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!

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!

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