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.

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