5th June 2012
Note: If you're looking for information on halters for assistance/service dogs, have a look at my page on dog halters. I have mixed feelings about them, but the best I have found for Knightley is one called an Infin8 made by a company called Black Dog, based here in Australia. It is the mildest, and bothers him the least. You can find it on eBay for a reasonable price. Depending on your currency, it will be cheaper than buying from Black Dog themselves. Now - back to our scheduled programming.
So, over the last couple of days we have continued to work on halter counter conditioning. Lots of treating while making a noose of the twine to put around Knightley's muzzle. Then yesterday evening and again today I attached the twine to one side of a martingale collar and made a loose figure of eight noose around Knightley's muzzle, then attached the other end of the twine to the other side of the collar. At first I would just tie it on lightly, give him a handful of treats, then untie it briefly, then tie it back on and give more treats. This is to give the association of weird thing around my muzzle = treats and mummy loves me praise..... and awww she took it off and the good things stopped :( Then I left it on a bit longer, then I left it on and clipped a leash to the collar, then eventually walked him around inside a bit with it, giving him a treat every step or two.
This morning we went for a short walk outside with the makeshift halter on... and I have to admit, I understand why people get so addicted to halters. He didn't even try pulling to get to frolicking birds. I was impressed. Having said that, I just got back from a short walk, which we did partly in his Freedom Harness, partly just in his flat collar.... and I don't know if the walk with the halter taught him something in that short time, but he was *perfectly* loose. I was very proud of him, we REALLY are getting somewhere. It's the high distraction level we need the halter for though. But if he can learn from the halter so well - if that's what happened today, it may have just been a natural 'leap' of progress that dogs often experience after sleeping on it - I may find he doesn't need to wear the halter for long in order to learn not to rush up to members of the public.
I had some good news today. I've been given two free tickets to our local agricultural/amusement ride/food/entertainment show, and despite the event being marked as 'no dogs', I asked for and have been given permission to bring Knightley with me. This is so he can have the benefit of a day of socialisation that couldn't have more variation or learning experiences all packed together if it tried! I really want him to see horses/cows etc before he is much older, and this is a great chance. Not to mention all the other animals, people, sounds and sights. It's about a week away, so I have a few things that I really really want to work on in anticipation of the day:
- Heel/loose leash - although I will be using our new Comfort Training for the day, (which should be here by then cross fingers) I will need the very best heeling Knightley can do so that he is close and safe by my side, and will hear any cues I give him - although in that high distraction environment it will be interesting to see how many of those cues he obeys!
- Accepting of loud sounds - Knightley so far is really good with sounds, we've had a huge number of big electrical storms recently and he doesn't bat an eye.... however, I'll be using audio snippets to get him used to certain sounds - loud amusement rides especially
- Floor food zen - There will certainly be food (as well as things Knightley would like to think is food, like animal droppings) on the ground, so I have already started work on a reliable 'leave it' for when we are just walking along... there probably isn't time to get it default in a week, but I will get it as good as I can
- Working on a new cue "visit" - Knightley will have new patches saying no pat, whereas previously his patches encouraged patting. For those rare occasions when he is going to be allowed to meet people, I am training a new cue called 'visit', where he must stay in a sit and accept whatever pats are offered. I am gently pulling his ears, sticking my fingers in his mouth a bit, brushing my hands over his eyes, picking up his feet, fiddling with his nails and very gently stepping on his tail (and I mean gently!)..... You just never know how people are going to handle, especially children, and better to be safe than sorry
It should be a pretty amazing experience for Knightley who will be about 7 months old next weekend. I think he is ready to experience an event like this, but do not mistake him for an official 'Assistance Dog trainee' - he is a puppy still, and this is an outing for socialisation, not serious training. Keeping that in mind, it still is a significant step forward, as two months ago Knightley wouldn't have had the maturity for this. He really is growing up and turning into a lovely adolescent dog, without any of the problems that a lot of people report! Will try to get Knightley out in public this weekend for some practice. Looking forward to the show next weekend, I haven't been for many years!