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!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

WOW!! Closing a cupboard door, and confidence building

5 months 1 week 4 days old

My Knightley, starting to look more grown up. These
adventures really help me realise he is definitely growing up
mentally. I am lucky I have such a quick smart dog.
Wow, like seriously..... wow. I am in shock. Knightley is one seriously smart puppy. I wish I had recorded the training session that we just had because it was very serious testament to how far Knightley has come. We were working on paw targeting, and as I mentioned in my last post, a checklist for the new Training Levels have recently become available which has shown any gaps I may have as for a long time I was training from the free levels online, not the books. The behaviour I had to catch up on was to get Knightley to close a cupboard door with his paw. Pretty advanced really, and I hadn't even transitioned him from paw targeting my hand, or a lid on the floor, to a vertical surface. So last night I did a short session, recapping what I did with him about a month ago - and he got that very quickly.

Update 5 April 2012: Just wanted to say that While I trained Knightley to close cupboards and doors with his paw first, I then trained him to close them with his nose. The nose close is actually more useful because it doesn't have the potential to mark furniture, but both are good to have the dog know. If a public door is not moving because it is particularly heavy, a paw swipe may get it moving, and then it can be closed by nose the rest of the way. I am not sure which way around it was better to have trained it, but I was happy with training it this way. I just had to do LOTS of nose targeting and no rewarding for closing with paw for the nose to stick as a cue after I had taught paw first. Now if nose isn't working after several goes he will automatically swap to giving it a single whack with his paw to get it moving, and I am happy with that. Nose targeting technique is quite similar. Send me a msg on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DownunderAssistanceDog if you want more details on training a nose cupboard/door/drawer close.

I'm just going to quickly go through the training prerequisites if you want to go ahead and train the cupboard close as it assumes that your dog can paw target an object. Something like a yogurt or tupperware lid is perfect, if it's clear that is better still, but make sure the lid is tall enough from the ground so that you can fit a treat under it. To start give your dog several treats, either clicking a clicker first or saying 'yes!', so that he knows when you click (you can even use the click of a ball point pen), or say 'yes' that he will get a treat. 

You then show him a treat, and very obviously put it under the lid on the floor. Make sure your dog can't flip over the lid, you may have to hold it down. He'll try to lick it, bite it, but most of all, he will try to paw it. The *instant*! he paws it, or his paw even moves towards it, click/say yes, lift up the lid so he can get the treat from under the lid and then give him a second treat from your hand. Some dogs will get the idea very quickly, even if new to this type of training. Sometime it will take some persistence. After a while, stop lifting up the lid for the treat, and simply hand him the treat from your hand only. Then remove the treat from under the lid entirely. 

Once he is pawing well, hitting the lid every time and knows exactly what you want you can add the cue! I use the word 'paw!'. As his paw connects with the lid say 'paw' and click/say yes. You have to say it quite a few times for it to stick. Eventually he will wait to hear paw before he does it. Then you can start putting your hand underneath the lid, still very close to the floor, but slowly higher and higher. You can use this method to teach 'shake' and 'hi-five' very effectively. Then replace the yogurt lid with a large sticker. Then start reducing the size of the sticker slowly until he will simply target your hand - and it is all done! That should all take maybe 5-6 sessions for a fairly smart dog, although it will vary widely with attention span, prior training etc. Always end your sessions on a high and keep them short.

So, this is how I trained Knightley to close my kitchen cupboard door. First I got a big white sticker, stuck it to my palm, and had him paw target that. Then I put the palm with the sticker next to my leg and asked him to paw that. He seemed to think I was asking for a touch or something, or maybe he just wanted to eat it (he tries to eat most things in the world afterall!).... because I got some paws, but some 'eat the sticker'. So that didn't work quite right. So I did some sticker zen. I know I've talked about zen a lot, but I may not have been absolutely explicit as to what it means. Zen basically means 'calm down, centre yourself, leave it'. My cue for zen is 'leave it', for instance I will put a large treat in front of him - say, a nice warm sausage - and tell him 'leave it', and he will back up slightly, sit, and look right at me. No fuss, no upset...  just a calm dog accepting what I wish, with heaps of self control, which is why it is called zen. Anyway, so he had tried to eat the sticker, so I told him to leave it, and every time I flapped the sticker in front of his face, whilst telling him leave it, and he successfully did it, I gave him lots of treats. Once I had established it was not for his mouth/nose etc, we went back to paw targeting. This time we were good. He was pawing my hand rather painfully, well done! good pup! (lol)

So, then I took it another step forward and put the sticker on my leg, but left my hand next to it. Not very different, and after a few hiccups, he was targeting my leg. Very slowly I started pulling my hand away, and didn't pause with cues and treats, until he was confidently tearing my leg to pieces with his nasty little nails, lol! We stopped there that night. All that took maybe 5 minutes, and was a very successful recap.

Then this evening we did our very awesomely cool session. I had new treats, we had got some fresh 'all natural' pre-prepared dog food in chicken, rice and veggies to use as training treats because they came in little nuggets, and this was the first time I had tried it, and they were a HIT. I started with him targeting the sticker on my hand, then my leg, and then I stuck it on the bottom of the couch... low enough so his paw could get to it. This was the really big moment, the massive huge mental leap. What leap, says Knightley, whapping the couch with his paw!!! And again, and again, and again! Wowsers! I was sitting there grinning like an idiot!

Learning to close the cupboard door. That's my amazing
So, keeping in mind the behaviour is to actually close a cupboard door, we then moved into the kitchen, where I briefly retaught what we had just done (dogs need to relearn new behaviours when they move rooms/places). He confidently pawed my leg on cue, so I stood closer and closer to the cupboard and then put a fresh sticker right on the cupboard at about the same height. He didn't see it at first, so as I cued paw, I tried pointing at it, and he tried to paw my pointing hand... sigh.... but I persisted... patting the sticker, showing it to him, and then cuing 'paw!' again. Finally there is a half hearted wave of his foreleg, and I treated him like he did the most wonderful thing in the world. I gave him tiny treats for any wave, big treats for contact with the door of the cupboard, then eventually only treats for contact. I was actually handing him the treats at first, but found that tossing the treats aside gave him a few steps to centre himself on the sticker/door and put some force behind the whack.

After that change he started doing some really good whacks, and I was thrilled. I then wondered whether he could actually close it, although the doors do need a reasonable push to close. So I open it a touch, and we start trying. Tiny treats for soft touches, big treats for solid hits. Eventually only c/t for solid hits, which frustrated him for a while and he started his annoyed barking. Then he realised when I had stopped giving him treats if he didn't hit it and started putting his effort into actually pawing it solidly. Suddenly, *bang!*, the cupboard door closed, and Knightley jumped a little - I think I did too.... and I absolutely stuffed that dog full of treats, told him he was the very best puppy in the world, and he started wagging madly!!! We worked at it more until he managed to close it another three times, then stopped on a high. I was completely thrilled and completely blown away. Moving from a horizontal paw target to a vertical is meant to be a big leap... let alone manipulating that object!!! It showed me once and for all what Knightley is capable of. I am still almost in shock. He isn't meant to learn that fast!!                                                                                                                                                          

Getting a wash with some nice new 2in1
very natural shampoo after his swim. He
still doesn't like it very much but he is
tolerating it. I should really put my skills
to actually making him actively like it.
Now THAT would be a challenge!
Anyway, onto other topics. Earlier that day I went over to my parents place with the specific mission to get him over his reluctance for getting into the pool. His first trip over there he had been so eager to get in he had conquered any misgivings and jumped in, but the second trip over there he only jumped in once as he was just not happy with launching himself. Once he was in he always really enjoyed himself, but he didn't like having to jump. So I fed him a very small breakfast and saved the rest up in order to lure him into the pool.

At first I just fed him for leaning over, using the marker word "yes!" instead of clicking, trying to help him feel that leaning towards the water wasn't something to be afraid of. There are some steps that he hadn't realised were there previously, so I started to lure him with food and his Wubba (which he adores) at the steps, giving him treats whenever he leaned over again. I also took off his life jacket so he would feel freer to move and less encumbered. He was obviously pretty hungry because he was leaning further and further out until eventually, suddenly, a foot went over the edge and there was one on the first step. I shovelled buckets of food into his mouth then used his Wubba to lure him off the step. He grabbed hold of the Wubba, had a bit of a tour of the pool, then eventually climbed out at the steps.

That was pretty much how the session went, with me trying to make him feel more confident about getting in the pool, giving him treats for getting his feet on the steps, sometimes treats for getting in too if his head was far enough out of the water. After a few dips in I put his life jacket back on to save him some energy and because I noticed his strokes weren't as smooth and calm without it. Eventually he started to tire, but I was very very pleased with his progress... he even jumped in once after a big palm leaf. I'll keep working on it the same way, and will put a cue to it when it's a solid behaviour. There is a deeper step on the other side of the pool, so my aim will be to have him getting in there eventually - and then back to just jumping in.

I gave him a wash with my new lovely 2in1 pet shampoo, which is very natural, biodegradable, a natural fleaicide and very very good for sensitive dogs. Not to mention perfect for easy washing after a swim. Then that night we had the amazing success with the cupboard door.

As the days go by I am more and more sure about my choice. His focus is well ahead of other puppies his age... I just need to work on it outside the house, because his brains fly out his ears when we go outside.... What a day though. One to remember.


  1. I just discovered your blog, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Might you occasionally add a note that says how many weeks or months old Knightley is? For those whose pups are younger, it will help us make good comparisons about what ours might be capable of! Thank you!

    1. Good idea. I did that a bit when he was younger, but I've stopped. There is a banner down the bottom of the blog that tells you how old Knightley is now, so that will tell you at least how old he is in the most recent entries. But I'll start putting his age in every post I think, why not!