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, December 28, 2011

Happy 5 month birthday Knightley! A review of our time together

5 months old

So, Knightley is 5 months old today. Time has gone so very quickly!! He has gone from a tiny fluffy thing to a quite large boisterous but promising teenager.

The first photo is of Knightley the first time we ever saw him. We had a very long drive up to where his breeder lives, about 7 hours from us, and did the trip over a weekend. We were there to temperament test the puppies of his litter, a big litter of 11, 8 of which were male - and I wanted a male for the extra size and strength. There was one other promising male, but he struggled quite a lot when picked up, whereas Knightley was curious and affectionate - although he didn't actually settle down either! It is only now he is able to jump onto the couch that he is discovering the snuggle! In all other aspects Knightley's temperament test went excellently (see my blog post from then titled I HAVE A PUPPY!!!!!!!). My husband and I were absolutely thrilled as we had been through the disappointment of a failed temperament testing on a small litter nearly four weeks earlier. The puppies in that litter were absolutely unsuitable as assistance/service dog candidates and it had been upsetting (read post Temperament testing over, a bit sad). However, we were overjoyed with Knightley and returned to Canberra in high spirits and in a frenzy to prepare for our furry whirlwind.

This next photo is of bringing Knightley home 5 days later. Thankfully we only had to travel about 3 hours to pick him up, and 3 back. The photo is of him asleep in the little crate we used for the first several weeks of his time with us. He had already traveled for three hours that morning, so was pretty much exhausted and barring a couple of toilet breaks, slept the whole way home. It was the lull before the storm! Those first couple of weeks were intense!! Taking him out every 45 minutes during the day, every 2 hours at night, feeding 4 times a day and trying to keep him from taking the house to bits and from taking the flesh on our hands to bits!! But oh my was he gorgeous. Looking back, it did pass too fast. (Read Knightley is home).

This was our first trip outside the home, he'd been with us three days at this point of time. What a tiny gorgeous fuzzball he was - now he has lost 99% of that fuzz - all that remains is a touch on is ears. Back then he was like a luxurious rug or something lol! We took him to the vet that first weekend too, and he was a good little puppy, and admired very very much. We have got used to having our 'rockstar' puppy - I suppose most attractive Golden Retriever puppies get the same treatment.... people just can't stay away from him. I expect it will start to lessen soon as he is looking less and less puppy-ish now.

This shows a very big jump in time to a week ago or so. He's promising to be quite a big dog - he was a slightly above average puppy when we got him, and a bit overly plump. I have tried to make sure he has stayed lean during his fast growing period in order to ensure good joint growth. This is extra important for Golden Retrievers.who do get quite a bit of hip dysplasia (read previous post My last dog and preventative healthcare for the coming one). Late de-sexing will also help with his joint development.

This next photo shows Knightley in a rather proud sit making good eye contact. His training has come a huge way in the slightly over three months we've had him in our lives (brought him home on the 22nd of September when he was 8 weeks old). At first I was quite worried at his lack of interest in food, but as he settles down into life and *things* become less exciting, food becomes more exciting. I am sure once he gets de-sexed - which won't happen until he is 18 months old or so - that will if anything complete the cure, if we are still having any issues. I give a lot of credit to how far Knightley has come in these three months to Sue Ailsby and her Training Levels (follow the so named link in the bar below the title banner). Also some credit must go to the clicker training community in general.  I love how clicker work teaches your dog to really *think* and I love that moment when the dog just gets it! We were doing something new today where Knightley has to make eye contact no matter which way I turn, as part of his "watch me" command, and he was as pleased as punch when he figured it out. I love the fact that you don't just push your dog into a sit, but leave it to him to work it out! There are just so many more possibilities with clicker training.

These were some of Knightley's most recent adventures on Christmas day (see A great Christmas Day for Knightley, barking beginning to stop!) and I was thrilled by how confident my boy was. He is not a dog who worries about anything, or cowers away in a corner! He's always out there in the thick of things, charging ahead to meet the new people. I have seen him scared maybe twice in his three months with us - once when a big very noisy group of children all ran up to him, half on bikes, some on go-carts. He even hid behind me for a second! But once I asked them to speak more quietly and stop running, he recovered quickly and I have tried to ensure since then that his children encounters are all positive - and he does loooove the kids! The other time was fairly soon after he had got his last shots and we were starting to go for lots of walks. We met two rather large pointer type dogs who were rather exuberant and happy to just bowl into poor Knightley. That was the first time I saw his hackles come up, his tail was clamped between his legs and once again he turned to me for protection. But that's it, other than that, no more scared. Whenever he sees something he's hesitant about on his walks (rare, but has happened a couple of times), I get him to paw or nose touch the object after a few treats to get him closer, and then he always completely ignores it. I do hope he stays like this.

So, that was the beginning of our time together, and this is now. What a whirlwind. I can't wait to see what happens next. Each day brings further changes and I love seeing him mature. We've picked a truly lovely dog here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A lake swim, a hissing swan and more training!

4 months 4 weeks 1 day old

So today Knightley, hubby and I had a trip down to Lake Burley Griffin, named after the American architect who came up with the basic design for Canberra. We had a nice walk with Knightley and he got lots of attention (awww look at the cute puppy!!), including being an international tourist attraction and getting on video camera! (we were in the tourist centre of Canberra, right near the Parliament House)

A photo looking down on Lake Burley Griffin. There is a lot of good walking
around the lake - you can see the path alongside the lake, which we also
followed for a short while. The park beside the lake is very pretty, and stays
green even throughout summer.
We continued to walk around to a part of the lake that had a sort of shingle beach, next to a short pier. We'd just seen a Newfoundland and a Chowchow (both shaved for the summer! they looked so strange!) go swimming in the same spot, so we put Knightley's long line on him and threw some sticks in for him - he needed to cool down a bit anyway. Of course he didn't have his life jacket on, but didn't really need it this time as he didn't have to plunge in and could just walk. He struck out strongly from the shore, and brought in the sticks every time - although not always to us!! I was very pleased with his swimming, he definitely is a water dog in the making. I would love to take him down to the nearby coast (about 2.5 hours drive from here) to see what he would make of the surf!

Not my photo I am sad to say. Illustrating the firey temperament
of the black swans. When that big guy starting hissing at
Knightley and my big puppy boy couldn't help himself and
started barking back I thought it was time to beat a hasty retreat.
As we walked away another 6 or so other swans came up to
join the nasty tempered one.
Anyway, eventually our activity and levity attracted the attention of some rather large black swans (only found in Australia) and one came along to check Knightley out. I reeled him in as the swan came closer, and Knightley started barking at it from on the beach. The swan didn't like that and started hissing a warning. Frankly I wouldn't have liked the swan to have a go at Knightley - those things are BIG and I'm sure they can do a lot of damage. I certainly couldn't see any cygnets around, but the swan was certainly acting protective and I wasn't going to stick around as it was attracting the attention of the other swans in the area.

So we went off and played 'throw the chunk of wood for my retrieving obsessed puppy' and did some recall practice between the hubby and I inside a rather cute 
 on the park grounds. It was pretty hard to get him to pay attention to us as he was just too interested in the world around him. However, we were good little dog trainers, and made the distance shorter until he was successful at that, and then with every successful recall between us (what Sue Ailsby calls the 'Come Game' in her Training Levels), we increased the distance slightly. We were mostly doing it to dry the pup off!

So it was a good outing for Knightley. My husband and I are both on holiday from our respective jobs at the moment, so we have a bit more time to get Knightley out places. It's a little freaky to think that in a years time he may be getting close to being able to do his 'job'. I was rather worried at the beginning, when he wasn't showing food drive or desire to be 'in the game', that we had chosen a smart puppy full of drive, but one that would be very hard to focus. My worries have been proven completely off base, he is really maturing of late, and his duration, patience and focus skills are really really improving. Not to mention he's like a different dog with food drive, partly due to my hard work. I truly think, discounting any major personality changes, that he has a very good chance of 'making it' as an assistance dog.

We've been doing some more retrieve training, basically just focusing on getting him to hold objects for longer, and to be a bit more calm about it! For some reason it really really hypes him up. Anyone out there got some ideas for calming down a dog in early stages of retrieve training?!?! I have thought of doing it after Karen Overall's RP sessions with Knightley, which certainly do calm him down.

Other than the retrieve stuff, I am following the new Training Levels books through as they come without skipping ahead, which means I am about of half way through level 2. I am quite uneven though, some Level 2 skills Knightley and I can do nearly all the steps involved..... but then others we pretty much have to start at the beginning. Only when it's video-able (not that I necessarily would) would I say that Knightley and I had passed Level 2. It shouldn't take very long though, he is learning very fast! The temptation is to push him frankly, although if anything I should slow down and take the time to enjoy our ride together because this special growing up time is only going to happen once.                                                                                                            

Monday, December 26, 2011

A great Christmas Day for Knightley, barking beginning to stop!

4 months 4 weeks old

Well, I have to say I am glad that the Christmas season is over for this year. It has been a pretty busy lead up, going places, doing things, with barely time to catch breath. I have only been just treading water health/exhaustion wise. I even found myself falling asleep at my desk at my volunteer job (which I will soon be paid for) last week. Not good!

Another thing that is going on, is my brother, who I have lived with for quite a few years, and who was living with me when my husband moved in, is buying his own house and will be moving out mid-ish January. A fair chunk of the furniture in the house is his, so we are having to do all those rather time consuming (and money consuming!) buying type things to get ready for him moving out.

Knightley in his life jacket. I got the size up from what he
currently needs, and he only just fits into it, but it should
fit him for a good while. It was a hot day and he was happy
to lie on these tiles.... that is, until people started getting
in the pool.............
Anyway, despite the big lead up to Christmas and my brother moving out, it was a good Christmas Day, and what's more, Knightley had a GREAT time. I think I mentioned in my last blog that we were going to give him a try swimming in my parents pool on Christmas Day as it was meant to be a hot day. Well, it was a hot day: 31 degrees Celsius I think (or was that Christmas Eve? hmmm I forget...), so I took along Knightley's new life jacket which I bought to give him a good start in his swimming 'career'. I had been careful to give him a good introduction to water, as you would know if you read my blog often. Firstly it was that big blue tub, then the orange paddling pool in our backyard which he plays in often. Then I let him wade around in the water drains right near here when they were full and clean after rains, and that comes up to his stomach or so.... and then he got to go into our nearby lake once, but only his legs since I didn't have anything to dry him with me. So I had made it fun, played with him often in the paddling pool, and bought a Kong Wubba (meant for pools, rivers, lakes, beaches etc) which he liked retrieving from the little pool. I had got him used to the life jacket previously, so I knew he would be fine with it.

Knightley did a bit of this before he jumped in, and after he
got out every time, he peered at us / his Wubba before
making the big leap into the water. Dear clever fearless
So my dad and brother got in the pool first, and Knightley was already standing right on the edge, but I couldn't believe he would jump in. I was getting ready to get in the pool myself and ***SPLASH!!!*** He launched himself directly off the side of the pool right into the water!!!! I couldn't believe it, and scrambled into the pool as quickly as I could! Amazing dog. He sure likes the water!!! We steered him towards the steps to show him the way out (the first thing you should ever do with a dog in an unfamiliar pool), but he was swimming strongly, and cleanly, not panicking - although apparently having the life jacket helps a lot with that. Dogs swim in such a way that their front half is well out of the water, but their back
section is well below water, basically on an angle.

Knightley taking the plunge. What an awesome photo,
thanks to my Mum. The only one not swimming, thanks
to her aversion to water that isn't of tropical temperature.
When dogs are starting to learn how to swim they can feel like they are sinking and panic, which makes them thrash around a bit, which means they don't swim cleanly and don't really get anywhere, which makes them more panicked. A life jacket makes their first swimming experiences positive ones, which basically sets them up for life! I'd like to take him swimming again soon, either to the pool or a lake or river. It is important to cement these experiences. As the swimming went on, Knightley seemed to get more hesitant to get in the water, and spent more time just running around the outside of the pool - which he still seemed to enjoy.... but I don't want him to get a superstition about jumping in! So that's another big reason why I need to get him swimming again soon.

Grabbing his Wubba and getting out of the pool for a good
shake and a run around. For extra bonus points he might
even shake on his grand-dog-mother (my mum).
I was quite pleased however, by the fact he was able to focus on the Wubba whilst still being fascinated by the water. What he does isn't exactly a retrieve, but he LOVES having things in his mouth. I think it may be a small part due to his teething, but it definitely mostly his retriever breeding. He just adores carrying things. Sometimes on our walks he'll pick up a stick or a piece of bark and carry it for a full 5 minutes or so, quite happily. Now, if I could just harness that calm holding capacity!!! He gets so excited during his current retrieve training..... I tell you what though, Knightley is a Golden Retriever through and through. Loves loves loves water, those paws are absolute flippers.... and absolutely adores carrying objects - ANYTHING! - for long distances. Not so sure about having a soft mouth!!! (Goldens are meant to have a gentle mouth so as to not destroy and mangle the birds they retrieve whilst their owners are shooting).

A happily swimming dog.
Anyway, the result of his swimming adventures was a nicely tired Knightley and a very very proud dog mummy (me!). The poor pup got a good wash down to get the salt and chlorine off him, as Goldens are very prone to hotspots, and he didn't like the wash very much. However, he's nice and clean now and was rather due for one anyway.

He spent a good chunk of the rest of the afternoon and evening off and on in his portable fabric crate, and was actually very well behaved. I was very happy with him. We took him out regularly, and he went for a short walk after we ate Christmas Dinner, but mostly he was content to sleep the day away.  I think the swim rather tired him out!! Not surprising really. Not only is it great exercise for dogs, and growing puppies especially (no harm to their joints), but new experiences are exhausting also.

Finally getting too tired to jump in and out. Lying on the
sidelines, wishing their was an easier way to get in, I
think. He didn't like that big commitment!!
I did give him a Kangaroo tail, and a pigs trotter at different times, and that helped too. It's all about setting your dog up for success! If you think they are likely to pine, try to lessen the likelihood of that happening in any way possible. The more the dog pines, the more it will pine in the future. I have decided to specifically work upon 'independence training' with Knightley. Our experience at my husband's picnic with Knightley going nuts when we both walked away from him told me he is getting very very attached to being *with* us. And since I think a lot of that has been causing his barking problems, if I can make him better with being by himself, it may help.

My husband and I wearing our VERY AWESOME
Christmas pressies from my parents-in-law. How
cool are they?! I don't know if the hubby will wear
his though hehehe. But I have no shame and I'm
proud of my little cutie!
To that end, and to also help with things like our retrieve training and the like, we have started Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. We are working on Day 1 only for the moment, until Knightley does it perfectly. It involves basically staying in a sit for about 5 odd minutes (on and odd, but mostly in the sit), and Knightley does slide down into a down quite a few times still. He gets bored and figures it is time to lie down and rest. I mean on one side it is working at relaxing him - but not quite what I want!! So we shall continue to do that.

On the previous subject of barking, we have seen a good deal of progress there. For a couple of nights, soon after Knightley starting barking he was taken to the fabric crate in another room. I think that, and a small amount of rather gentle but carefully chosen noise aversion therapy techniques have produced our - so far, knock on wood - good results. Knightley also got quite a few Christmas presents - even a few all the way from England! He actually loves one of the English ones the best - a kind of rope Santa, with a beard, red hat and all. It has a ball on it too. I can't see the delicate parts of it lasting long. We bought him a toy turkey, with squeakers in the wings, and rope in between the body parts. Very cute. He's such a spoilt dog! He even got Christmas cards!!!

I hope everyone reading this had a good Christmas. I got some nice presents, but more importantly, spent a good day with the family and watched Knightley have the time of his life! He fills my life with joy. I know he was a birthday present from my parents, but he's the present that keeps on giving. So really, he's a Christmas present as well!

Friday, December 23, 2011

No puppy teeth left, training going well, a social season

4 months 3 weeks 4 days old

Poor Knightley has been losing so many teeth this week, and has been bleeding all over his toys.  From what I can see he now has none of his puppy teeth left - the last one came out last night... and his big adult teeth are coming in extremely quickly. He also has very very little puppy fluff left - just a tiny bit on his ears. The next photo here shows him lying down, doing one of his tricks that doubles as his relax command, and it shows how sleek his fur is now. His tail is beginning to feather, but apart from that he looks like a lab!

Doing his "bang" trick, where he goes into this position
when I say "bang!". He's getting better at it, but is sometimes
still reluctant to put his head fully down.
He's getting pretty big these days... when people meet him and I introduce him as "still little more than a baby" they say he doesn't look like one! It is fairly true, he's heading towards 21 inches at the shoulder, only another 3 to go at most to still remain inside the breed standard.

Training continues to be very good. We are working on a heel cue now - not a really formal heel, just a "walk at my left side" type heel. I will later train a "side" cue, which will get him walking at my right side. It is very useful for assistance dogs to be flexible in whichever side they walk on, as shops can sometimes be set out in strange
Another photo showing his coat without its fluff. He's
wearing his new Freedom Harness in this photo, which I
am really enjoying! He doesn't seem to mind it, although he
 isn't keen on it going on. I should train it really!

In a nice sit stay outside.
ways, and you may wish to look at isles without a dog in the way - so that the dog needs to walk comfortably on the other side. But I won't start training that for a good while yet. He is doing very well with the heel command inside, off the leash, with a medium level of distraction, but we haven't even taken it to the backyard, or added a leash.

We've also started retrieve training. You are meant to follow Sue Ailsby's New Levels (the books I just received) as they come.... but as a trained retrieve would really help me, I skipped ahead some. It starts in Level 3 (the second book)
Performing his "under" cue. Very helpful when out in cafes,
restaurants and the like. He has a firm grasp of the command
and will get under whatever it is possible to get under. I need
to start proofing outside now, and also asking for duration.
and has many little steps that teaches the formal retrieve - very much like an assistance retrieve. The first step gave a warning it may take a couple of days for the dog to get it - it took Knightley about 10 minutes!!! Wow he is sure getting this shaping and training thing now. For a while he was rather stuck on shaping, but definitely not now. His only problem is barking when he gets frustrated by me upping the criteria.

We are working on the second step now, where he has to be able to grab three different objects twice for one c/t. This is to increase the time he holds the object, so that in the end he doesn't bother to let go for long at all because he knows he has to hold on twice anyway for the click. Occasionally you need to click for one hold just to keep the dog in the game! Knightley found this pretty frustrating, that's for sure. But he definitely understood it. He just didn't like the change! What a silly clever puppy.

Socialising with one of the kids on the street. He gets along
so very well with children, it is great to see. It will be a
challenge, when the time comes, to stop him from wanting
to say hello to every single one when he is working.
He recently went to a big picnic I am not sure if I mentioned was happening in one of my previous posts, and behaved very well. There was even a noisy jumping castle, a face painter, a Santa, and quite a few kids. He showed no worry at any of these things. We took along his portable fabric crate with a nice freeze dried kangaroo tail to devour so we could get some time out from having to watch over him and actually eat and socialise. But he really was a pretty good boy. He did do some digging in the grass, and a little whining occasionally, but that was all. I was very happy with him. At one stage my husband and I left him in the portable crate under the watchful eye of one of my husband's colleges, and as we both walked away from him, he let out a huge loud upset howl/whine/bark, which continued until someone went over to comfort him. I found it very very hard to leave him when he was making those noises! Not surprisingly he was very happy to see us back minutes later. Poor puppy, you realise how attached he is to his 'family' when things like that happen.

Poor Knightley had a badly upset tummy yesterday and did a big gooey mess on the carpet. I had let him out of his crate after coming home from work, and he had gone to the front door and looked like he wanted to go out. I know he never needs to go immediately, so I was getting around to taking him out. But I should have looked at his insistence more closely, because next I knew he couldn't hold it in and half of it all came out on the carpet. It was his reaction that was most interesting. Shame is the closest I could describe it as. As soon as the poor thing had finished, he kind of slinked away, wouldn't meet my eye, tail was between his legs, his head was low to the ground. I hadn't scolded him or anything (I never did anyway of course), but he was obviously upset at his own behaviour. I asked my husband to take him outside while I started the cleanup, and he went again several times. I took him for a walk later and he went again and again. Poor little puppy. His first accident in many many weeks. Judging by his reaction to the unavoidable slip up, I think he can certainly be called house trained. He absolutely knew that he shouldn't be doing it there! He seems ok today though, and I've made sure he has had a lot to drink. I bet he ate something he shouldn't have.

Christmas Day is looking like it will be a fairly hot one... December so far has been a pretty unseasonably cool month but looks like Christmas Day may be one of its hottest days. We usually spend the day over at my parents house, and this year will be no exception. They have a nice pool, so I will take Knightley's quite newly arrived life jacket with us, and we may well go swimming together. Looking forward to it. Will get some photos if it happens! Leaving you with my cute Knightley photo for the week!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Sue Ailsby books (yay!!!), and training on a roll

4 months 3 weeks 1 day old

So after many many months of impatiently waiting, I have finally received Sue Ailsby's Training Levels: Steps to Success and so far am very very happy with the two books. They come some 10 years after she wrote the original Training Levels (which are available free online here), and while in many respects they are similar to the originals, there are some big changes and improvements. One of the main changes is instead of the 7 levels of the original Levels, there are now only 4 in the new books. The books are divided into Level 1-2 and 3-4, and are quite small (would likely fit into my handbag which is nice) and are ringbound, which means they stay open when you want them to - great for referring to whilst training. The one trade off with the small size of the book is a slightly smaller font, about which there has been a small amount of complaint. I can just manage it, but I could see reading for hours would give me a headache. Sue is currently working on bringing it out on Kindle, which will help older eyes and those with visual impairments.

The first book of the two books by Sue Ailsby.
Her current dog Syn is on the cover, the photo
from when she was just a tiny puppy. I must admit,
despite the work involved, I miss those first couple
weeks of tiny fluffy puppy-ness.
I read my way carefully through all the introduction stuff - all quite different from the introduction into the original levels. There is so much important information on dog training there to remember, it's a goldmine. One of the most important things she says is...

"Train the dog that shows up", ie, don't waste time worrying that the dog is doing everything wrong, or is completely hyper, or isn't interested in the silly retrieving game you keep wanting to play with them..... just get on with accepting the dog that is in front of you at that very moment, and work with what they bring to the training sessions.

So I'm thrilled about the new books. I quickly went through Level 1 of the New Levels (NL), and apart from some of what are called the comeafters, which are kind of like bonus points and extra proofing, we passed it all fine - although we do have some occasional barking problems with zen. The books are written with such humor and understanding of the subject matter, I can understand now why they were such a huge job for Sue. She has poured her heart into those books. For anyone who wants to take their dogs into dogsports, or as a working dog, or just as a pleasant pet... the books are a truly excellent choice for an operant conditioning based training system.

I then moved ahead and trained what I had been intending to train next in the Original Levels (OL), a behaviour called 'distance'. This is where the dog goes out from your side, circles around some sort of post/pole/object, then comes back to you. I decided to add a traditional finish to it too, so I taught that myself, which was incredibly easy. Distance too was so very easy. After the much harder 'Under' cue we have been working on, this was taught in a matter of minutes. I was pretty thrilled, I have to say. Knightley is really starting to understand what I want from him, and is enjoying the training. Also, learning new things seems to really tire him out, so that's a good bonus!

The barking issues are continuing still, sigh, but I have decided to put him in his fabric crate in another room when he can't be quiet when my husband and I are eating in the same room as him. Hopefully he might learn. Either way, it means that it reduces his overall barking, and the less he barks, the less he will bark. He even barks when we are doing some shaping work, and I don't click when he expects a click. His barks are so often from frustration and a desire for attention. In the shaping situation he does stop barking fairly quickly and work out what he needs to do to get another click. I wish he shut up in the other situations, but he seems to get something out of barking. It definitely is true when they say most barking is self-reinforcing!

Still, despite the barking, some leash biting, and some rough mouthing when excited, he is doing very well and starting to learn like a sponge. I am proud of my puppy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shaping success, a heavy puppy!

4 months 3 weeks old

Well, we continue to have some great training sessions. This operant conditioning stuff (in this case, clicker training) really is a marvelous thing. For a long while now Knightley has NOT liked going into his crate. Our usual technique for the first two odd months we had him was to throw some food into the crate and hope that he follows it, them slam the door quickly behind him. Sometimes you'd be too slow and then a wrestling match would ensue. Not exactly ideal, and not something I would recommend! Not really positive training either. Not encouraging respect of his leaders either.... So I knew something had to be done.

Included in Sue Ailsby's Training Levels is a cue to get your dog to go into their crate happily. So I set about training Knightley, keeping in mind we had two months of bad 'getting in crate' memories to work through. It actually went fairly easily, although I guess I did cheat a bit, but will leave you to make your mind up on that! At first I started with traditional shaping, but Knightley and I have had little success with shaping without a fairly large amount of luring also thrown in. So I clicked for looking at it, walking towards it etc. Instead of 'trying to control the click', Knightley tends to be very wooden in these circumstances, but I persisted - making sure that in order to receive his treat he had to enter the crate and take it through the wire (this is the maybe cheating part!). I then threw another treat outside the crate, to 'reset' his position again. Treating at the corner at the very back turned very naturally into a hand signal of pointing directly at the back of the crate, and he slowly got used to that - he knew it meant 'put your head, then your feet, then your whole body in the crate and then suddenly a treat will appear at the place where she is pointing at!' When he was going fully inside before the c/t through the back bars, I added the 'crate' cue.

'Crate' is going well now. I am adding criteria again, working on it without the cue, asking for a down inside the crate before c/t... and I have stopped the treating through the bars. It has served its purpose. For several weeks now, I have Knightley wait until he is released when I open the crate, so at least I don't have to train that part of the crate behaviour. I always make sure I give him a really good pat before I release him, so that I help him see the crate as a good place. I am also feeding him the second half of his meals in there (the first half I use in a training session).

Onto the rather more interesting shaping exercise. This is more an Assistance Dog behaviour, although it could be occasionally useful for pets, and I thought I may as well teach it while he is young as it is simple and behaviours learnt young tend to be retained particularly well. It's the 'under' skill, where you can point at an object such as a chair or table and tell the dog to get under it. I did this as almost purely a shaping exercise, and didn't use any help from books or online. Firstly I moved a chair into the middle of the room, so it was nicely obvious for Knightley. The seat of the chair was only slightly shorter than his back, not so much that he would have to crawl under.

I started by throwing 10 or so treats directly under the chair, so he would realise it was the chair we were going to be working with today. Then came for him the part we are struggling with in shaping. First he tried 'watch me', staring at me very hard trying to get a treat, but I just looked at the chair, then he waved his paw at me as we have been doing quite a lot of hand shakes and high-fives, then a down, staring at me..... then frustration set in as I was just looking at the chair. He started his silly barking problem. I cued quiet, and then move around in a half circle around the chair. I found this to be the key to keep him from getting overly frustrated in the early shaping stages. When he would glance away from me, and happen to glance at the chair, I quickly click/treated. After a while, I did another round of 10 treats under the chair, and then he was definitely looking at the chair, as I slowly moved around it to stop him going into downs etc. I got a few looks with the head really close, almost under the seat, and those got jackpotted (lots of treats), and we continued. Looking from far away became not good enough, and I was only clicking for his head under, or at least close to the chair. This upped his frustration again, just as he thought he had figured out the game!

He started sticking his whole head under the seat, so when I treated, I did a couple actually under the chair, using them to lure him in a bit. If he stayed under the chair after the treat, he got another c/t (click/treat). After about 4 in a row, I would throw the next treat out from the chair, and he would have to figure it out again. This technique really seemed to help. When he was under the chair, he seemed to know that this was exactly what I wanted, and even sometimes went into a down - which is what I want as a finished behaviour, for which he got a jackpot. We finished our first session here.

Second session I started with 10 treats under the chair to re-orient his attention on the chair. He remembered well though. His head under quickly became half his body under, the front half. Sometimes he'd go into a down but because they kind of move backwards when they go down, only his forelegs and head would end up under the chair. I c/t'd because it was fairly good, and threw the treat in front of him so he would crawl forward to get it and be more evenly spaced under the chair. Then when he started doing it of his own accord, jackpot. He was catching on quickly in this second session.... the overnight sleep had helped set the brain patterns. I then started introducing a cue. The instant he actually got under the chair, I said 'under!' in a upbeat voice, very quickly followed by c/t as usual. Rinse and repeat many times. Then I started saying 'under!' when it looked like he was on his way under the chair. By the end of the session I tried out the cue a couple of times, with moderate success.... I had to say it more than once. Still, a great session, showing great focus. I was very proud of my puppy.

Third session was working on getting a down every time, so I removed the 'under' cue from the equation as I worked on it. I lured the down, only clicking for the behaviour after I had done the luring. Then gave a jackpot. Did give a treat for an under with no down, but a very very small one. Big treats for every down. After it was looking good, I reintroduced the 'under' cue.... and that is where we are up to now!

Weighed Knightley yesterday, and he has put on a LOT of weight recently. He is very nearly 20kg (44lbs), possibly due to the fact I have been feeding him a bit more. He was really on the skinny side, and is still slim.... but did need his food increasing. He's put on quite a bit since his last weigh in, so I think it's time to ease back on the food. He's now on pure Canidae All Life Stages, after a long swap from Nutro Natural Choice Large Puppy. He really likes the Canidae, and I can use just his kibble meals to train with. He has come a long way from the puppy who would only eat roast chicken!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Great training sessions, some barking help, finding dog teeth everywhere!

Giving me a "Watch me" cue, one of the behaviours we are doing
as part of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. I like to reinforce eye
contact even when I am not asking for a formal Watch me, so I
often give him treats during the day for it.
4 months 2 weeks 3 days old

Knightley is really getting into his training these days. There was a time I was really worried he wasn't "in the game" as they say, but that time is truly long gone. We've had some absolutely terrific sessions lately, where everything has been spot on, and he improves and learns effortlessly.

We continue to work on his "Shake", as like most dogs, he's a bit foot touchy, so I try to take the foot holding part of the behaviour slowly. He is happy to touch my hand with his foot, but when I start holding it, he isn't happy. He will also touch his paw to my hand in nearly any position, even jumping into a "beg" position in order to reach my hand with his paw. So cute.

His mat got wet a while back and has been outside, then got even wetter in the storms we had, and I was too slack and tired to clean it until now. But it's back in the house, and it has been at least four weeks since we worked on mat behaviours, and I never really moved it around the house, testing out whether he really knew what "Go to mat" meant. Well, I can tell you that dogs have really excellent memories. He basically did it perfectly, and was really getting into it, tail wagging madly. I moved it into three separate rooms, and he was throwing himself eagerly on the mat every time. This was only using kibble as a treat too! So much for the puppy who wasn't food motivated!!

Here's a list of the things my 4.5 month old Knightley can do now, most are Training Level behaviours:

  • Sit
  • Down (working on getting down quicker, at the moment it's quite slow)
  • Stand
  • Wait
  • Stay (sit stay, and down stay, not done much work on stand stay)
  • Watch
  • Touch (hand, wand and surface target with nose)
  • On your mat
  • Paw (hand and object target with paw)
  • Come (not as solid as I would like)
  • Through (run between my legs, very recent trick, so quickly learnt!)
  • Shake hands
  • Hi-five
  • Speak (very happy to do this one!!)
  • Quiet (not so good at this one, does it, but it doesn't last as long as I would like when he wants to bark)
  • Off (get off furniture, get your front paws off something, stop jumping up)
  • Up (jump onto something, front paws up eg to give me things when I'm sitting)
  • Give (release objects he has in his mouth to my hand, not completely solid)
  • Bang! (basically my relax cue, has him lying on his side with his head relaxed on the floor, no tension in his body)
  • Crate (go into your crate, recently taught)
  • Zen (leave it, with food and other items, not default how I would like it to be but working on it)
  • "Looloo" and "Go toilet" for doing number 1 and number 2 respectively
  • LLW skills
Plus he is.....
  • House (potty) trained
  • Quiet and relaxed in the car
Wow, writing it out like that makes me realise how much he knows!! Not bad for a pup who is somewhere between baby and adolescent. Bratty child is probably the best description for now!

A couple of days ago I asked for help on the Training Levels yahoo list re: Knightley's barking issues. One of the replies, from Sue Ailsby herself seems to have done some good. She suggested using the Speak cue/Quiet cue pair, but in a slightly different way, a way apparently Karen Pryor has talked about. Instead of just starting the dog off barking and then trying to get quiet and then click/treating and eventually teaching the cue, Sue/Karen say to instead have the dog bark until he really really wants to stop, keeping on giving the bark cue until he wants to stop because he knows when he stops he will get lots of treats. Knightley seems to really get something out of his barking, but the first time I did this it really did seem to do something good. It hasn't been quite as effective since then, but perhaps that is my fault. I will certainly persist.

Knightley is certainly loosing more teeth. At least two in two days, possibly three. I need to be careful when I play with him because he loves tug, and a couple of times I have played with him, the toys have ended up with quite a bit of blood on them, and I have felt terribly guilty. Apparently Golden Retrievers have extremely high pain tolerances, but I think we'll take tug easy until all his teeth are out - much to his disgust I am sure, he will still dump sodden toys in my lap expecting me to take the other end for his amusement! Poor pup will probably get quite annoyed at my refusal!

We are having lots of Christmas parties of various sorts at the moment, for both my husband's work and mine. This weekend his work is having a Christmas party that includes the children of people who work for his company, and we have been sort of invited to bring along Knightley, as a couple of the people there have been wanting to meet him since he was a baby puppy. There is going to be face painting and a bouncing castle and everything - very chaotic, and I certainly wouldn't have taken him pre-16 weeks to something like that in the fear of him being seriously spooked and traumatised.... but he turns 20 weeks today, so I think he is ready for something like this. As I said in my previous post, he coped with the bustle of our town centre without so much as blinking, so I think he'll be fine. He looooves children too, I just hope they don't run too much around him, or at least listen to me if I tell them to stop, because he does get a little spooked by that sometimes.

He really is a good puppy, despite the barking. I really do adore him so very much. I do think I chose the right dog. His eagerness to train these days makes me feel so happy at the end of every training session. I can almost envisage going out in public with him, having him help me, saving me energy, reducing my pain levels and need for medication. I so so so hope it all works out. He and I are certainly making a good start of it. He was sleeping on the couch, curled up against me, with his chin on my lap yesterday, and I couldn't stop watching him. He is turning into a very handsome dog, and I love him dearly!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Barking issues continue, food change, Knightley nearly 20 weeks!

4 months 2 weeks old

Knightley definitely isn't so little anymore. He's continuing to shoot up - perhaps even faster than before. You are certainly not meant to increase food around this age, but he was really looking quite skinny, so I have increased the amount I am feeding him.

Knightley showing his much less fluffy coat off. In parts
it is very much an adult coat. He really only has puppy fluff
left on his head. It is sad to say goodbye to it! He has
also lost his first 'canine' tooth. From what I've read they
all kind of go quickly from now on. Poor pup.
It is somewhat difficult to keep him at a good weight as I am going through a long swap over from one food to another. I had him on Nutro's Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy - which whilst it isn't a great food, it was the best I could get my hands on in Australia without having to travel hours, or having to make it myself. I recently bought a bag of Canidae's All Life Stages to swap him over onto. Theoretically I could have had him on it from the beginning, seeing as it brands itself as for puppies, as well as adults and seniors - but I wanted a food that was higher in protein (28%) for his first four months of life and the associated growth spurt. Now I would rather slow down that growth, although it is still reasonably high in protein at 24.2%. The most important thing is it is a high quality food, much better than the vast majority of muck for sale in Australia. It is a food imported from the US, which has only become available here in the last year or so... and you can only get it over the internet. Oh, and it costs quite a bit. Still, it is worth it. Knightley will even train for it dry, he likes it so much! Considering the slow growth plan has kept him smaller than he could have been, I think he will be quite large when fully grown. He is already 51cm (20 inches) at withers height, which is the minimum height for a female golden - so he's definitely on his way already. He should only grow another 10cm (4inches) or so as he reaches maturity.

Looking handsome. He has no feathering to speak of yet
of course, although his tail seems to be starting. Other than
that, and the fluff on his head, he looks almost like a Labrador!
If another person tells me that he's a Lab I'll scream!
We've had a few good outings in public with Knightley - and as long as he doesn't get frustrated by anything, he generally doesn't start his rather ridiculous barking. We took him into our town centre this last weekend, and he was extremely well behaved. It was the first time he has been around semi heavy traffic, and he didn't seem to notice it. I think it was partly because when he was quite young we used to take him up to our local shops every evening to get him used to people and bustle, and inadvertently, traffic. Upping the number of cars, and speed, didn't daunt him at all. It was a hot day, so we didn't spend much time walking around, but what we did do I was extremely pleased with. My husband and I then took Knightley, along with a rather late lunch for ourselves, down to our local lake, for a rather pleasant romp for Knightley. He even got his feet wet in the lake! But I hadn't brought a towel, so I couldn't let him swim. I was actually surprised at the number of people swimming in the lake. I used to swim in it occasionally when I was about 4 years old, but since then it hardly has the reputation of cleanliness.

Random photo of Knightley, soaked after we've gone for a
slow but longish (for me!) walk together. Whenever it's humid
or we go during a hottish part of the day, I make sure I cool him
down when we get back. Dogs can overheat much more easily
than humans, and Knightley enjoys getting wet, then dirty.
We continue to have barking issues though. I am getting a little stumped with it all. I don't know why he suddenly became barky. He wasn't at all as a baby, when we got him. He basically barks from frustration... for instance, if he's: penned, tethered, ignored for a long time, crated if we're still in the room, if I'm eating, if I have high value treats and he wants them NOW, when we are doing zen work, if we are out somewhere and he wants to say hello to someone (especially another dog) and I won't let him. He is now starting to bark just during normal day to day training, so what I am doing is just not working to stop the gratuitous barking. Some days the barking is almost nil, and I think the techniques I am using are working, and then there will be a bad day. Sigh!

All wet from playing in pool, check. Lying in dirt, check.
Mummy looking quite cross, check (heh heh heh always
so fun). Right, time to eat leaves and dirt and get really
 gross and mucky!!!
Despite the barking problems, I am training a few new things... and Knightley has officially done his first Assistance task for me! He picked up a sock, and gave it to me! Of course he probably wouldn't have been so eager to give it to me if I hadn't had some kibble in my pocket (the curse of the positive trainer!) but, I pointed it out to him, he saw it, picked it up, and came to me. I make sure I try to *always* give him a treat when I take things away from him that he is not meant to have, so that even surrendering things that he really wants becomes a pleasurable experience. I think I am going to have to step this up with even higher value treats because he has figured out that he is now tall enough to "counter surf" (ie, stand on high hind legs and grab things off the kitchen counter), and I want to make sure he at least surrenders them, or preferably brings them to me for treats. So in this case, even though he was meant to have the sock, Goldens have inbuilt sock obsession, and I knew he would need a yummy swap deal to give it up, so I was happy to swap food for a sock. I was happy with him, even though it wasn't a formal Assistance retrieve.

In my last couple of entries I mentioned getting a Freedom harness, made by Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers.... and earlier this last week, it arrived. It has really been great so far, but I plan to do a review entry on it, so I won't say much more about it. Suffice to say it is good for someone who can't risk a dog pulling them over. I am definitely happy with it, although it only *just* fits Knightley, but at least it means he can fit it for a while. It took me a long time to find a site that would ship it to Australia for something less than a house mortgage, but finally found 2 Hounds Design, which was great and has a deal with another company who does their very reasonably priced international postage. So that was great.

I can't believe Knightley is 20 weeks old in just a few days. That means we've had him for 12 weeks, and boy has that time flown. It's almost like I can't remember a time when we haven't had him. Despite whatever challenges there may be, he brings a lot of joy to my life that wasn't there before. Leaving this post with one of my favourite most recent photos of a very dirty Knightley.

Looking beautiful but very mucky. Knightley sees no reason why he can't
go inside, but Mummy sure does!