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!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A successful public outing, and training to prepare us for the show!

Today was great! I misplaced (let's be frank...... lost!) my sunglasses recently and I am very very picky about sunglasses. I get migraines very easily, and one of my triggers is very bright light, so I never ever leave the house without my sunnies on. They also have to fit really well... if they press on the wrong place then they will actually trigger a migraine, sigh! So for the last two days, every time I have been outside the house I've had my eyes half closed! I am sure they have just fallen down the side of something, but that doesn't help me now. So, the hubby and I had planned to go out to our local fresh food markets today and take Knightley, and do some public access type training in advance for next weekend... but because of the missing sun glasses we went out to a nearby small casual shopping district - a site that used to be one of the regions earliest farms when this area was settled by Europeans. Anyway, there is a great shop there that sells everything to do with the sun - and being sun sensitive because of the lupus I have bought a lot of there over the last couple of years. There is also a great restaurant that has generous servings, the food is very tasty and has a bunch of outside tables. Hubby and I wondered if they would let us have Knightley at those tables, as a socialisation/training exercise - even though he isn't officially a Assistance Dog in training and won't be for another 5 or so months. Hubby checked as soon as we arrived and they said yes, but we went to get the sunnies first as Knightley was pretty excited at being in a brand new place. It was definitely the right thing to do, by the time I had chosen a pair of sunnies and we got back to the restaurant, Knightley was heeling quite nicely and had calmed down a lot.

It was a little hard to find the right table for us to sit at, and they were small cafe tables - very hard for Knightley to lie under one because it had one support in the middle that then branched out into multiple legs. Lying under the table is what is expected of an assistance dog, and I have taught him an 'under' cue, but GAH sometimes the table makes it hard! Not only that, there were heaps and heaps of flies, kids running around and playing on the nearby playing equipment, flocks of tiny little sparrows going after leftover crumbs and larger Australian magpies stealing big chunks of the leftovers. Of course for a nearly 7 month old puppy this was all shouting 'COME CHASE ME!!!!' and at first he did get pretty restless. I had been asking for downs, but it just wasn't going to happen... mostly because there seemed to be more flies down there for some reason and they were driving Knightley kind of mad. He couldn't keep from snapping and driving at them, although my zen 'leave it' cue stopped him for a short time, but not for long. Knightley has always been a fly snapper. Then there was two quiet-ish barks in protest at the whle situations - mostly at the flies and the sparrows, which was hopping around only a couple of metres away (6-7 feet or so) and rather driving Knightley mad who had never been that close to birds before. However, no matter the reason, it was unacceptable and I quickly took Knightley away from the table (thankfully our food hadn't yet arrived!). We went to a slightly quieter area and I asked for a sit and eye contact in order to re-establish our connection a bit and calm him down. Once away from the pesky flies and the frustrating sparrows, Knight calmed quickly, and we went back to the table. This time I decided I would be happy with a sit if it was a calm sit, and was right by my side, partly under the table (out of the way of waiters etc) and so that's how we preceded, much more successfully too. Our food came and we were able to eat without worrying about him. He started relaxing more and more, and then suddenly went into a down under the table. I had some treats with me, and quickly jackpotted (lots of treats in a row) him for this... to do it of his own choice was really great! He stayed in a down for the rest of the meal. What a good puppy. For a puppy to overcome the distractions and to have ended up nigh on perfect is more impressive than an adult dog that does it all the time IMO. I was very happy with Knightley, and it gave him great experience coping with distractions - there certainly will be a few next weekend!

Practicing 'on your mat' with the Manners Minder. He is actually 
mid treat in this photo - the little red light on the Manners Minder   
comes on when the mechanism is working to deliver a treat...
which is why Knightley has his hungry maw in the treat bowl part.
This afternoon and evening we practiced training behaviours I want polished for our outing next weekend. We did a bunch of 'on your mat', both with the Manners Minder (MM) and without. The MM is so very very good at extending behaviours like Knightley's 'on your mat'. I'd really like to get this very very good in the next week, and be able to take a mat with us next weekend and have him rest on the mat whenever I want him to just have some time out from everything and have a bit of a snooze. I know he will find it tiring, so a extra portable bed would be great. We'll do a lot of work on this, although I am not really happy with any of the mat options I have, so I'll be looking out for a new harder wearing no slip mat.

We also did a bunch of zen exercises with a left over cooked chicken bone (which seemed to smell nearly irresistable!) and with a large disposable cup lying on the road (there is a big party at a house in our street and someone left the cup on the road) which had the benefit of being a complete unknown. The chicken bone was sooo tempting. He was fine when it was in my hand, and was able to stay away from it with no problems, but as soon as it went on the floor........ We used the MM again for this. At first I had to pull him away from where the bone was, and I stopped using the cue because it just wasn't working as the stimulus of the bone was too much to overcome. When he stopped fighting the leash and trying to get to the bone (loose leash work still to do!) I would turn away with him towards the MM and press the remote in all one movement - so really he was being rewarded when he stopped trying to get to the chicken bone. 

Working on zen with an ultra attractive chicken bone. My foot
 is ready to cover it if Knightley tries to go for it, but once he
gets to this stage he is pretty reliable. I love zen, I think it is
what makes the difference between a bratty uncontrollable puppy
and a nice dog to live with. Note our lovely loose leash!
Slowly he realised that a) he wasn't going to get to it even if he pulled b) stopping pulling often gets him treats in the past and this seemed to be the case here again and c) he was getting to eat something anyway, even if it wasn't the chicken bone, and it was much easier to get the treats, no pulling and choking. Eventually I put the 'leave it' cue back in, once he understood the exercise, and continued using the MM for the treats. I could have just done it myself of course, but I liked being about to walk in little circles and have the treat there immediately without fumbling for it or having to bend. It really is great for anyone with any mobility issues at all. I can't even imagine how wonderful it would be for trainers in wheelchairs! We finished the session off by doing a few 'leave its' with the bone in front of Knightley within his range - although I had my foot ready to cover it if absolutely necessary. 

Later we worked on the cup on the road, which was easier... although in that case we had curiosity to combat instead of greed! At first we started a good 4-5 metres away, and instead of using a 'leave it' cue, I made kissy noises to attract his attention, and he then got a treat when he focused on me instead of the cup. After doing that several times, I made the noise then said 'leave it' which worked very well! He got his treat and we moved on. After a few more repeats, I just used the cue. Every time we went past we got closer and   closer and he was able to 'leave it'. I figured disposable cups - or similar - are something he may have to deal with next weekend, so I will grab some out of the cupboard and continue to work with them.

So it was a good day for Knightley and I. Lots of new things experienced and learnt - he's going to need those skills in adaptability and flexibility next weekend! Really can't wait to see how he handles it.

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