a LOT more weight and bulk to put on - at a guess he is about 16.5kg (36lbs). He turned 18 weeks old today, has eight big adult teeth and has another two coming in. It is truly amazing how fast these dogs grow up - and he's been on a slow growth plan! Crazy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Allergy season, job offer and Knightley nearly 4 months old!

17 weeks old

I've been working on a long update for a while now, but I've had pretty bad hayfever for the last week or two, and haven't been on the computer enough to get it finished once and for all. So this is just a quick update to say that I'm alive, and so is Knightley!

Knightley a few days back. He's definitely growing up quickly,
but I am happy with his weight. I want him to grow slowly
because it will give his joints a good chance of being sound.
He is to turn 4 months old in four days, or 17 weeks tomorrow, whatever measurement you prefer. He has now got at least 8 adult teeth, and a wide stripe of adult coat down his back and is also loosing his fluffy puppy coat quite quickly. When he weighed him three days ago he was 14.9kg (32.8lbs), which I am happy with. He has also developed a rather annoying barking habit - rather suddenly. Which I really hope will be very temporary. I am dealing with it as best I can, but I am finding it hard to understand why he is barking in many of the situations. That makes it hard to fix.

With the hotter weather I have discovered that he rather loves the water, but the longer post will have more on that. I can't wait until we take him swimming somewhere for the first time. I think he will love it. 

His loose leash walking (LLW) is finally coming along quite well on walks, although when he is excited it still suffers.  Last weekend we took him to our local fresh food/gourmet food/butcher etc markets and had coffee outside at one of the cafes there so he could get to meet lots of people including small children, and for the first time go to a very busy public place. However, for the majority of his time there, LLW was almost an impossibility. I have ordered a Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers No Pull Harness from the US, which will help me control him when he is excited in public. It is definitely to the point that he could pull me over, and this harness is meant to be the best of the no pull harnesses in terms of shoulder joint mobility and sheer practicality. I am looking forward to receiving it.

Lastly, I have had a bit of a triumph in my personal life. I had to quit work when I got sick three years ago, but in the last four months I have been volunteering at my local Arts Centre, helping with concerts, exhibitions and special projects. Rather unexpectedly, they have asked me to take a part time paid position with them. The idea of my volunteering was that I would get up the stamina to work once more, but it is wonderful that the place I so enjoy volunteering at appreciates me enough to pay me what I would do for free!! This is a very positive step in my life, towards a happier and more active future I hope. Hopefully with Knightley by my side as my Assistance Dog. If he doesn't turn into a barking maniac!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Knightley's love of water, LLW, warmer weather and allergies (mine, that is!)

Knightley going crazy pawing the water in the tub - I'm
having to hold onto it, otherwise he likes to tip the water
out. What a crazy pup I have.
16 weeks 2 days old

So, with the onset of a rather warm late spring I decided to get a tub from the laundry and see if Knightley was interested in dipping his paws in it. He had often been a bit naughty and stuck his paws in his water bowl and tracked water all over the kitchen, so I had suspicions he was going to like it, but I was blown away about how much. He pawed at the water with both front paws as if it was his last act on earth, emptying the tub eventually. The first time he did it, I laughed until I nearly cried - I just hadn't expected it. So after every walk, I'd cool him down by putting some water in the tub and letting him go at it. Dogs get most cool (other than from panting, and some heat exchange through the pads of their feet and their nose leather) from cooling down the bottom of their chest, and the way Knightley splashed the water with his paws drenched his chest, so it was a great way for him to cool down after a hot walk.

He loved it so much that my husband and I went out and bought him a much bigger paddling pool, which I had wanted to get for him for summer anyway. We also bought some plastic netting so that later I finally was able to stop Knightley going places in our yard I didn't want him to go, but he of course really wanted to go! Anyway, the padding pool was a complete hit. Whenever he is let out the back, he goes straight for the pool, even if it a rather cool morning. We have it put on top of an area with pebbles, near the taps, and to encourage him to explore the depths of the water I eventually found myself throwing in the biggest dark coloured pebbles I could find. It was very impressive what he did next, and really showed his problem solving and intelligence better than any other demonstration I have seen.

Knightley learning to put his head under the water and
blow bubbles through his nose. Now he just does
it for fun. I definitely have a water dog on my hands!
I can't wait for his first swimming opportunity.
The pool had ledges in the corners, so the water wasn't as deep there, was barely there at all. Knightley pawed the pebble to the corner, then up the wall of the pool, and onto the ledge, where he could easily pick up the pebble without having to put his face under water. I had seen quite a few videos of dogs fetching from bowls of water, or touching objects at the bottom of bowls of water, and knew they had to blow water through their noses to be able to do it, and that it was a bit of a learned skill. So the next day I put just a bit more water in so that it just covered the ledge by a couple of centimeters. Enough that he had to put his nose under the water in order to pick up the pebble once he had pawed it onto there. After doing that a couple of times, suddenly he didn't bother with pawing it onto the ledge, and just put half his head under the water to pick up the pebbles instead. He would pick up one, dump it out of the pool, pick up the next, dump it out, then the next and so on. I would toss them back in again and again. I have taken some great photos with my new dslr camera of bubbles coming from Knightley's nose as he trawls around on the bottom of the pool. Sometimes he seems to do it just for fun, not to pick up anything in particular. I tell you, I have a water dog on my hands! Not to mention a very very fast learner!

Despite lots of good stuff going on with Knightley, we are having some trouble with excessive vocalisation - ie, barking. I have moderately successfully taught a 'quiet' command, but it unfortunately doesn't last long yet. His barking seems to be caused by one main theme - frustration. If he wants to get to a dog but can't, he'll bark, if he is in his pen while we are eating but wants to be with us, he'll bark, if I'm making his food (thought I had dealt with this one but it has come back) he'll bark on and off to tell me to hurry up and feed him. I hope I can get a handle soon on his vocalness, because sometimes assistance dogs wash out from simply being too vocal. The funny thing is, he seems to have separation anxiety *when* I am still in the room but he can't get to me, like his pen or crate... but if I crate him and leave he is just fine. I have heard of this so I'll have to read up on it. It is odd though.

Loose/lazy leash walking (LLW) is beginning to come along quite well. He isn't exactly walking beside me, but he isn't pulling much anymore, and that is pretty good for a 16 week old puppy I think. Despite that I think I'll still get a no pull harness for public occasions because excitement causes him to forget all our work, and he nearly pulls me over. Birds often cause that forgetfulness too, but we continue to work on it - both on his collar and on harness. I tell you what, I am glad we don't have little critters like squirrels here in Australia - I can see how tempting they must be for dogs with strong prey drives!

The warmer weather hasn't been good for my walks with Knightley, partly because it just isn't good to be out in that heat for dogs (or me!), and partly because it has been causing just awful hayfever for me. I hope this summer isn't going to be a hot one if I am going to be particularly affected by my walks with the dog. Having Knightley in my life has changed my routines so much, in mostly a very positive way, and our walks together are one big change.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knightley's final puppy shots, LLW and learning new skills and tricks

15 weeks old

So this week Knightley had his last puppy shots, which should now make him safe from parvo. While I have been socialising him that has been the big one I have been scared of, but now this shot is done, and give it a few more days to work completely.... then I can relax about it. A friends dog was very close to dying from parvo when he was a pup, I was pretty scared that it would happy to Knightley. The memories of my previous dog, Clipsy, are still surprisingly fresh. He died in 2000 from a long and protracted battle with a progressive heart murmur like so many poor Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. By the end of his life he was taking almost as much medication as I do!! So I guess I am just scared of having a very sick dog on my hands again.

Knightley's coat, having lost the majority of his cute puppy
fluff, now has a stripe of coarser fur down his back which is
the beginning of his adult Golden Retriever coat. Golden's
have a double coat, his existing puppy coat will be the
undercoat, and this new coarser fur coming in will be the
protective overcoat.
Parvo is one of those illnesses in dogs that scares me. As does the prevalence of cancer in Golden Retrievers, but it does tend to be less in the English type of Golden Retrievers than the American type. Here in Australia we generally have the English type - they tend to be a bit larger, heavier set, often of lighter coat. The American type looks like it comes greatly from 'field lines' by and large - often quite slight in build, a great deal of energy and drive, less feathering (coat), and the coat is often darker... even red in colour. Knightley is definitely starting to get his adult coat, so far it isn't going any darker (usually it darkens a bit to match the colour of the dogs ears), but I guess we'll just see. You can see here in the photo to the right that most of his 'puppy fluff' has gone, and he has this stripe of coarser fur down his back, that is the beginning of his adult coat. I was open to him being a more golden coloured golden, but I would be rather pleased if he stayed cream too! Anyway, it is a great relief to have Knightley fully vaccinated. One thing to worry about less. I am such a champion worrier.

Knightley's paws compared to my palm. They are so huge,
and even bigger when he is standing on them, then they truly
are the same size as my palm. Doing paw targeting with such
big paws on still what is only just a medium sized dog is kind
of odd!
So after a bit of a hiatus in learning new skills, apart from a bit of paw targeting, we are learning a few new things. We also have a bit of fixing to do... I've mucked up some behaviours just a bit by accidentally creating some unwanted behaviour chains and expectations. For instance, Knightley is getting good at paw targeting - but because he seemed better at doing it in a down position, I let him do it from a down about 2/3 of the time. Now as soon as the lid I use for him to tap with his paw comes out, he automatically goes into a down. To get him to paw target it in anything but a down, I have to keep him moving back and forth with nose targeting (touch), then paw, then nose, paw etc. Otherwise he just lies down and uses his paw that way. Speaking of paws, his are pretty massive - in the photo here you can see they are nearly as big as my palm, especially when he's standing up on it, not lying down as he is here. Another problem I had but have mostly fixed, is for a while I was practicing a lot of 'puppy pushups' where you ask for a sit, down, sit, down, sit, down and so on. He got so used to it he used to pre-empt the cue. Grrrr. So I started being as random as I could be, sit, touch, zen, down, touch, sit, down, sit, touch, down, zen etc. That seems to have *mostly* fixed it, although Knightley seems to slide into a down if I leave him in a sit for a short while. Sit stays are not going to come easily!!

I have started to teach the "bang you're dead" trick, where when you say "bang!" with the fake 'gun' hand movement, and the dog flops into a down on its side with its head on the ground. Knightley is getting the on the side bit, but only sometimes manages to put him head right down. Also the speed isn't quite what I would expect from something getting shot.... more like a stoned turtle....... Still it's a start, and it's very cute when he gets it right. I throw a party and he gets a treat jackpot.

We are doing lots of Loose/Lazy Leash Walking (LLW) training, but damn it is going slowly. Barely perceptively moving, one might say. Instead of taking Knightley out the back to do his business, I take him out the front on a leash, so that he doesn't get as excited by going out the front anyone. I'm also handfeeding him his meals occasionally out the front, and making them extra yummy so that he can't resist. So he is definitely taking food better in close proximity to the house, and there has been some improvement on walks too I think, which will help with the ability to train outdoors and eventually master LLW.

This is the Freedom Harness, by
Wiggles. Wags and Whiskers. It is
considered the best harness in terms
of letting the shoulder move freely.
The vet and vet nurse expressed concern the other day that Knightley may pull me over with an excited lunge, as he is now getting to that size and strength. They also referred me to a trainer who does sessions on Saturdays, who gave me a call as soon as I got home from the vet. Both vet AND trainer tried to push a halti on me. I think they were a bit surprised at the vehemence of my reaction, and a bit baffled when I explained it by saying that how it sat on the muzzle had psychological effects on the dog. I have looked into getting the Freedom Harness by Wiggles Wags and Whiskers, but will have to pay an obscene cost in postage from the US it seems. It is a no pull harness that doesn't constrict the shoulder joint, as unfortunately many no pull harnesses do. The plan would be to use that for a month or two as a tool to *train* Knightley, in conjuction with further clicker training, and training on the flat collar. It would just help make me be safe on our walks.

Anyway, I had a great chat to the trainer about all sorts of dog trainer type stuff. She had done the dog training course I am interested in, so that was good for some insights. She says that I should feel free to 'use and abuse her' for the training of Knightley, eg if he needs some distraction training that week, come and use her class as the distraction. Or if I just want him to have some socialisation, I can bring him along for that. Her class is being held in a field, so I don't think I would find walking around in it, doing heel work etc all that easy or good for me, but she said I could sit that out. Apparently they let the dogs off to just run around, so that sounds great for Knightley. I am volunteering today, so won't be able to go to this session - but maybe next weekend. I look forward to it. From my rather lengthy chat to the trainer, we are on the same page on quite a few things - although not haltis - and it was good to talk to someone who knew her stuff. The previous guy at puppy class was just a little clueless and stuck in his ways.

I went a bit nuts and took a huge series of photos with my new camera yesterday, so here is one of the best of them after tiring him out playing with the flirt pole. My Knightley a touch over 15 weeks, 13.5kg (29.7lbs) and a full 43cm (17 inches) at the withers. He has also lost several teeth now, possibly helped by the amount of tug he loves to play!

Knightley, chewing on the ball attached to the flirt pole. His accuracy
in chasing and speed has improved hugely over the last couple of weeks.
Gone is that baby puppy clumsiness, he is on his way to becoming an
adolescent dog.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A change in sleeping arrangements, growing like a weed, food, our bond

Knightley in his crate in the living room, about to go to sleep
without us for the first time since we got him.
I'm such a cruel mummy.
14 weeks 4 days old

Well, our Mr Knightley sure is growing up. Tonight is his first night not sleeping in our bedroom with my husband and I. He's sleeping out in his wire crate in the living room. He seems to be doing fine, I can't hear any whining or anything. It is the crate he spends a fair bit of time in during the week when I am out at my volunteer job, and at various appointments and the like, so it's not like it is a new place for him. About a week ago it got to the point where he could easily sleep through the night without needing to do out to empty his bladder in the middle of the night. When we got him, he slept right beside me on the floor in a mini crate. When that become a touch small, we moved him a full sized adult fabric crate at the end of the bed. At first I was getting up 3-4 times a night to take him out, but over the weeks it slowly dwindled until as I said... at about the age of 13-14 weeks I found he could sleep 6-7 hours and not need to relieve himself. From then on his continued dwelling in our room was on borrowed time!! The only reason he stayed in our room for another week was due to my soft touch of a husband. Anyway, tonight is his first night into the cruel solitary world.
My husband holding Knightley at 7 weeks when we went up
to the Hunter Valley to temperament test his litter.
Knightley was the very last one we tested and I was
 beginning to give up hope!
Already only 9 days after the last photo you can see he
has really grown. He is a touch over 8 weeks here, my
husband holding him again. We've had him for two days and
we're wondering what we have got ourselves into!!
Physically I have really started to notice changes in him recently. He is showing the first signs of starting to get his adult coat by having what they call a 'racing stripe' down his back of differently textured fur. At the moment it is not darker in colour, although judging by the colour of his ears I do expect his adult coat to be darker than his puppy fluff. He has grown so tremendously but sometimes it is so hard to see - so today I took a photo of my hubby holding Knightley as we knew we had a couple of others of him holding him when he was really young. This one on the left was him holding him on the very first day we met him at the age of 7 weeks. He was so tiny then - the length of the hubby's forearm!!! Crazy, when you look at him now.

Today it also looks like he maaay have lost a tooth, although it would be a touch early. Either way, it should start happening in the next several weeks. His teeth look so funny in his mouth. His head has grown so much, but of course his teeth are the same size as they always have been, so it looks rather ridiculous. In a way, it will be just as silly having fully grown adult teeth in a little jaw. It's funny, I don't remember my last dog losing his teeth, although I was only 11 when we got him. They usually go through a stage when they only have a couple of teeth and eating anything much is painful, and they stop playing tug much etc. I really can't remember that with my Clipsy. Some kinda strange people out there have a bit of an obsession with puppy teeth and are rather overly keen to try to get every tooth that their dog looses as they grow up.... to the point of deliberately playing tug when there's a wobbly one, or just yanking them out, sorting through vacuum cleaner bags etc. I'm not fibbing! There's all sorts of weird stuff about people and their puppies teeth. I wouldn't mind Knightley's canines... but as for the little front ones, I don't care at all. Ugly little teeth!! I can't wait until he does get his adult teeth. I am sick of these ultra sharp puppy teeth.
What a huge difference. The hubby holding Knightley today
at 14 and a half weeks old. He has truly sprouted of late.
His adult coat is even showing signs of coming in and I
**think** he may have lost a tooth already.
So on the left is Knightley now, and wow when I compared the photos myself, especially the 7 weeks to now, it really showed me how fast he has grown. Weight wise he is not even half way to his projected adult weight. For someone who owned a small dog previously, the fact that a 14 week old puppy can be significantly bigger than that previous dog tends to be just a touch weird sometimes. It actually changes how I think about Knightley and what I expect from him. Sometimes I find myself getting annoyed with him, and expecting better behaviour - but the I have to tell myself that despite his size and despite how well he is progressing in our training together.... he is still a baby. Just one growing like a tropical weed on steroids!! The really scary thing is I have him on a slow growth plan, and he is actually **under** the average weight for the plan, although within the suggested weights. On another more extreme plans suggested weight he is over the average a little, although he came to me big and plump for his age and it would have been hard to be that extreme with slowing his growth. I try to keep him nice and lean to help with his joint development, without having him skinny. Sometimes it is hard to get it right, especially as dog treats never have the caloric content on the packages!! He came to us overly plump, but since then I have been happy with his weight, he has a nice 'tuck', and viewed from above he has a nice little waist.
When Knightley came to us, the breeder had been feeding him Supercoat, which in my opinion is a pretty horrible food, so I started the switch to a different food after a couple of days of settling in. Since then I have been feeding him Nutro's Natural Choice - both the dry and wet varieties. At first I added a little puppy milk to the food, simply because the breeder had been doing it, and I wanted to keep his diet relatively similar - plus, he loved it! I also sometimes gave him pumpkin when his movements where a little soft. Whilst Natural Choice (in my opinion) isn't exactly the greatest dog food around, it is much better than some of the absolute crap available, and I knew from the beginning that slow growth plans involve changing your pup over to an adult feed at a fairly young age to keep the growth slow, so I would have more opportunity to find a great quality dog food when that time came. Hence, I am planning to start a slow switch to Canidae's All Life Stages food, which is of a lot higher quality than Natural Choice!! Whilst it is called "All Life Stages" I wasn't happy feeding a food with typical 'adult dog food' protein percentage to a pup so young. So in maybe a month or so I'll start a very slow switch over to the Canidae ALS. It's quite an expensive feed here, as it's imported from the US. Not even my vet had heard of it... it's pretty new in Australia really, but very well known in North America for its quality.

The main problem with the 'bad' dog foods is what 'fillers' they put in to bulk it up, things that dogs largely can't digest well, or even at all. Sometimes dogs can be allergic to the ingredients, sometimes it contributes to tooth decay and so on. Corn is the worst culprit, so if you look at the ingredients list on your dog's food and see corn, especially more than once....... well, unless there is a very good reason to keep him on it, I'd be changing the food. The better foods are made of just one meat, whereas the dodgier foods often have a list like "Lamb, chicken, beef, turkey...". That is also something to steer clear of. Try for one meat, or two if you have to. Some dogs have a problem with wheat, some or ok. Canidae makes a range of grain free foods, as do quite a few other brands available in countries OTHER than Australia! If a food is good, your dog should be producing small droppings. I have considered feeding a raw diet (muscle meat, organ meat and bone in specific proportions, not as simple as chucking random meat at your dog), but decided that while my dog is still growing I would keep his nutritional requirements in the hands of the dog food companies. Maybe I will try it in the future.

Knightley half asleep in one of his normal sleeping positions.
He spends a lot of time sleeping around my feet when I am
sitting on the couch. The positions he gets into are absolutely
mad. I encourage him settling at my feet deliberately with treats,
because a defeat 'settle at my feet when I am sitting' could be
extremely useful if he does end up a working dog. It could work
 in a cafe, work place, visiting somewhere, medical appointments
.... anything really.
Training continues well. I have started trying to train a new trick, although so far it isn't going anywhere fast!! A lot of my time is training manners, things like training him not to eat brushes when I groom him, or to accept me brushing his teeth. Recently I have started training a positive interrupter noise, as I would definitely rather not use the 'ah-ah' I have been using. All the training and playing and just the time we spend together is really creating a close bond between us though. A friend who moved to Melbourne a while back came to meet Knightley a couple of nights ago after we all went out to dinner. After letting him out of his crate, instead of running to say hello to the new person, he ran to me to say hello, then to the new person, then back to me, then the new person, then to my husband, then the new person got most of the attention from then on. It is sweet how he follows me from the room if I move, how his eyes follow me. Recently I have been reading Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening our Relationship with Dogs by Suzanne Clothier and partly inspired by that I have been really concentrating on the relationship between Knightley and I. When he doesn't do something I want him to do, or he suddenly acts mopey and tired when I know very well two seconds ago he was chasing something madly I pause and try to put myself in his place as a dog, try to get into his thoughts, so that I don't react in a way that may harm our relationship in even a small way. I feel really close to him, and he has been teaching me things about myself. I am proud of our progress together and so far he is still looking like a viable assistance dog prospect, although I am completely aware I have done no more than the beginning of the puppy raising stage. However, what I see so far is great. Now.... if only he would be more interested in taking treats... especially outisde...! We are now doing training sessions in the backyard, instead of outside. As long as I really keep up the rate of reinforcement he does pretty well. It is when we go into the street that his brain virtually evaporates. We'll keep working on it, and I'll try to keep trying to think like a dog!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Photos for comparison, 8 weeks to nearly 14 weeks

13 weeks 5 days old

I took a few new photos of Knightley today, two of which happened to match fairly closely two early photos of Knightley in pose. It's amazing to see how his face has changed in appearance... that is the huge change I notice - and of course in size, but I actually find that hard to see day to day.

He is still a baby of course, but nothing like the ultra high maintenance infant dog that we brought home nearly six weeks ago. I wonder if the next six weeks will bring as big a change, less, or even more?

8 weeks - sit.
Nearly 14 weeks - sit.

8 weeks - down.

Nearly 14 weeks - down.

A fascinating object to bark and wag at. The BROOM.
Even though he can barely see it, he knows it's there so
he's letting it know who's boss..... just in case. So cute.
Recently his mental maturity has really come along as well, perhaps it has been helped by my change in training techniques. I am happy about where his training is at, he grasps new concepts pretty easily. For a puppy I think he is quite intelligent but I know he is intensely curious about the entire world and every leaf, stick, scent and sound in it and that is going to make training outside the home very hard. Oh well - baby steps! His fascination with the world is part of his intelligence. So far in his development I remain happy with my choice. He recovers excellently from any frights. He doesn't really get truly scared much at all. He loves people of all shapes and sizes, and shows no issues with men or children. Strange sounds and strange objects, like a very loud motorbike or an umbrella don't bother him - he is just interested!

This curiosity and enthusiasm sometimes works really well for me. When I hit upon a training exercise that he enjoys he throws himself into it 100%. We are currently working on paw targeting, and he is just loving it. He sees it as a game, but he gets really yummy food for it. His tail doesn't stop wagging. We are also starting to work on eye contact (from the Training Levels, named "watch"), which he is getting really really well. We can get up to 5 seconds reliably, after two days working on it. I would like to get eye contact as a good default behaviour - except for public access work in harness. Everything other than that, I'd really love to have frequent eye contact. When training behaviours that he sees as games, excitement often overwhelms him, and he can be very insistent upon playing. If it wasn't for our crate and pen setup, I would have long gone quite quite mad!!! This is how we have it set up. I have fastened the pen to the crate with carabiners, which has worked wonderfully (click on photos to enlarge). I added the mat the set up a couple of weeks ago.

It was our last puppy class on Sunday, and there were more puppies than usual, due to a cancellation of a weekday class. Knightley had a wonderful time, mostly playing with Riot, as per usual. We have swapped contact details with Riot's owner, so hopefully they will stay friends for a good while to come. They just *clicked* and had eyes really only for each other throughout all the classes. So cute. I got some good focus from Knightley for short bursts during the class for the first time ever, but he soon got tired. Riot wore him out quickly though, and soon he was once again flopped on the floor with him legs splayed out behind him (see the entry "Puppy class, Knightley's new best friend, a very very tired pup" for an example photo!). He wouldn't move for me at all, the only thing he would muster up some dregs of energy for was more play with Riot. Crazy puppy. Mummy was a sucker and allowed little (!!!! not!!! 11.7kg - 25.75lb) baby Knightley to sleep on her lap on the way home.... just too too cute.... heart melt.

Going to leave this entry with a photo I took today that I really like. Knightley is looking all soft and cuddly and not at all evil devil puppy from hell. I really am smitten with this dog, every day I hope so damn hard that he and I will have the stuff to make it as an Assistance Dog team.

Knightley, my nearly 14 week old Golden Retriever puppy.