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!

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.

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