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 13, 2012

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. :)

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