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 27, 2012

What an amazing dog I have!

6 months 4 weeks 2 days old

I am so very impressed with this gorgeous dog. The visit to the show went ahead despite some very humid/occasionally drizzly weather. It didn't seem to affect the crowds much, there were still a lot of people there! So, this is how the day went.

We got there and were able to park in disabled parking nice and close to the entrance, but it involved walking through 'sideshow alley' to get in, which was full of very loud amusement rides, blaring music, people on microphones trying to sell tickets to various rides and games and so on.... intimidating for some people when they are just coming in, let alone a 7 month old puppy. We could have walked around and gone to another entrance, but we decided to see how Knightley would go. I hadn't fed him the previous night and morning so as to reduce the likelihood of him leaving little presents throughout the show for me to pick up, and to also give me the opportunity to give him heaps of treats throughout the day to help him overcome whatever scary and strange things he may come across. I had got a bunch of stir fry beef from our wonderful local butcher and had slightly cooked it (didn't want to handle raw beef all day). I wanted a very high value treat for whatever we were dealing with was particularly strange or stressful. I also took several handfuls of his old Canidae kibble I still use a bit for training and the like.

The first thing we came across as we went through the gates was a ride with little cars swinging around pretty quickly. Not too crazy but not too sedate. I stopped quite a way back and just let Knightley look at it. He looked pretty relaxed, considering he had never seen brightly coloured flying spinning cars, but I fed him a few pieces of beef to reinforce that loud fast moving things = good. Things were going well, so we took a couple of steps closer, stopped and l fed him a piece of beef. He was quite relaxed still, looking around himself with interest, watching the people go past him into the show... so I started walking towards the ride, keeping up constant praise and giving him a piece of beef every several steps. He was fine! We kept on going until we were past that ride and fully inside the amusement part of the show. I kept up the constant praise with beef, but was slowly winding the beef back as he was doing ok. I watched his body language very carefully, just in case we needed to try to find a less chaotic place, but his tail was up  (even wagging some of the time!), ears were forward not pinned back, his gait was free and easy and he wasn't crouching at all and his eyes were interested, bright, curious... not rolled to the side as a scared dogs eyes are. He looked very good. He just walked steadily beside me.

We did have a couple of issues in this rather crowded section with people patting him without reading the RATHER VISIBLE sign on his new vest, but they were pretty much gone before I could say anything. However later in our time there, there was more patting which I addressed - I will obviously need to come up with a default response to that because I didn't really know what to say to ward them off.

Knightley with the handle attached to his vest looking all
official. What a lovely looking dog he is if I say so myself.
As we had planned we headed for the arena which was much quieter and I was able to sit down.. There were horses in the arena getting presented with ribbons and Knightley watched them curiously but he was ok with them from a distance. However, with the various livestock that had been in the arena there were a lot of flies around and Knightley really hates flies - he can't stop himself from snapping at them, and I'm going to have to try to desensitise Knightley to them because Australia has a lot of flies and getting agitated from snapping at them is no good for an assistance dog.... I'm just not sure how to go about it because you can't just magic up flies when you want them! So as Knightley couldn't settle down there we decided to keep moving. However, because of the problems we had been having with him getting random pats by people, we decided to attach the handle to his harness so I could just hold it very loosely (he isn't allowed to take any of my weight until he is 18 months old) and we hoped it would make him look more 'official' as Australia doesn't have many assistance dogs and the harness handle makes him look a bit more like a guide dog and would make people think twice.

Knightley sitting happily beside me. He was extremely good
at his sit stays, I was so very impressed considering all the
We moved into again a more crowded part, moving through food stalls and lots of stalls selling things and Knightley was doing amazingly well, I just couldn't believe it. He walked patiently and happily by my side, even helping me through the crowd by going for gaps when they appeared.

There was a collection of fire fighting equipment - a modern truck, some older vintage trucks and cars and a smashed up car with those car cutting and separating hydraulics. There was a fireman there in uniform so I asked if I could introduce Knightley to him, as assistance dogs need to be great with people in uniform. You never know when you may be sick or could hurt yourself when you are out somewhere with your dog and need the care of paramedics. Also a working dog is more likely to come across policemen and women so it helps if they are happy with being around them. Some dogs take a particular dislike to people in uniform so I just need to make sure that Knightley's interactions with people in uniform are positive. Later in the day he got to say hello to a policeman, and he was very friendly with him.

We headed into the art exhibition - last year I had two paintings in it - where my dad has won a 1st prize and a 2nd prize. I allowed Knightley to meet the coordinator of the exhibition who was a dog lover and Knightley rolled over for a tummy rub (must stop him doing that!). He was a little more excited in the exhibition for some reason, maybe because it was quieter, was inside and was carpeted. We moved on through a bunch of stalls, bought a few things and Knightley remained so amazingly good. It was like being with a rockstar... so many people pointed at him or commented how cute he was, or said something about 'assistance dog in training'. Knightley didn't even try to get pats - I think there were just so many people he wouldn't have known where to start! Every half an hour or so I allowed him to meet someone - only at my invitation though.

Knightley just before he had his snooze. He spent most of the
day panting, but we gave him water every 20 minutes or so
to keep him as hydrated as possible, and the beef I was giving
him also helped keep him hydrated.
We then went into the cake/flower pavilion which also had some food stalls  - we bought some awesome spices and had some of these rather tasty honey puffs we found at a local festival recently and were pleased to see again.  We sat at a table and I had Knightley go underneath and rest. I took his halter off while he snoozed for a while under the table. I was impressed at how he was able to settle down - I think it was partly because all the noise and crowds had taken quite a bit of his focus and he needed some time out. We stayed there for maybe 20 minutes and he was asleep or half asleep most of the time. When we got moving he was definitely more perky.

There was a lot food on the ground as we walked around, and while I have been doing a fair bit of food zen training, it obviously wasn't enough because he did manage to sneak a bite of a potato chip/fry on the ground, and I had to be on the look out for food from then on. Sometimes he responded well to my leave it cue but if there was half a bucket of chips on the ground around us I had to tighten the leash to prevent him him from scoffing them all up. It was too much to expect him to do perfect zen in a place like that, it was too big a test for him at this stage. Still, he did quite well, but there is a long way to go before he could be professional in a place like that. It will be interesting to see how he behaves there next year, assuming we go.

One of the main reasons I wanted to take him to the show was to get him to see some animals as I had read a story somewhere of a fully trained service dog going nuts at a horse in the course of its job. I really don't want Knightley to run into a police horse or something (or even just one of the cows we have near here as Canberra is scattered with grazing land) and have Knightley freak out. So we headed towards some cows, and I didn't really anticipate that much trouble with them. At first Knightley was ok and then one moved and turned its head towards us and Knightley started barking, so I turned him around quick smart and we retreated. I tried several times more, giving him pieces of beef with every couple of steps he didn't bark, but we really didn't make any headway. The cows we had been approaching were in a shed, so I decided to try with some outside instead. I tried the same technique, slow approach with treats every couple of steps, then about turn when he barked.... but it just wasn't working. So I tried a more BAT technique (behavioural adjustment training) by simply pushing him into actual stress by approaching until he is just about to barking and then turning around and walking the other way, relieving the stress. Then doing it again and getting just a bit closer. It didn't seem to be working though, we couldn't get much closer and we were getting barks. So instead I moved ahead of him and called him to me. That worked a lot better. He would come to me, then dance back and look like he wanted to bark but then come back to me. We did that for a while until he was quite a bit closer, and then went back to the shed. My husband helped there by calling Knightley to him. We got close to the entrance of the shed, much closer than before... and decided to leave it there. We are hoping to go away for a weekend down to a farm which will give us more of a chance to meet animals. This was a good first step though and was good experience for me doing trial and error training.

Knightley looking completely gorgeous but very
tired at the end of the day. I was so so proud of
him for all he did.
By this time Knightley was starting to get tired so we started to head back to the entrance, but stopped to buy a couple of show bags of chocolate (Knightley also had some treats bought for him!). He was rapidly losing his remaining energy at this point and kept on lying down whenever we stopped, and wouldn't get up despite encouragement. My husband had to pull on the handle of the vest to get him to stand. Once he was standing he was happy enough to keep going, but once he got settled he was reluctant to move. We walked back through the amusement park part of the show to get out, and while walking past I talked my husband into playing a lucky number game where getting a lucky number got you a choice of a rather large stuffed animal. He completely failed on the first card with four numbers, but on the second card he won. There was this cute huge dog he could have chosen, but instead chose this 4 foot tall banana with dreadlocks and an evil grin (will try to get a photo of it later). Couldn't believe it when it was MY idea for him to play the lucky number game.... the banana was ridiculous!!!!

We got back to the carpark and got home and both Knightley and I were absolutely exhausted from our day. We collapsed into our respective beds and slept the rest of the afternoon away. Now it's the following day and Knightley seems completely recovered but I've finally come down with some sort of virus after a few days of a sore throat. Nevermind, yesterday was worth it!

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