Oz Working Dogs - Assistance & Working Dog Equipment

For assistance/service dog equipment, as well as guide, therapy, detection, search & rescue, police and dogs in training equipment check out my website http://www.ozworkingdogs.com.au - I make and sell vests, capes, belly bands, harnesses, handles and more... and will post to the world!

Wednesday, 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....

No comments:

Post a Comment