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!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy 6 month birthday, Knightley! Amazing progress

So, Knightley turned 6 months old today. Time sure has flown! He is becoming much much more easy to care for, taking far less time and attention than he used to. I know a lot of people start having trouble around this age, but so far I am extremely happy with his behaviour. We'll see how the next couple of months shape up. A lot of adolescent dogs are given up to pounds and rescues or even abandoned during that trying age, because their owners just don't know how to handle them. I think by getting a sound general obedience background from an early age, Knightley's trying behaviour should be at least minimised. So far, apart from separation anxiety (which may be somewhat my fault), he is as good as gold.

Knightley very happy (and dirty!) at the dog park. He is getting
good training there to sit infront of people to get attention and pats
instead of jumping up. I haven't seen him jump up on a person
once, although I can see him visibly tempted with the kids that go
with their parents! He really loves kids and they tend to excite him.
One of his more annoying habits was jumping up on people when excited, but I think I have got that fairly well under control now. The cure was simple, but took consistency and treats on hand all day. Basically when he was excited, and it was likely he would jump up, I would start clicking (or saying yes! if I didn't have a clicker on hand) for him keeping all four feet on the floor. If he jumped up, I would freeze and become as boring as possible, until the four feet were on the floor again. I counted 1-thousand 2-thousand after the front feet dropped down, then click/treat and LOTS of praise. I specifically want him to sit to say hello to people, so I am asking for a sit often when I come out in the morning, or come home from work. Now he knows that is what I want, so I click the instant he sits down, and the praise starts.... which is what he really wants in this particular scenario. Usually I focus on treats as the reward, but when he is just itching to be patted, why not use that as the reward? It certainly works, he knows if he wants it, he behaves. Now I just have to take the behaviour into public, because occasionally he lunges at people to jump up on them, so that they'll pay attention to him! Not particularly desirable for a dog who will hopefully be an assistance dog.

We did more nose work today and he is loving it. I had two cotton bags next to each other on the ground, and I'd throw some kibble across the floor, making sure some got into places where he had to sniff them out... then while he was busy I would hide a couple of kibble in one of the two bags. He knew his job was the find kibble and got excited every time he smelt something, his nose working over time. I'd then ask him to sit, pick up and open the bag so he could shove his head in, nose going a million miles again, and snaffle all the kibble.I want the sit to become part of a behaviour chain to signal 'hey mum, I found something!' instead of him just pawing and mouthing at the bag, trying to get to the kibble.

Soon we might start work on something other than food, maybe a cloth with a bit of vanilla on it, or something. Vanilla is often used to mark items for assistance dogs, to make them easier to find. Eg, handbag, sunglasses, or even a phone. All you need is a cue tip with some vanilla on it, and to put a small stripe down part of it where it won't rub onto everything else easily, then just let it dry. You don't want the vanilla to come off onto everything around it, you want it to stay localised to only the object. Some people put snap-lock bags inside their handbags with some scent on it, so the scent very much only stays with the handbag. Then the item has a big scent flashing light on it, so if the dog is asked to 'go get handbag' or similar, it will be much much easier. Knightley obviously really enjoys using his nose, and giving a dog an outlet like with nose work games, even as simple as I am doing, will decrease random sniffing when you don't want it. You can also train a 'sniff/nose to yourself' cue pair, if you have a sniffy dog training to become an assistance dog. This is important in stores where there may be fascinating animal smells, or interesting other scents... and it is *not* considered professional for an assistance dog to start being distracted by the smells - which is where the 'nose to yourself!' cue can come in. I'll just focus on giving him some fun for the moment though.

Learning relax a couple of months ago. It is interesting to see
how he has changed since then! His chest is much deeper,
and he has started getting his 'feathering' (the longer fur
goldens have on their tail, back of the back legs, back of the
front legs, chest and stomach). In a couple of months he is going
to look quite adult, and very handsome, if I say so myself.
We did some work on Knightley's 'relax' today, and it's coming along well. He has to be able to hold the position for a minute, then be excited for a minute, then relax again and so on. He will stay in a relax for about 25 seconds and lift his head up... see me, and then flop back down. We were up to about 45 seconds, which is getting close.to the target. It's rather amazing seeing Knightley going from excited, tugging and running around me, to splayed out on his side all floppy and relaxed in a couple of seconds. It seems this training thing actually works!! Relax is quite obviously a useful command, mostly as notice that I won't be moving for a while, so why don't you have a snooze. Eventually, that is what the relax cue will become.

We did a bit more work on stays, getting the sit stay where I walk around him, and the down stay at a longer distance as I actually do things and take my eye off him. Sit stay is fine unless he is getting a bit bored, and then the long 1 minute sit stay doesn't last and he slides into a down..... There is no stand stay in the Levels, but I have been doing it anyway, to get him generalised on what stay means. The more positions I can do it in, the better, and it will actually help with the individual stays sit and down stays as he really internalises the cue. I practice stay in relax and on your mat, as well as the normal ones. Actually it has been very useful in the relax position, as Knightley has now become a joy to groom. He was the normal baby puppy, trying to chew on his brushes and combs, but now he just likes there in a stay, letting me do what I need to. I just need a cue for him to change the side he's lying on, and I'm set!!

He's also getting great at other handling as part of Level 2, for example he is very happy for me to lift up his lips and poke around his mouth now. I do have a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste for him, but he's been pretty wary of them. It's kind of ok for now, he gets a LOT of freeze dried bones to chew on, especially kangaroo tails and water buffalo forelegs (HUGE! we jokingly call them dinosaur bones)..... but these are his adult teeth for life, just like with humans, so I am working on stroking his teeth with a finger as I lift up his lip. He is being a very good boy about it too. I need to train him to tolerate the sound and feel of something vibrating like clippers on him (never know when your dog will need surgery), and then that part of the handling is pretty much done.

In four months Knightley has really come amazingly far, both in training, and in his maturity. He is turning into a much calmer dog, and remains happy and willing to work. He is confident in new environments and with new people, but still submissive to other dogs (which is what I ideally want). He is very smart, and seemed to just get a brain boost a month or two back. He also loves training, and takes a lot of satisfaction in doing a job right, like closing a door. I am very impressed with him so far.... his breeders obviously did a good job socialising the puppies as he is a nicely balanced dog that is scared of virtually nothing. If he continues like this, we have a good shot at getting him up to working standard by about 18 months. Needless to say, I am thrilled.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Down stay work, nose work games and a Manners Minder!

5 months 4 weeks 2 days old

I've been writing this for a number of days now, but the last three days have been busy!!! So, finally, here is my entry - with only an hour or so to go until Knightley 'turns' 6 months old!

So in order to pass Level 2, one of the few remaining things we need to get good is a down stay at a distance of 6m (20 feet) for 1 minute, whilst doing things, talking etc. 6m is by far the longest distance we have done stays, so I have been taking it slowly so far so that we only have successes - not frequent failure by pushing Knightley to long stays at a large distance before he is ready. Today we got up to 25 seconds, which I am happy about. I also practiced doing stays where I stepped/hopped awkwardly over him, both with my crutch and without. He was rock solid, although a little spooked at first. I asked my husband to do it with him later, because whilst I do 99.5% of the training, sometimes it is good to have other people do things that require trust like the stepping over. However, Knightley kept on breaking the stay when my husband tried to do it, so there is more work to do there with other people to make it rock solid.

In a down stay. This is not a 'perfect' or really, even good position
for a down stay, even though it is a down by definition. The
dog isn't meant to be lying out to the side like that. However,
Knightley's down stays are likely to be used in the course of his
work, and I want him to be comfortable. When I ask for a down
out of the blue, his position is better. It is when I ask for stay he
settles down a bit. I don't mind a bit because I am very unlikely
to be doing obedience with him - and even if I did, I can easily
retrain him.
Sue's Training Levels are really so good for preparing an assistance dog for advanced training - Level 2 contains lots of little behaviours that would be very useful for an assistance dog. Obvious things like closing doors and cupboards with his nose, people stepping over him during a stay (more common than you would think in public), floor food zen and floor zen in general (assistance dogs need to learn self control so they don't eat any food in public or don't start sniffing everywhere in a store). Then there are generally helpful things like an automatic down/relax on the dogs mat - very useful for appointments or at work (you can even teach your dog to see the leash as a mat, for a portable mat you can carry with you easily and have your dog relax and snooze wherever and whenever you want!).

I've been playing nose work games with Knightley's food most evenings, and he is getting good! We started out with popcorn (very easy to smell), just throwing a bunch on the floor and saying "find it!", then diverting his eyes and then throwing it and telling him to find it, then diverting his eyes and putting some in more tricky places, out of eyesight, around corners etc. This latter part is what starts the sniffing and moves away from just using the eyes. We have moved to treats and kibble now though, he doesn't need the super smelly popcorn (BTW - if you use popcorn make sure it is completely free of butter/salt/sugar etc, just absolutely plain, but still freshly popped). I can put a kibble inside a cotton bag and he'll find it now, and I can hear his nose going 'whuffwhuffwhuffsniiiffffsnifsnifsnifsnifsnifswhuffwhuffhwuffsnifsnisnisnisnisffffff' the whole time he is looking for his treats.... it is SO cute!!! They say 20 minutes of nose work is equivalent to a 1hr walk in terms of tiring your dog out, so that is one of the main reasons we've been doing it..... as I haven't been super well recently and Knightley has been missing out on his frequent walks. I read this article recently (can't remember where) that said that all dogs - but *especially* working dogs - should have a hobby. Something that will motivate them and give their brain muscles a good work out and if they are a working dog, isn't at all related to their 'job'. You obviously wouldn't do this as a game with a drug detection dog, for instance!

A dirty Knightley being told to calm down with the boxer who
caused all the filth teasing him in the background.
We have been continuing to take Knightley to the dog park while I haven't been in great shape. Today my husband got off work early, and came to pick me up after I had finished with the dog in tow, and we stopped off at the dog park on the way home. Unfortunately I had been to a fancy lunch with a couple of people from work, and wasn't really in dog park clothes..... and a dog park in Australia in summer = dust bucket. Never mind, the clothes will recover.... It wasn't just me who got terribly dirty either, Knightley got as filthy as I've ever seen him. There was an 8 month old boxer pup who Knightley kept on play fighting with... and unfortunately Knightley was the one who ended up on his back 'defending' himself and getting so dusty when I patted him clouds came up from his fur. The dog saliva then turned to muddy marks on his lovely cream fur and he definitely didn't look like the refined pedigree dog he is.... quite a few people were laughing at how filthy he was.

A happy dirty dog. Notice his big white adult teeth now.....
I think his canines have come through as much as they are
going to. It makes him look so much older now. Just the
doggy wisdom teeth he'll get a year old to go now.
He had a great time like usual though, although he couldn't stop bothering a *very* male fully grown boxer, who didn't particularly like it. It is interesting watching dogs interacting, they only have a few minutes together sometimes to establish pecking order.... but they certainly seem to manage. Knightley is very very submissive, but bugs the more dominant dogs a bit too much. One day he's going to get a big telling off, or maybe hopefully he'll just learn slowly from the corrective snarls and other body language. He's so friendly with both people and dogs, he just doesn't get that other dogs don't want to play sometimes, sigh. It's so funny watching him visit *everyone* in the dog park, one by one.  He is such an attention seeker, and everyone is always charmed by his doggy grin. Today he just got so mucky we left. I put him in his paddling pool to get the worse of the dust and saliva off. The water certainly went and interesting colour!

Preparing to leave the park. We can tell when he's run his
restlessness off, because instead of trying to greet everyone
and everydog, Knightley comes and lies down next to us. He
is a little too attached to me sometimes I think, hence the agony
(for him) of having me in the house when he can't get to me. It is
even worse when it's both the hubby AND me....
One last interesting thing. I have ordered something called a Manners Minder. Some of you will know what it is, but others won't have heard of it. It is a remote controlled treat delivery system, that allows you to treat the dog when you're not even in the room, or if you don't want to approach the dog and give them their treat. It is extremely versatile and is a tool serious clicker trainers LOVE playing with. Instead of *clicking* when your dog has done something right, you press the remote, and the Manners Minder makes a beep noise, then releases a treat.  One of the main reasons I have got it is that Knightley is having problems with separation anxiety when we are in the house with him, but he can't get to us. He barks and barks for quite a while, and is definitely not happy. The Manners Minder would allow me, from up to 30m (100 feet) away, to give him treats when he goes quiet... and with something to focus on, he is likely to be less interested in pining for us. I did have to order it from the US unfortunately, which meant big postage because it is quite heavy. I do think Australia needs a special positive reinforcement online store, with lots of clicker stuff and the hard to get to things like the Manners Minder. Until then my stuff will have to wing in from overseas. I can't wait to get the Manners Minder though, it is going to be very useful and very fun and will be by far my most expensive training gadget.

Getting close close close to passing Level 2. Keep an eye out for my 'homework' that is part of Level 2, which I will be posting here: "10 reasons a dog might not obey a command". I'm working on the reasons.... it is harder than you think!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A trip to the dog park, a little training, slowly getting better

5 months 3 weeks 6 days old

Well I'm still not well, but I am feeling a little better I think. I think I have been pushing myself a bit overall, and last Thursday/Friday was just the final straw, trying to balance everything. The pile has finally come falling down. Unfortunately the timing is pretty bad! I have very definite commitments at the Arts Centre I volunteer at this week, and they aren't something that can be put off. Nevermind, I will just try to minimise the hours and rest as much as I can.

The hubby and I did manage to take Mr Knightley to the dog park again for some fun and exercise, since he isn't getting his normal walks at the moment. He had a really great time, solid socialisation with both people and dogs, and is starting to develop some manners around adult dogs - one of the main reasons we are taking him there. He's learning that if he bugs and bugs adult dogs to play, they may just turn around and tell him off. Twice when we've been there now there has been a guy with two muzzled rottweilers, and the first time he bothered one of them a bit, it started to lash out at Knightley. I was certainly glad it was muzzled, although it did back off quickly. The next time he visited he stayed clear though - there was no bothering. He still needs to learn to be nice to the little dogs as well as the big dogs, although he seems to have stopped both running and jumping over the little dogs! There were two huge mastiffs, as well as an alaskan malamute this last time, and he was extreeemely polite to them, it was quite amusing to watch.

I do have to bite my tongue at the dog park though. There are people there who in my opinion are doing absolutely the WRONG thing to manage behavioural problems with their dogs..... but who am I to offer advice? Especially as from what they can see I am just the normal pet owner. I have felt like asking "and is that technique visibly improving matters?" several times though. Must control myself, although if I see those two terrified Italian Greyhounds being made to come to the park once again it will be very hard........ their owner has obviously received advice from these trainers/dog walkers who come to the park that repeated visits will cure them of their issues.... but IMO it will make them worse. Wish I could say something.... I know exactly what I would do to help the poor creatures (one of which tried to bite Knightley it was so terrified of him) but it isn't right to butt in if actual dog 'professionals' are helping her.

Knightley today on his new bed doing 'on your mat!' training.
He's such a good boy these days with his training, so quick
and willing to please. I am very proud of him!
I have officially crossed off two behaviours on my Sue Ailsby's Training Levels Level 2 'to do' list and we're working on a third. The first is a behaviour where you have a jump and a mat next to each other and using cues you ask for your dog to either jump over the jump or lay on the mat and actually get the one you asked for consistently - testing cue recognition. Knightley had no problems with that, and we have been continuing to work on getting him used to other mats, even things like cotton shopping bags.

The second behaviour to tick off is recall. For a while I have been taking Knightley out the front to do his business, which I started doing to lower his excitement levels every time he went outside the house. It has worked extremely well - going outside is now matter of fact for him and I think it has helped our loose leash training, and also helped him take treats outside. At first he wouldn't eat food outside at all because he was completely over threshold, but now he is happy to eat his dry kibble, partly thanks to taking him out so often. However, I've been feeling rotten the last couple of days obviously, so have just been letting him out the back, giving him his cue to go as he goes past me, which works well. I give him a couple of minutes, then call him back in. His response to the call in is pretty impressive, considering he can be as much as 40 metres away, out of sight around the other side of the house. Sometimes I have to call a couple of times, but he certainly does come. So considering Level 2 only asks for a 12m (40 feet) recall we are definitely able to tick that one off. We've also been doing some hide and seek at a distance of about 20m (66 feet), and he's been loving that... and the hide and seek was also on the Levels too. So recall is done too!

We did some work on the 6m (20 feet) down stay, which is further than I have been usually doing down stays, but I am taking it up slowly to the desired 1 minute. At the moment we are at 20 seconds, which isn't bad. He didn't once break his stay today, so that is great. I want him to think that stay is never to be broken. If your dog is breaking stays often then you are doing stays that are either too long, with too many distractions, or too far from you. Take it slowly, and whenever you make something harder, re-teach the whole behaviour. We haven't done much stay work outside, so when we finally do go outside I will be starting from 1 second standing right next to him - without a cue. Only once he has grasped what I want will I add the cue again and then start making it harder - slowly. If you can set your dog up for success in his training - like me taking his stay training slowly so he doesn't break a stay - then he is much more likely to succeed in the end. If I had jumped up to 10 seconds straight away, then he would have likely broken, and then I would have been fighting the idea that he can break a stay if he wants for much much longer.

It is very important with clicker training - and probably all dog training - to always set your dog up for success by keeping it easy at the beginning. You can increase the difficulty of a behaviour once your dog understands later. Make it as easy as possible for you dog to succeed in training every new behaviour. This is such an important thing to remember, as well as behaviour re-teaching - which I sometimes forget about too and just expect Knightley to do a 1 minute wait outside because he can do it inside even though he has never done it outside. Then I get annoyed when he doesn't do it..... and then DOH! it hits me that I needed to take a few minutes to explain it again. Unfortunately that little mistake will put Knightley backwards. So make sure you re-teach your behaviours whenever you change anything like difficulty, distance, duration, place, surface or distractions.

Anyway, hopefully the posts will be a little more frequent once again now. I swear my body picks the worst times to collapse in a heap! Over and out from me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another migraine, not much training....

So, my brother has moved out of this house into his new one, and my husband and I have started moving things around a bit in the house a bit to take advantage of all the new room. However, the moving hullabulloo coupled with work triggered a nasty migraine which just isn't going away. Poor Knightley isn't getting much training at all, just a bit of recall training and that's about it.

The coming week is going to be very busy so I need to get well soon. Why do bodies always let you down when you need them the most?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Knightley is disrupted and distracted!

Well, updates and training may be a bit sparse for a couple of days. My brother is moving out of this house into his own after quite a few years of living with me. My husband joined us in this house a little over a year ago, and as of tomorrow it will just be us two. That will be both nice, and a little weird. I've got used to having the brother around!

Knightley knows there is something serious up, there has been a lot of commotion recently... especially today getting ready for the movers tomorrow morning. I am planning to leave him in his fabric crate in my room (will soon have a much bigger room!) with Through A Dog's Ear on the stereo to help keep him calm and drown out some of the noise of the people who will be in and out of the house. For those of you who don't know Through A Dog's Ear, it's classical music for piano that has been specially arranged to keep dogs calm and relaxed and works very well. I'll just keep it on loop and that should at least help a bit.

I'll be helping with the move, and then I'll be off to my volunteer job... so it's going to be a long day. I'm already feeling rather tired out and quite migrainous. Cross fingers for me all the commotion doesn't bring on a migraine.

Knightley and I didn't get much time to train today, but we did do some loose leash practice, which is still badly needed, sigh..... I put a small pile of treats and kibble on the road outside our house (we live on a very quiet street) and practice walking Knightley back and forward past it without having him pull. I had to do a LOT of c/ting to have a chance of keeping the leash loose. He didn't do too bad. After slowly slowly coming closer to it with a loose leash, I gave Knightley his cue to go ahead and eat the food. It's a good way to teach loose leash, but he kept on getting distracted by what was going on around him - a person in the distance, a bird, a motorbike etc.

We also did some relax, trying to get closer to the 1 minute relax, 1 minute excited, 1min relax, 1 min excited and so on that Knightley and I need to get in the bag for Level 2 Relax to be finished. He was pretty hyped up with all the furniture and box moving though, so we couldn't even get to 20 seconds, which was his previous baseline. I put some good time in working on it though... pushing him to relax when he truly is excited is good practice.

There were quite a few recalls - until he was becoming disruptive and trying to 'help' a little too much, and had to be crated, much to his very evident and audible disappointment, lol.....

That was about it for today for structured training, although I always do random bits during the day, throwing in sudden downs, always requiring sits for virtually anything he wants (I subscribe to the Nothing In Life Is Free school of thought, where anything he wants comes at a price in that he has to do something for me first before he gets it).

So updates we likely be short and to the point, not only do I have some moving to help with, we have a lot of house reorganising of our own to do because of this, as my brother is taking a good chunk of the furniture with him. We are taking advantage of the fact and will be switching things around a bit - and getting a big bedroom with ... wait for it.. STORAGE SPACE! Anyway, this is me going to much needed sleep. Catch ya later.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Working hard on Loose Leash, Relax, Backing up and Recall

5 months 3 weeks old

So, I want to finish Level 2. Back in Sue Ailsby's original Levels, there were 7 Levels... but now in her new revised Levels, there are only 4. So passing Level 2 in the original Levels wouldn't have been much of a milestone, but passing Level 2 in the new ones.... well it isn't bad at all for a nearly 6 month old pup.

We worked on his problem areas today. Loose leash remains an issue. He is pretty good inside. If he feels pressure on his collar he will move towards it without much of a thought. It is rare it even gets tight. So inside, it is going well. As soon as we go outside, and distractions start rearing their ugly head, problems start cropping up. We do ok on a hard surface. For the final step of the loose leash section in Level 2, Knightley has to walk past a treat that is slightly out of reach without pulling to try to get to it, both inside, and outside. Just not there yet. I hope our loose leash training isn't going to hold us up. One of my problems is simply the fact I find it hard to click/treat often, which is one of the keys of loose leash training. With the leash and clicker in one hand, and crutch in the other hand, plus the crutch hand also giving the treats.... I find it very hard to click and treat often. If I could do the normal training set up it would be so much easier to keep up fast treating. I often go without crutches inside, but I have pretty much done all the work I can inside and still see any improvement. The place we need to work is outside, where I need need the support because I can't just lean on some furniture if I need propping up.

This is the area we walk every day. I took this photo very
early this morning, when Knightley and I were having a lovely
walk and meeting lots of other people and dogs. He gets so
excited when seeing other dogs.... the idea of ever having a
loose leash around other dogs seems like a pipe dream.
I think one of our issues with loose leash is I deliberately chose a puppy that wasn't physically sensitive for his future as an assistance dog. On the odd occasion that I have stepped on his tail, he hasn't yelped or anything, he's just looked at me and moved uneasily. I did a gentle paw pinch test during my temperament testing of his litter to find puppies that weren't sensitive (desirable for a mobility assistance dog who will wear a sometimes uncomfortable mobility harness), and Knightley is definitely NOT physically sensitive. So I think a slight amount of tension on his collar he barely feels. I have to give it quite some significant tension before he notices it. Maybe I do need to take it back inside and work with tiny little collar pulls and c/t that when he moves. Try to get him noticing those small sensations, because he doesn't seem to be noticing them at the moment, especially once we get outside. On our walks we use the Freedom Harness we bought a while back, which makes pulling much harder for him - if he really pulls it completely turns him around to face me, because it's a front attach harness. However, he can niggle at it.... not really pull hard like with a collar, but not really loose leash either. So I have been stopping when he starts niggling, which is what clicker trainers call negative punishment - ie you take away the good thing (in this case, walking), and when he loosens the tension by coming towards me, I start walking again. The idea is he realises that every time he starts trying to pull a bit, he doesn't get anywhere faster, in fact, he stops.... so he stops trying to pull entirely. Obviously when it comes to pulling Knightley is a bit of a bone headed dog, because while the idea is obvious, Knightley doesn't seem to like this idea. He does so love his walks though, that I put up with the small niggling pulls he does in his Freedom Harness, in favour of focusing on getting absolutely no pulling in his collar. If I didn't walk Knightley at least once a day he'd turn into a raving lunatic dog.

Actually, the other reason loose leash is so hard for us, which I haven't mentioned yet, is I walk very slowly, and that is the hardest for a dog to keep loose and be patient. It was always hard with my previous dog Clipsy in his early training. I can't just say "hey, ok, that's good enough, I'm a special case so I've passed Level 2 now yay!!"... I really do have to just plug away at this, even if it holds up progress. At least everything else will become polished if that's the case.

Knightley happy and excited on his walk this morning. He
does excited very well! I do a lot day to day that focuses on
turning him into a calmer dog, including Karen Overall's
Relaxation Protocol.
We did several sessions of practicing Relax today. For the relax behaviour the dog lies on his side with his legs sticking out to the side, and must be floppy and actually relaxed. For the final part of Level 2, Knightley has to be able to relax for 1 minute, then be excited for 1 minute, then relaxed for 1, excited for 1 and so on. You get the idea. Knightley gets excited easily, especially if there are yummy treats being offered (and to think, this is the puppy who wouldn't take anything except for roast chicken.....), so that part of it is easily done!! Doing a relax for a full minute after being deliberately excited is a bit harder. Especially if he has to do it again and again. So today I tested him to see where we were up to, and he could do about 20 seconds of relax after being deliberately excited, without getting restless. So that's our starting point. Tomorrow I'll work on increasing that to 25-30 seconds... as much as I can really without him losing interest and sliding backwards instead of progressing. I did actually test his relax today by picking up his foreleg from the floor just a bit and dropping it back down.... let me tell you, he is definitely floppy. It was rather amusing.

We started working on the 'back up' cue yesterday, and he grasped it very quickly. I started by luring it. I got a treat and slid it from his jaw line towards his neck, so that he backed up a couple of steps in order to try to get it. I quickly click/treated that, and repeated it maybe 6-7 times. I then stopped using the treat, but still used my hand in the same place, and since he had got used to being rewarded for stepping back, he continued to step back. He was a bit all over the place though, not going directly backwards, so I made a bit of a chute between my knees and our coffee table, lured him part way through, and then did the same motion to get him to go back. That made him go directly backwards nicely. We did that maybe 20 times, and I wasn't having to actually touch his head anymore, he knew what I wanted. I then stopped clicking after a coupled of steps back and just waited. He had a bit of a teenage tantrum for a while, barking at me... basically saying "YOU BLOODY IDIOT... HAVE YOU JUST GONE BLIND?!?! CAN'T YOU SEE I JUST DID WHAT YOU WANTED??!! WHERE ARE MY TREEEEEATS??!?!?!" I waited the tantrum out, and sure enough eventually he shut up and tentatively took a couple of steps back. I clicked and gave him a jackpot of treats. He really knew what it was about then. I started putting the cue to it then, "back up", by saying it as he was doing it, then c/t'ing as normal. Then we left the session there. Today I revised a bit with the chute, but then we took it to the middle of the room, and he definitely knew what I wanted, was backing up a good 6-8 steps. What a fantastic puppy to learn that so quickly. Now I need to proof it - ie re-teach it in different rooms, on different surfaces, outside, with distractions... and then we can say it is officially learnt. The only thing left to do then is to back it better, so that he can walk further backwards faster, and to use it in day to day, and for tricks... like walking up stairs backwards.

Our final focus for today, is the same thing we have been focusing on for days... our recall. I have been calling him to me unexpectedly for days, and giving him big rewards. It's definitely paying off. His recall isn't rock solid yet, but it's so much better than a week ago. I need to try to remember to also make it fun, not just give a great treat. Knightley seems to love it when I laugh, and he tends to be a funny puppy... so I'll try to have some funny times when he responds to a recall... as well as stuffing him full of yummy treats.

Speaking of treats, I got some new ones in the mail today, which I had ordered off ebay. Knightley LOVES them. He could smell them loud and clear through the packaging when they were delivered and tried to 'help' me unwrap it. It was his lucky day because one of the bags of treats inside had torn and when I opened the main package quite a few treats fell out. My furry little vacuum cleaner did a great job sucking them all up! At least I've found some great motivation for training, but he seems to like them so much he can't concentrate and just barks at me, or jumps up on me. Mental note: must must do something about that jumping up problem.

For everything other than being a disruptive vacuum cleaner, Knightley is doing just great and Level 3 is just around the corner....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So much in Level 2 but nearly there!

5 months 2 weeks 6 days old

Well, we are getting kind of close to finishing Level 2 of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. We have a little more work to do, but compared to the HUGE amount of training contained in Level 2, we are close. The photos in this post come from over the last three months of training since Knightley was a little baby pup. Here's where Knightley and I stand.

Zen = complete, can leave treats alone on the floor in front of him for 1 minute.


Focus (eye contact) = complete except for using it through a car window which should be simple to polish off


Come = not complete, we are getting a lot better, in a controlled environment he is good, but the final steps are coming 12m (40 foot) and proofing it everywhere. He is good at home, but on public grass I can't hope for more than a 75% response which isn't good enough.


Down = not complete, but very nearly there, just have to do final steps that ask for a distance of 6m (20 feet) stay for 1 minute whilst walking around and talking, also being able to step over him and do it with kids around.


Sit = complete

Lazy (loose) leash = not complete, great inside at all steps involved but needs more work outside. Fine on a hard surface, but on grass he gets distracted.

Target = complete

Go to mat
Go to mat = complete, although may need a refresher

Tricks = not complete, have started training a new trick, should be finished and proofed soon

Crate = complete in his day to day crate, not complete in his portable crate

Handling = not complete, all complete except for the fourth step which is allowing clippers, pills, thermometers and toothbrushes. Need a little more work there.

Distance = complete 

Jump = not complete, nearly all done, just have to introduce him to some new jumps, then make put a mat and jump side by side and ask for cues one by one to test cue recognition


Relax = not complete, nearly done, just have to make sure he can go from excited for 1 minute, then relaxed for 1 minute, to excited for 1 minute etc. We've done it for less time but haven't pushed it to 1 minute.

Communication 2 = not complete, have only just started this one, Knightley will back up on cue, will move out of my personal space, but won't move out of my personal space automatically to my left yet, he doesn't yet know how to untangle a leash from his own front leg, nor from a pole if he got tangled in one. Of everything, the most work to be done is here.

Homework = not complete, I have to list 10 reasons a dog might not "obey a command".

It's actually really good for me to summarise it, so I am very clear what I have left to do.

While I am rather close to finishing, the last minute of doing all the little bits to finish may take longer than I expected. Normally you are expected to do everything in order, but that was not so much the case in Sue Ailsby's older levels, which is what I started Knightley on first. So that's why I'm a bit all over the place. Level 3 I will follow through as she suggests.

Looking ahead at Level 3, I have been doing a surprising amount of it already - quite as an accident though, simply as a consequence of pushing Knightley just a bit further on my own. For example, Level 3 sit is made up from mostly teaching your dog to go from a down to a sit then doing it at varying distances from you. We've done LOTS of that, so that will be very easy. Zen 3 is to wait to go through a door until the dog gets an invitation - we do that already. Focus (eye contact) starts with holding eye contact for 15 seconds, we can do up to 25 seconds with no problems. If you've been reading my blog much you will already know I have already been doing Level 3 retrieve - more than half of the steps involved - and I don't think it is going to be all that hard to polish it off. The amount of distance we were doing for the 'distance' behaviour was already Level 3 standard when I thought it was Level 2 (book is written all in feet and I'm very much a metres girl!) Also, some of Communication 3 we have already done, like paw targeting. So I have a headstart for Level 3, when I fix these last outstanding Level 2 behaviours.

I'm proud of my puppy. Myself too actually, as this is the first clicker training I've done, and it appears I'm not bad at it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Zen, recall practice and crate improvement

5 months 2 weeks 5 days old

I am beginning to see the truth in what Sue Ailsby says, in that zen is the foundation for all training. Zen, when used in this context, basically means doggy self control - especially on cue. Like when you don't want your dog to follow you through a door even though he really wants to go, or you are eating food on your lap that he wants to steal, you can use your zen cue (mine is leave it) and he should retreat from whatever he wanted to go through or after. Saying leave it in front of an open door will stop Knightley in his tracks and he'll just stand there waiting for me to say our release word. The more you teach and use zen, the more it becomes a part of your dogs day to day impulse control. It helps him become a calmer dog, a thinking dog who considers consequences. I am definitely becoming more and more of a fan. It helps with other duration behaviours too, especially watch (eye contact), stays, wait, relax and so on. It should also help with our loose leash walking too - eventually - as he slowly conquers his urges to investigate every smell and spot near him, despite a tight collar.

Knightley doing a zen on a small pile of
kibble. I've trained him to keep eye contact
with me when staying away from food etc
It is impressive how well dogs can generalise the cue, because usually dogs are very poor generalisers. For instance, if you teach sit indoors all the time, and then suddenly expect your dog to sit outdoors for the first time ever, it is very likely he won't have a clue what you're talking about. You need to re-teach cues whenever you change the situation significantly - if you change the place, difficulty, duration etc. However, when it comes to zen, dogs generalise 'leave it' very well indeed. I can use the cue to stop Knightley from sniffing a patch of ground, from chewing something, from being too interested in our food, from eating food on the floor or even on his paws when in a down, from trying to mouth a comb or brush when trying to groom him.... the list is endless. I used Sue Ailsby's method for teaching it from the beginning, which from my description hopefully you can see was pretty successful. You can use her free online Training Levels to train zen, although I very much recommend her books, as they have a lot more information than the free Levels.

We continue to do LOTS of recall practice. I really want this to become solid. Some of the little tricks for getting a dog to come to you I can't do due to my physical limitations... for instance, dogs being predators it is nearly irresistible for a dog not to chase you if you run away a little, whilst calling. Once your dog associates the running with calling and coming, then you can start phasing out the running away, and your dog will still come. The other thing that can be very useful, but that I can't do once again, is to get down on all fours, or at least get your hands on the floor as you call. It is signals play to your dog, and if you call as you do it (once again to make the connection that call = fun) it is almost guaranteed to get your dog to come to you. Once he is close to you, drop a treat to your feet. This will mean that he never jumps up on you when he responds to a recall because he'll be aiming at your feet instead. It's a good idea to carry around some treats (I just use kibble) in your pocket during the day so that your dog never knows when he'll be rewarded for doing behaviours like sits and downs. Behaviours that we are actively working on, like recalls, I treat every time.

Doing a Level 2 behaviour - 30 seconds down inside the crate
automatically upon the cue to enter the crate. He only leaves
upon me giving him his release cue. What a cuddly looking
We've nearly passed the Crate section of Level 2, which requires Knightley to get into his crate on cue (crate!), lie down automatically, then lie there for 30 seconds until I say the release word - whilst I do things around the room. I now just have to take it to different rooms, and teach it to him all over again in his portable fabric crate, which he isn't very good in!

In the new Levels books, you are meant to do all behaviours in order, but that is a change from the old Levels, where I had worked on pretty much all behaviours at once. So I am trying to finish the earlier Level 2 behaviours, before going on and finishing the later ones. Then I can go onto Level 3, yay! I can't wait to get done with Level 2, and it isn't all that far off now. What an awesome puppy I have.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A trip to the dog park, a tired puppy

Knightley soon after we came into the
enclosure. He was so excited to see that
many dogs to talk to, he was literally
jumping over the small ones. The red and
white cocker is the one that didn't want to
play with him!
5 months 2 weeks 3 days old

Well, today we went to the dog park for the second time. However, the first time we went was timed carefully on a weekday so that there would be next to no one there (only two other dogs!) so as to introduce him to it, and to adult dogs a bit. Today's visit was on a Saturday, although we tried to go at a time when it wouldn't be too chaotic. Still, there were probably about 15-18 dogs at one time. Knightley was a very happy boy, didn't know whether to talk to the dogs or the people!

Visiting dog parks can be controversial for assistance dog prospects, and even active assistance dogs. This is because one traumatic incident (a fight, I mean) can wash out a dog from training or active duty. It can sap their confidence and lead to problems with other dogs, even with people. However, I have been to this dog park before with a friend and it has always been a very positive experience. Knightley is amazingly confident and bounces back in the face of any slight scare (if he went into a fear period or something of the like, naturally we would completely avoid the place). Most of all however, I think the gains in this situation are worth the very small risk taking into account what I just said:

  • We don't really know any dogs of our friends, so it's not like we have better prospects for Knightley to associate with. He needs the socialisation.
  • Knightley really needs to learn some dog manners. He's pretty rude sometimes, just a bundle of puppy insistence and energy. Adult dogs will teach him some.
  • It is fantastic for draining some of his rather boundless energy! 
  • It is great exercise for him, he runs around like a mad thing. 
  • We do a lot of training, it is important he has a release where I have little expectations.
So despite the small risk, I think it important we continue semi-regular visits there. Thankfully it is very close, so we are lucky to have such a great dog park so close to us.

As soon as we got into the main park section, Knightley started trying to play with two cocker spaniels (photo above). One of them was happy to play, despite its small size, but the other one was very stand offish. Knightley had obviously just turned off his brain though and wasn't reading dog. I was happy to see a dog telling him 'no, I don't want to play with you, you rude puppy' by a quick snarl and lunge, but the owner was quite annoyed with her dog. I did tell her several times that I didn't mind at all, and that is why we were there mostly, to help Knightley learn the language of 'dog' better. The cocker would have sent several messages already to say 'stay away I am not interested in playing', but Knightley ignored it repeatedly. It took about three snarls before Knightley started leaving the cocker alone, although you could tell he soooo wanted to play with him - forbidden fruit I suppose!

Knightley running around, as happy as can
be. He got rolled several times in all that
dust by a big strong Blue Heeler whilst they
were chasing each other and probably
 needs a bath still. It's just lucky he's
kind of dust coloured!
We practiced some recalls while we were there, using up some of his upset tummy boiled chicken food every time he came in. He did pretty well. I would call his name and only use the word 'come' when he was actually moving towards us. The amusing thing is he responded when other people called their dogs in! Oh well, more attention and exercise for him I suppose. I did wonder when I was getting ready whether the other dogs would dance attendance upon me for having chicken and some kibble in my treat pouch, but it seems all the dogs were too busy smelling other things, except for one very 'nosy' chocolate lab, who is in the photo on the right with Knightley. He just looked at me with a doggy grin, and a few times reached out with his nose towards my treat pouch. Oh, he sure knew what was going on.

By the time we left Knightley's gallop and trot had turned into a slow walk, and he was completely done for. We had another couple of small walks later in the day to practice loose leash while he was nicely tired - a great way to do it!

We went via our local shops whilst on our walk, my husband was with me that time, so while he went inside the shops, Knightley and I stayed outside practicing some basic commands, including 'up' (paws up on a high surface, or if possible, whole dog up!) which isn't a Training Levels behaviour, 'relax' which was great to do with distractions, and his normal sit, down, stand, touch, shake, hi-five, heel etc. He did very nicely. He got rather excited when meeting a young child, probably less than two years old even. We need to work on kid zen, as they do get him excited as a rule, and I don't want him jumping up on a young kid and knocking them over. I plan to institute a new meeting people plan, which we could hopefully have him do for young kids too - but more about that in the future.

Anyway, it was a great day for the pup. He was completely and thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day. I have an interesting non edible treat lined up for him tomorrow which arrived in the mail today. I bought it online as a get well present for him... so we'll see what he thinks....

Friday, January 13, 2012

A good day for Knightley, something new!

Knightley, all happy again. Very happy to see it. Love that doggy grin. He'd
just been doing door closing practice, very successfully I might add, and was
very pleased with himself!
5 months 2 weeks 2 days old

So I think the pup is back to his normal dynamic self. He has his frustrated bark back, he is slightly less food obsessed, and is very quick in the grey matter upstairs - which is nice to see.

We did all sorts of training throughout the day, and he was totally In The Game.

His cupboard door closing skills are GREAT now! Two days ago, when he started recovering, we started working on him closing other cupboard doors, and he was fine closing other doors that opened in the same direction that the door I taught him on. Any doors that opened in the opposite direction he just barked in frustration. So I just him to paw my hand whilst standing next to the open cupboard door I wanted him to close, then my leg (good dog! that's it! rake my leg with those nails! excellent! do it again!!) in order to get him pawing a vertical surface right next to where I wanted him to target a slightly different vertical surface, then my hand again, and again, and again..... as I slowly moved my hand closer to the door. Then I had my hand resting on the cupboard door whilst he was pawing it, of course I was click/treating every time he was doing this right. Then the next time he pawed my hand, I pushed the cupboard door closed with the back of my palm and made a HUGE fuss of Knightley with a jackpot of treats and lots of praise. That was all it took. I risked a 'paw' cue without my hand there, and SLAM, the door closed first time. We then went around the kitchen and he closed every door... although one of the cupboard doors is significantly bigger than all the rest, and it took a bit of extra training to get him through his frustration of being unable to close it easily.

My husband was talking about listening to our late night training sessions whilst he is getting ready for bed... and said they sound like "twitter twitter twitter" at the beginning, which is me talking.... then "bark bark" then "bang! click! bang! click! bang! click! twitter twitter twitter! bang! click! bang! click! twitter! bark! bark! bang! click! TWITTER TWITTER!!!!". So that's a cupboard door closing session for me and Knightley heard from half a house away! I found it amusing at least, if somewhat insulting to have my voice described as a twitter.

A 'come' cue in action, doggy on a mission.
Just a bit dream like I thought. The best I
could do whilst actually training without
setting up my tripod and waiting until
We did a HEAP of recalls (come) during the day, often calling him away from things he didn't want to leave, which was great practice. Still need a lot more practice of course, but it was a good start to my come focus from now on.

We also started something completely NEW! I've always been interested in the idea of doing a little nose work with him. Nose work is basically a new dog sport based around scenting games. It has brought the ideas behind drug, quarantine and bomb detection to the average dog owner interested in training their dog to use their nose on command. So we started a few scenting games, mostly just relying upon his sight on this early stage, only a tiny bit on scent. The idea is trying to get the idea in his head that I have hidden something for him and he needs to use his nose to find it - something we haven't done before. We'll do more of it later.

The website I was getting my inspiration from (although I did modify their directions when I saw fit) told you to put a cue/command to the searching behaviour immediately, and I tell you what, Knightley understood that part right away! lol ... Firstly you just throw some treats on the floor and tell him "find it!" and repeat that step several times.... and then have him avert his eyes while you do it and again you say "find it!", repeat step.... and then you start putting the treats in funny spots and avert his eyes and tell him "find it!" and so on until you have treats wrapped up in clothing, under magazines, in boxes and so on. At that stage I would probably teach an alert 'I've found it!' behaviour and plug it into the sequence to make a behaviour chain. Every time I said 'find it' Knightley absolutely raced off to find the treats he knew were somewhere to be found. He really enjoyed that part, it was great to see. Intensive nose work is very tiring to a dog, owners report after 20 minutes of structured scenting they are often as tired out as they would be from an hour long walk. It is a good idea to give your dog mental stimulation like this, physical is great of course, but both keeps your dog balanced and not bored! Which in turn leads to a satisfied dog who is less likely to indulge in problem behaviours.

Knightley following a 'relax' cue. He is pretty good with this
one, will follow it promptly, but gets bored on his side
easily. He is happier to stay in a down where he can see what
is going on, than a relax where he can't see a thing. I am going
to focus on really making him sleepy every time I get him into
a relax, with music, massage, and shaping.
We also did more of our normal training today. We focused a lot on Relax, as I would like that one on cue for when I start taking him out more to cafes and anywhere that allows dogs. I can't believe he isn't much off 6 months! His relax is pretty good, he does fully relax, we just need to work on duration now. I plan to use Through A Dogs Ear, a CD of classical music arranged in order to calm and relax dogs, and in the past has worked on Knightley. So whenever we do a relax session, I'll put that on. I'll also do a little doggy massage when Knightley is in his relax position. I would really love the DVD and books for the TTouch method by Linda Tellington Jones, but until then I massage Knightley as best I know how - down his sides in circles, his ears, the sides of his muzzle which can carry a lot of tension. I am not talking about stroking either.... I am talking about a deliberate more clinical touch. Knightley definitely enjoys it, and when I get it right, he almost drops off to sleep then and there.

In addition to the music and massage, I will also quietly say 'yes' and give him treats when his eyes blink/droop, when he yawns, when his breathing slows, when he does that big sudden dog sigh release of tension we all love..... and so on. Shaping can be very effective at deepening the relaxation of a dog, and thereby increasing the likelihood of duration. I will also train duration the normal way, first clicking and treating after 10 seconds of relax (about where we are up to), then 11, 12, 13 and so on. If he breaks, I go back to 10 because he is very solid at 10 at the moment. If he breaks at 10! Well, I can go back to 1 second if I have to. When I start getting up to 30 seconds, I can try increasing by 2 seconds at a time. When increasing from 1 minute, I could increase by 5 seconds at a time. So that will be my multi-pronged approach on relax.

There is so much material in Level 2 of the Training Levels, it is almost wearying to make sure we pass it all before moving on!

Loose Leash Walking and come!

5 months 2 weeks 2 days old

So Knightley is a hungry boy, but he's quite a well boy. He's very close to being his normal self and that's a relief. You can tell he is getting better when he starts trying to jump up on us again (must fix that) and eat my hair (must fix that or maybe cut that? down to small of my back...). Anyway, it means we can really get back stuck into training, which is exciting. I am enjoying clicker training so much.

Whilst at a cheap $2 type store the other day I tried out a clicker there and actually liked it. It's a box clicker, like a couple of mine, but it has a button on it, making it easier to click when fumbling for it. My iClicks are great for indoors, but I find training outdoors I need the box clickers for the extra volume. iClicks are so soft! At first Knightley wouldn't even pay attention to them, and I stuck to using 'yes' for a while. But then I ordered a couple of box clickers and I think a bit of extra volume helped, or he liked the resonances more or something, but either way he responded to it much better. Now we can also use the iClick with no problem. I just ordered a couple more cheap iClick ripoffs from eBay because you can never have enough clickers! They are small enough that they get lost so very easily! Anyway, the new box clicker even has a volume setting, so it's a good buy for $2, and will be great on our walks etc. Oh and I do believe clickers are better than using a word marker. I notice a significant difference in learning when I use clicker in comparison to a word.

Knightley lying down beside the path on a early morning walk.
He's got on his Freedom Harness here, although you can't see
it very well. I am doing a lot of work so that all his walks will be
in his flat/martingale collar, but I will still be safe from being
pulled over due to extensive training that keeping no pressure
on a collar is a *good thing*.
Speaking of that particular clicker, I used it quite a bit both yesterday and today, doing a lot of Loose Leash Walking (LLW) work. It is one of Knightley's weakest skills, simply due to lack of work on it. He pulled so much in a flat collar, despite the techniques I was using (wasn't up to LLW in the Levels) that I bought the no-pull Freedom Harness so that we could go for walks and I wouldn't have to risk getting pulled over. I find walking Knightley tiring, quite painful but rather enjoyable, and the tiring and painful aspects are made worse when he is in a flat collar and it turns into a training exercise. Instead of my normal two crutches I use day to day, I find I just have to use only one, because I need at least one hand to both hold the leash and clicker if we are training (or sometimes I use 'yes' instead of a clicker). The other hand both holds on the crutch, and throws treats to the ground while I rest my weight on my elbow. Tricky and tiring but I have little choice.

So I've decided I will stop concerted training on my walks, they will be entirely clicker-less and I'll simply always use his Freedom Harness and manage any attempt to pull in that (it is still possible to pull in it, just much harder) with simply stopping until he release the pressure, known in operant conditioning circles as negative punishment. I instead intend do a lot of training walking back and forward in the street near my house, where I can manage my environment a little better and return to the house whenever I wish. It also means I can do a lot more about turns, which is always a great testing to see if your dog is truly with you... the leash can be loose loose loose as you are going along together on the straight, but as you do a 180 turn, if the dog just continues walking straight and doesn't turn with you, you aren't working together yet. Once that is perfect, then we will again start some very short walks on WOW IT'S SO EXCITING IT SMELLS SO SO SO GOOD... grass.

In one way you can look at almost constant loose/tight/loose/tight as a great learning opportunity, but it just is a bit too much at this stage. He needs to take it one step at a time until he has the leash manners great in the street, and then we can move on.

We've also been working on his recall/come quite a bit, another of his weaker areas. It's funny, here I am training a dog and I seem to focus on the exciting things, and leave the things that any person really WANTS in a dog relatively (in comparison) untouched. Knightley is pretty good about responding to his come cue during training sessions, but when I ask for it cold.... not always so enthusiastic. So I have to work on making come the most fantastic thing in the world in the training sessions. I am careful not to ever use the actual 'come' cue unless I am very sure he will obey, and I have been like that from the beginning. I want it to be a cue that he leaps into, and that he never hangs back from. So making sure that he has never not come is a good precaution to take. Anyway, I am asking for it cold throughout the day and giving a huge party every time he happily comes. I'm seeing improvement already, so I'll just keep on working at it. I want to get this rock solid, and then start introducing distractions.

Anyway, just great to pretty much have the dog back. His movements are looking fairly ok, his antibiotics continue, and I'm sure it will be completely back to normal soon. Yay. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Improving rapidly with food, back into training with a hungry dog!

5 months 2 weeks old

So far Knightley has eaten two small meals, both chicken and rice, with a little kibble. He was going NUTS when I started preparing the first meal - he hadn't seen that dog bowl come out for about 30 hours, and for a growing puppy who'd been losing his meals via diarrhea for a couple of days previous anyway, he must have been absolutely and completely famished. I didn't even try to stop him barking at it, I knew it would be futile. He often barks just a little when I am preparing his food... I have worked on it, but I need to do more concentrated work obviously - because this time he was barking loud enough to wake the dead! Definitely more spark there!!

The first meal I just hand fed without training much, just a bit of zen. I hand fed to stop him gobbling it quickly, so his stomach would have time to get used to eating again, and he'd be less likely to get an upset stomach from it. After no bad reaction to that meal, I gave him another one later, but this one we did a little training with it, as his previous meal had almost taken him back to himself in terms of energy. 

His reaction times were great (sharpened by hunger and the fact he loved the food), and we went back over old ground of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels, refreshing cues, doing a little bit of shaping, closing the cupboard doors, doing some 'go around' with a soda bottle, then with absolutely nothing there, with was new for us (look up 'distance' in the glossary to find out which behaviour I am talking about). We did some more zen too. His zen is getting really good these days, we are getting closer to passing L2 zen, he just has to stay off a treat on the floor for 1 minute just using his willpower now. He has gone 30 seconds. We need to take it outside also, as like I've mentioned before, his brains fly out his ears outside. I'd rather he ate less random garbage, dirt, sticks, grass etc when we are out together, I will work on zen in an outdoor setting for specifically that reason. 

We also did a bit of relax, working on putting to the cue to the behaviour. I can cheat a bit here because I've already trained 'bang', which is the trick where the dog is meant to fall over and act dead in response to being shot. While I want more duration from relax, and want him to let go of his bodily tension some more, I do like the position he goes in for bang - lying on his side, legs all out to the side, head on the ground. This is what I want for relax, so I am using the hand cue for bang, whilst telling him relax as he does it. I tested it once or twice, and he reacted to just the verbal cue! Yay. Next session I will start putting a new 'relax' hand cue to the behaviour, and then we'll start working on truly completely relaxing and duration, but it's a good start.

Knightley in a sit stay giving good eye contact nearly two weeks
ago during our day down at the lake where he had such a wonderful
time. I am a bit biased but... isn't he just the most gorgeous puppy?!
We also worked on stays a bit during the afternoon with a bit of plain kibble. His stay is getting really good, but I am very careful to increase it by a second or two at a time only. To pass Level 2 he needs to do a 1 minute stay at 3 metres (10 feet) from me for a sit, 6 metres (20 feet) for a down. He can do 30 seconds at a distance of 3 metres whilst at home (with no distractions) for the both of them. It shouldn't be too hard to increase that. 

Duration behaviours are meant to be the one thing that is 'harder' with clicker training, rather than traditional training, but I have to say, I haven't found that at all. Even when he was a little puppy he could do 10 second stays. We haven't worked on them a great deal because they were never a trouble spot, or I think he'd be up to that 1 minute mark already. We also use the 'wait' cue, as well as 'stay' - although 'wait' is not in the Levels. I use wait in a situation where I am not going to return to Knightley to release him. Stay means stay where you are, always just stay don't move don't do anything until I return to you and say you can. Wait means don't move until I give you my next cue or release you to move. I find wait a VERY useful cue, and an easy one to train. 

I use it every time I feed him - I usually use his meals to train, but leave him a small amount to eat from his bowl to ensure we keep his bowl manners. I ask him to get in his crate and he goes into a down (a requirement in Level 2). I tell him to wait, then put the bowl in the crate with him but slightly out of reach. I wait 10 seconds or so, then tell him 'Go eat'. I also use wait in sitatuions like when I am going through the baby gate and he obviously wants to come with me. I'll put him in a wait, then go through the gate, and release him once I have gone through (I plan to train this with a better solution, using the concepts of zen, just haven't got around to it yet... so much to train!!). It's just a very useful cue. As is stay of course, but I like having both.

Anyway, it's great getting back to our training. Hopefully tomorrow he will nearly be back to his normal smarty pants self. Late this evening outside he picked up a big branch, tried to carry it inside with him, and was generally very proud of himself, tail wagging happily like a flag.... That's more the Knightley we all know and love. Had to disappoint him with the branch though.

Pup recovering, a short early morning walk

5 months 2 weeks old

Well, the pup seems to be recovering. He has a bit more spark today, he's interested in more attention and so far is spending more time with me. Yesterday he lay down in a different room, which is very rare... usually he stays in sight of me at all times.

Knightley still looking a bit sad and sorry for himself the
morning after the vet visit. He is happier than yesterday
He's actually chewing on a toy right now, so that's really good to see. He's still a bit... well, I think serious is the right word for it. I think you can see what I mean in the photo. I think he's getting hungry too, he seems to be sniffing around quite obsessively for crumbs of any sort. Ooh, I just got a wag. Yep, my boy is going to be just fine I think. A little patience and we'll be back to our walks soon enough. We did go for a short one this morning - VERY early, at about 5:30am. I got up super early to give him his next antibiotic and take him out just in case his tummy was hurting him. It was a beautiful morning outside, although the coldest and windiest we've had for a while, which was actually quite refreshing! I was inspired to take him for a short walk because he seemed to have a reasonable amount of spark and hadn't been for a walk for two days. He did well, wagging a fair bit of the way, keeping a nice loose leash, just being a good boy and forgetting about his ouchy tummy despite the lack of food in his world. He is less happy inside the house, I guess the walk helps him forget out the stomach cramps.

The annoying thing is even if he starts to feel better later in the day, we can't train! I mean, I could try using toys as rewards, instead of treats, but I don't think he'd be quite up to tugging or running after a ball.

The other issue this no eating rule has brought up is FADING TREATS. Now, I am not one of those trainers who don't even want to fade treats. We faded treats for sit pretty early, and faded them for down probably too early. However, I hadn't started trying to fade treats for getting into the crate, and sometimes at night he just doesn't want to get into his crate. If he knows I have treats, that's fine, he'll obey the cue. But, I have discovered, if he thinks there is absolutely no food in the offing, he will jump in the crate, then jump out immediately. A cheeky way of doing what I want without actually completing the whole behaviour. I need to start keeping treats in my pocket to surprise him with - or wear my treat pouch ALL the time so he doesn't know when a treat is coming, since a good chunk of my clothing doesn't have pockets. It was the same at the vets yesterday... there were several behaviours I could have had him do to make him more manageable, but without treats to get his attention in a place as exciting as the vets.... well it was useless even trying. Giving treats only occasionally for behaviours is meant to be very effective, based on the gamblers principle... eg will I get one this time? Maybe I will this time! I'll try again because maybe it will be this time?

Anyway, the pup will be allowed to eat again late today, and he's only had one lot of diarrhea today and it was small. So all is looking good. I am going to work harder on his zen when out and about with me so he doesn't eat random things, so that it reduces the likelihood of this happening again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The puppy is indeed sick

5 months 1 week 6 days old

Well, it's official. I did the right thing in taking him to the vet. I also did the right thing in putting him on chicken and rice. I was considering taking him off food completely, and that would also have been a good step to take.

The vet checked his temperature (whilst hoping Knightley wasn't going to spray diarrhea on him) which was normal. Felt his stomach which apparently felt very 'squishy' which meant there wasn't any solid stool in there and it was all completely liquid. Listened to his stomach which apparently sounded 'extremely noisy'. Listened to me saying it had gone on for a few days, I had put him on chicken and rice two days ago and if anything it had got worse with about 7 episodes of diarrhea today, and that he had been very flat for most of the day until he got to the vets where there were so many exciting things to see and his tummy didn't matter quite so much anymore.

So.... the vet diagnosed a bacterial stomach infection and has given him antibiotics (metronidazole) for a week, and instructions not to eat for 24-36 hours. He says Knightley is likely to be ok after that, but to watch for him stopping drinking, or becoming so flat and depressed he doesn't want to move at all, or if the diarrhea is still going on after 36 hours.... and then he will have to go back to the vet. Immediately if his behaviour changes dramatically for the worse at any time, as it means it is a severe case of stomach inflammation and he may need to be hospitalised. He did say that he did not think that is the case though, or Knightley wouldn't have perked up from being at the vets. So cross fingers my little furry boy may be better in a day or two.

After his fasting I am to start him back on the chicken and rice with a few bits of kibble mixed in, and then slowly increase the ratio of kibble : chicken&rice.

Can't wait to have my happy crazy puppy back. Now we're back home he's back to being sad.

Off to the vet

5 months 1 week 6 days old

Well, I have an appointment for Knightley to see the vet this afternoon. He's had some more diarrhea and is very lethargic. None of that normal puppy energy at all. I am pretty upset actually. I know it probably won't be anything serious, but to see my daily companion so sad and miserable, whining so often to go out because he's obviously hurting (and Golden Retrievers have one of the highest pain tolerances of all dog breeds)... well, I hurt for him.

I know (or hope!) Knightley dying will be very far in the future, but I dread to even think about what state I will be in then, and that is only after three odd months together. I was close to my previous dog who died before his time, and still mourn him, but I think positive reinforcement training brings about a different and much closer connection. Knightley, please live for a long long time!

And hurry up and get better and stop lying there looking at me with those big brown eyes!

Worried about Knightley

5 months 1 week 6 days old

So I was woken this morning by loud whining from Knightley, and as he has never done that before, I quickly came to the conclusion that it was his stomach playing up. The poor baby just about ran outside and had some bad diarrhea. I am starting to get quite worried now. The chicken and rice diet hasn't helped. SIGH. So, I started him back on kibble for his breakfast this morning - and nothing but kibble, no special treats or anything. However, we haven't had a good beginning, as after I fed him about half of the breakfast (keeping the other half to use for training throughout the day), I hear whining again, so out we go again... and yes, more diarrhea. My poor baby.

I think it may be getting close to vet time now. He is definitely not his normal 'wreak havoc on the world' self, is just lying on the couch watching me now. It's times like this that you realise in 3.5 months how much you can become attached to an animal. He's not even really an animal, more like a doggy person. For those people who think animals don't feel, they should watch me doing a shaping session with Knightley. He goes through a huge variety of emotions. I don't like it when my emotional doggy person isn't well!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Knightley and cupboards, loose leash, back to work

5 months 1 week 5 days old

So the pup still has a bad stomach, although it seems to be a little better. He is sure enjoying his rice and chicken meals.... they smell so good I wouldn't mind eating them!! I am using them for his training, and he will do just about anything to get his greedy maw on them, so that is useful.

We're doing more work on his cupboard closing skills. 

Paw there Mr Knightley!


Have some yummy chicken and rice
for being such a very good boy.
Big whack incoming!! This one closed
the door.

Our next challenge, which wasn't in the original levels, but is in the new books, is to teach Knightley to target my feet. This would be an especially useful first step if you had serious mobility problems and wanted to teach your dog to take off your socks in the future. So maybe later today we'll try doing the foot targeting. I don't anticipate much trouble, he has always enjoyed nose targeting on my hand and on wands and other objects. I actually enjoy teaching brand new things, now that he *gets* shaping watching him learn is just fascinating and really addictive. 

We've been doing more LLW practice, as is in the Training Level books by Sue Ailsby. Firstly I put him in a sit/down and then pulling gently on a flat/martingale collar until he moves into the pressure, then immediately c/t. Then the second exercise is slowly walking around with him on a leash inside, and change directions suddenly so that there is some pressure on the leash. When he moves into the pressure and the tightness stops, I quickly c/t and give him lots of praise. If I am giving him lots of leash space, then when I give the treat I drop it at my feet to encourage him to hang around me despite the relative freedom. He is a long way away from staying loose on his flat/martingale collar. 

Doing Loose Leash Walking (LLW) practice, so that if Knightley
feels any pressure on the leash he is to slow down  and turn
 into me.  Dogs, and indeed all animals, have the instinct to push 
   *into* the pressure in order to escape, which is why they tend
 to pull so much. To reverse that  instinct every time the dog actually
    moves *towards*  the pressure you must make it a pleasurable
experience, so that the dog will start doing it every time it feels the
 leash pressure. It does take a long time, but it is very much worth it.
We need to do a lot more practice with this, although he is pretty good at it inside. Take the treats away, go outside where there are lots of big parrots and exciting people and dogs, and what he has learnt flies out the window. So lots more practice inside until it's completely perfect, including keeping it lose around treats on the floor, then practice in the backyard, then back and forward in the street.... THEN we will start venturing afield. They say keeping a loose leash is perhaps the hardest thing to teach. I would have to agree. Teaching Knightley to close the kitchen cupboard door was so simple compared to keeping his leash loose on a flat collar. He's pretty good on his front buckle harness, but sigh. We'll get there!
We also do heel training inside the house, without the leash. This is a more formal heel, with his spine aligned at right angles to the direction I am facing. I keep up the clicking when he is in good alignment, and do things like put him in a wait, turn at right angles, and then ask him to heel and watch him turn the corner so he will sit at my left again. We also practice finishes, although it is 'just' the traditional behind finish, where the dog goes from in front of you, walks to your right side, still facing you, then goes behind you, heading for your left side.... and ends up in a sit at your left side. 

We haven't done much work on the swing finish (only a little pivot work), which is much more difficult. The dogs front paws move just a little to where they will be in their final position by your side, then the dog swings on the spot - the front paws almost glued to the spot and the back legs doing all the walking around for 180 degrees until the dog has turned all the way around, and then the dog sits. As I said, much harder!

My husband and I both go back to work this week. Hubby already went back this morning, I am not back until Thursday. He wasn't looking forward to it after our couple of weeks off over Christmas, could have done with a couple more weeks off I think. However, I am looking forward to it a lot. I am finally starting my paid position there in a couple of weeks. I have been a volunteer up until now, just working on getting my stamina for paid work up, and finally I am at that point where a small amount of paid work is possible for me. It has been more than three years since I have been well enough to commit to paid work, so this is a big step for me. They seem to like me so much there that they have chosen me for a paid contract position for a project that has come up with some government funding. I will stay as a volunteer for events and some extra hours that they may need me for, but it will be great to be actually working again. I look forward to a future where having a canine companion may help me do longer hours at places further out of the way. Not to mention the independence to actually shop on my own! Which I haven't done for over three years. 

I think those small things are what I miss the most. I truly hope Knightley brings me some of that independence I long for so very much. He is turning out to be such a lovely dog, and a smart one as well! Just thinking of him always brings a smile to my face. I think he has a good chance of making it as an assistance dog. But you never know how dogs will change over their lifetimes. Keep it slow and try not to expect too much, Lyssa!