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!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Raw feeding, Manners Minder, socialisation and Comfort Trainer

Knightley on the new couch, having been allowed up. He's
looking less and less puppylike every day now!

6 months 2 weeks 2 days old

Our new couch has FINALLY been delivered after the furniture company messing us around for nearly a week. I am teaching Knightley not to get up on it unless he is invited - and to *never* bring a bone up on it. He is doing quite well actually. Most of the time it doesn't need reinforcing, but I've found the more people on the couch and the more excited he is, the less he remember the rule - or he just thinks it's an exceptional situation lol. He really does get very excited with people around, and if anything is going to be his undoing as a potential assistance dog, it will be his extreme friendliness and his assumption that everyone should want to meet him. For a while I was worried about his vocal-ness, and while he does still bark, it is much less than it used to be. He used to bark at everything, now it only when he's really really frustrated. Cross fingers as he learns more and more self control it will become still rarer.

Knightley has had a touchy tummy really for as long as we have had him, sometimes being fine, but sometimes having runny movements... and I have often wondered whether he is sensitive to anything specifically and if I can improve matters. I have always been interested in the idea of feeding a raw diet to him, but for his initial growth spurt I wanted to use a good quality kibble as I would be entirely new to raw feeding and it isn't something that is learnt overnight, so perhaps not a good idea to experiment on a growing puppy. However, since Knightley's stomach sickness that had him on antibiotics, he has been worse, and has had very erratic movements. So I've decided to either a) do a 1/3 kibble for training and 2/3 raw for the rest for the health benefits, or b) move to raw entirely which would more likely 'fix' his tummy trouble and create a wonderfully healthy dog.

Feeding a raw diet properly to a dog isn't as easy as just giving them a steak every night. Firstly, they need to receive about 2-3% in weight of their ideal adult weight. According to several slow growth plan statistics, Knightley is about 65% grown, which puts his final weight somewhere around 32kg (71lbs). I think he's likely to be a bit heavier than that, but it's a good guide anyway. Dogs on a raw only diet have to get a certain amount of muscle meat, bone and organs in order to stay healthy. The ideal percentage is 80% muscle, 10% edible bone and 10% organs. Of those organs, half of them (5% overall) should come from liver, as there are minerals in liver that a dog can't get from anywhere else. We've been feeding about 2/3 raw for the last three days now, and Knightley loves it. We are starting on chicken - that is the recommended starting meat, and all is going really well. If I can find a way to train with raw or very healthy treats, and find something to fit in the Manners Minder, we may well go to raw feeding entirely. It is amazing seeing him crunch up chicken bones in a very serious way before swallowing seriously large chunks whole (you should give the food in as large chunks as possible). I've been doing some reading online about this, but a great deal of my information is coming from the yahoo group "rawfeeding". The people there are extremely knowledgeable and you learn so very much just reading through the archives.

I had Knightley in a stay whilst taking these photos, after having
done a few Manners Minder stays on the couch to give him a
good idea of what I wanted. I am loving having such a powerful
training gadget to play with - and it has already improved the
length of Knightley's down stays.

The Manners Minder (remote control treat delivery system) arrived late last week as I mentioned before.... and I thought it was without the battery. On the weekend the hubby and I went for a tour around our part of Canberra trying like 5 shops to find a place to buy one. We finally found one that sounded similar! Same shape, voltage and only slightly different numbering.  I came home and it worked!! Yippee! A short time later I then happened to check my email which tells me if I have a blog comment... and saw someone had mentioned the batteries for the Manners Minders sometimes get taped in strange places on the styrofoam. With a slightly sinking heart I went to check the packing..... and sure enough...... on the underside between two bumps where I *NEVER* would have seen it...... The hubby wasn't too impressed lol. At least now I have a spare!! I have to say, I am loving using it. We are primarily using it for his separation anxiety at the moment (the ability to treat him while I am nowhere near him is such a powerful tool), but I've used it just for small things, like teaching a drop whilst playing fetch, and focusing on his stays and mat behaviours. I think it is going to be brilliant for stays and mat. I am very very happy with my purchase. I just wish I could put raw meat in there!

We are working really hard on loose leash. We do quite a bit of it at night out on the street, which is almost completely dead at that time. I find it's a good medium, there are occasionally some distractions, a few good smells, but it isn't as hard as walking on grass  (irresistible smells), or trying to concentrate during daylight when there are lots of things happening.... but it isn't as easy as doing it inside or in the backyard. We briefly walk up onto lawns, and then off, testing his willingness to stay loose on stuff that smells more awesome than a road. I keep up a very quick rate of reinforcement, especially if the leash tightens, there will be a click/treat as soon as he responds to the leash. I am working on a better response - watching his feet as they are what moves first. Say he is trying pretty hard to get to something absolutely delicious smelling at the beginning of the session before he has remembered his leash manners, I will walk a step back, letting my body weight pull him back with me. It is natural for animals to fight pressure instead of giving into it, so most dogs will try pulling harder at this point. It is important when you have pressure on the leash that you are watching the dog's feet, because when they budge towards you, you should immediately release the leash pressure and click/treat simultaneously. Once the dog realises that by following the pressure it actually stops, you can keep up the pressure for longer if need be, but the dog is just more likely to follow the pressure instead of fighting it anyway. If that happens, click and LOTS of treats! I am working hard at watching those feet, so that I don't pull more than necessary.

The Comfort Trainer halter, what
seems to be one of the mildest
dog halters, and one which
comes with a tan noseband -
much better for light coloured
dogs as dark colours tend to
irritate their vision.
On the subject of his friendliness in public, I've made a few new purchases that are on their way from the US (we need a Service/Assistance dog shop online here in Aus, as well as a positive/clicker type shop!). One is the Comfort Trainer halter, which I think is the best halter for Knightley and I. It will help our public training specifically, and also help keep him calm by having the nose band and band behind the ears - both calming places to have pressure for dogs. Personally, I think halters very very often become crutches for the people that use them. They are intended as training aids, equipment that you use for a month or two, and then transition back to a flat collar. We are getting good on a flat collar without major distractions, but add the distractions and frankly I am physically in danger. I was very very very close to being pulled over on a walk the other day when a cat ran out a couple of metres in front of us. If Knightley had been in his Freedom Harness I would have been fine, but we were practicing loose leash, so it was just a flat collar. It was the suddenness of the event that was so dangerous, and it is that, and his public excitability that I wish to work on. He often pulls to try to go and say hello to people, and it is getting to the point where he needs to learn that he can't just go and say hello to people whenever *he* wants to.

With that in mind I have bought our first assistance dog vest in order to step up our socialisation, which also has the attachments to turn it into a lightweight harness (not the type that can take weight, as this will only be a training vest/harness for while he is a puppy, and he can't take any of my weight until he is much much older). I am going to buy a bunch of patches saying "In Training, Do Not Distract" and "Assistance Dog, STOP, Do Not Pat" and put them all over the harness so Knightley will stop getting all the attention he gets. It also comes with the patch "Working Dog - Do Not Pet". I anticipate starting to take him out in the next month or so, and getting more into it as he is around the 8-9 month mark. By the year old stage I want to have a dog with very nice public manners. At that age, some dogs are ready to be officially Assistance Dogs in training, where in some places they would start going into shops and everything. However, as an unqualified owner trainer, I will legally not have the ability to take him everywhere in public. Instead I will rely partially on taking him anywhere that is dog friendly, and also I will be hoping for the individual support of companies, especially in the local area. Once Knightley is adequately trained, then I have full access, but while he is in training, I don't. Makes it difficult. Owner trainers don't get it easy. We also don't get to take our dogs in the cabin on airplanes, in fact some of the airline companies take only a couple of programs, and if your dog isn't from that program, or if it's owner trained - bad luck. That part really makes me cranky. Apparently if you are a professional owner  trainer yourself, and have had years in the industry there is a chance of getting approval on *one* airline. Someone needs to challenge this at the Humans Rights Commission IMO.

I get all growly at the lack of support both at the government level and in the programs for owner trainers. I am sure there are people that call a pet dog an assistance dog so they can take the dog with them everywhere, and the dog may make them feel better - but may not actually *do* anything for them - the dog must perform trained tasks that alleviates the disability of its handler. However, that is not a reason to disadvantage the owner trainers that take their training responsibilities very very seriously. I am working very very hard at training Knightley. If he isn't up to scratch in the end I will be heartbroken, but I wouldn't work him. Those dogs who aren't properly trained give other owner trained dogs a bad name, and makes the road to complete equality longer. The biggest problem is the lack of any assessing structure across the country, so  that people who have trained their own dogs literally have nothing to show that they are indeed trained. I have some plans for proof, and do expect some sort of Public Access Test to be instituted during Knightley's working lifetime as the bureaucratic wheels are turning.

Anyway, as you can see training the pup continues to be busy! He's turning into such a lovely dog as he grows up.... I can almost see a working dog in there somewhere if I squint a little bit!

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