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, March 31, 2012

Fantastic retrieve training, paw targeting and my favourite new halter

8 months 3 days old

Knightley holding his dumbell nicely. He can
hold things for 15-20 seconds easily on cue,
and when we are on a walk he will happily hold
a stick for 5 or even 10 minutes. He's definitely
a holdy dog.
So, I am happy to report that Knightley is still doing just awesomely with his retrieve training. I am getting good solid long holds, and we are working on him picking up all sorts of objects for me. He has problems picking up things like plastic lids which are too flat for him to get an easy purchase on. Maybe he needs to use the technique they teach for dogs to pick up credit cards with using their tongue to lift it a bit. Maybe I'll try clicking for seeing tongue contact tomorrow (wait until I see his tongue contact the plastic, then I click/treat immediately before he has even picked it up, so that he learns to use his tongue with certain objects). Either way, he often can't get it up, and starts pawing it frustratedly. It sometimes happens with pieces of paper too, leaving the paper worse for wear!! With everything else though, he is doing really well. His holds are in the correct place, just behind the two canines, as you can sort of see in the second dumbell photo. Dumbells are good practice for picking things up, because they kind of force him to pick it up in the middle (good practice for balancing awkward items), and are comfortable for him to hold because they are purposely made for this, and fit nicely behind his canines.

Showing the correct hold position, directly behind the pair of
canines, which is a good secure position to hold something,
and is comfortable for the dog.
It's important that I don't do too much practice with the dumbell. People that were training for obedience and not assistance work would just use the dumbell and nothing else, but in my case it's real world items I want Knightley to pick up. I don't want to do obedience or dogsports, I want him to make my life a bit easier. So we do gloves, spoons, pens and pencils, plastic lids and containers, pieces of paper, letters, his leash (I will train that to a specific cue) and really anything I can think of. He is doing very well and I am very happy and proud of him. It is amazing how fast he has picked it up since I started concentrating on it. It does show the temperament testing I did on him did seem to get it right!

The Infin8 halter from Black Dog. The black part with the two
D rings is where your leash clips onto. You can clip the two
D rings together, or undo the clip to take the collar off very
easily. The thick red part of the halter is the other side of the
adjustable collar that goes around the front of the dogs neck.
The thin red part is the adjustable strip that you wrap under
your dogs muzzle, then over it, then back under it and clip it
to the clip you see in the bottom of the photo. It makes a figure
of 8 when you view your dogs head from below. 
 I am very happy with the new Infin8 halter I got for Knightley. It is my firm favourite out of the Gentle Leader (a rather heavy handed, overly firm halter) and the Comfort Trainer (better, but still bothered Knightley quite a lot). For those of you who have tried halters and think your dog just can't tolerate them, take a peak at Black Dog. They are an Australian company who ships overseas, make a bunch of fantastic quality dog gear, aimed at dogsport people, and I am truly impressed with their Infin8 halter. It is different to any halter I have ever seen - really it's a mixture of a collar and a halter, and it allows a transition back to a collar better than any halter I've seen before. It is a clever design too, when your leash tightens, the collar tightens (it is a martingale collar), and the figure of 8 halter also tightens (also almost a martingale.... one side of the halter is on a running O ring). As soon as the tension is released, the nose band becomes quite lose, as does of course the collar part. The leash attaches to the collar.

Knightley with the Infin8 halter on. I got the red colour
because dogs see red very badly. If they had sold a tan
colour I would have got that, but the red has been fine,
actually. Visual disturbance is one of the reasons
why dogs don't like halters.
When your dog has been wearing the halter for a while you can start to loosen the long muzzle strap until it is extremely loose, and the dog is reacting almost entirely to the collar pressure. It doesn't matter at all if the looseness causes the noseband part to come off as the dog has a secure collar on as part of the halter. When
the dog is used to functioning without the noseband doing anything much, then it's time to slowly go back to your collar. This is partly why I think this halter is so superior - it actually helps your dog learn to walk on a collar, as well as give good head control.

Knightley with only the collar part of the Infin8 halter done up.
The part that goes around his muzzle is shown laid out with the
clip at the end. You can see the martingale D rings at Knightley's
neck where you clip the collar to. These things are what makes
this halter so different from others I have seen and used.
It's actually quite impressive how much more Knightley likes this halter than the other two. From the beginning, there was very very little pawing at it. With the GL and the CT, if I took the leash off him and left him alone he would begin pawing at the noseband until he got it off. With the Infin8 he just completely leaves it alone. So, I will continue to use it until Knightley is not pulling at all around children, other dogs and birds, and then I will slowly loosen the noseband until it may as well not be there. Then I think I will transfer him to a martingale collar from Black Dog. Why, you may ask? Well, firstly I *love* the quality of the halter, and they have lovely martingales too. But if I get a red martingale, it will nearly be identical to the halter, just minus the long wrap around bit. So it could well evoke those no pull memories. I like the safety of martingales too. When they first came out, people used them as a sort of more humane choke collar.... using them to leash pop, but doing less damage to the dogs throat and trachea. These days they are basically seen as a collar dogs can't get out of, even if they try to back out, because they tighten if the dog puts pressure on the leash. However, unlike a choke chain, they can only tighten so far, and they are made of comfortable nylon. The martingale that is part of the Infin8 has great shiny black nylon (see first photo) which means as soon as the dog releases the tension, the collar and halter are instantly loose, and much looser than a normal flat collar. It is great feedback for the dog. So, that's the plan.

The other thing I've been doing is refreshing Knightley's paw targeting. I was quite cryptic before about training an assistance skill I don't need but that would be fun to have. What I am going to do is train him to turn on a foot light (one of those ones that has a round switch that you turn on with your foot) with his paw. We haven't been doing much paw targeting for a while, so at first it was just basic stuff, getting him to target my hand, then a plastic lid, then eventually the switch. He isn't putting any weight on it yet, which he is definitely going to have to do... and I'm not sure how to do that, so I'll have to think about that.

A little bird told me about this documentary (which I am going to watch soon) that talked about the fact that 75% of successful guide dogs are 'right pawed'.... ie like humans, dogs too often have a dominant paw. I knew Knightley had one but couldn't remember which one it was until I did a bit of testing and observations.... and it is indeed the right. I guess this is a good thing, although assistance/service dogs need quite different skills to a guide dog. It's interesting that dogs have a dominant paw though. I always found it hard to get Knightley to paw things with his other foreleg, so I had wondered, but I thought it could have been due to my training just getting him stuck in a rut!

Hubby back in 6 days! Knightley is going to be happy and unhappy all at once..... he's going to lose his sleeping platform lol.....!


  1. Interesting. I thought he was wearing a gentle leader. I will try to find the halter and consider it. Shai's trainer wanted to try a gentle leader with him, but I had a bad experience with one on my prior shar pei.

    I like the limited slip collar that does the same as a martingale. If a dog backs up, it tightens but has a safety stop. Had shar peis who were masters of reverse. Only collar they couldn't back out of suddenly.

    1. Yeah, it's quite different to a gentle leader, although I did try a gentle leader first and then a comfort trainer. Read the tab up the top of the page called "Dog halters" for my views on the subject. I like the fact I can take the halter part of the Infin8 off and it still functions like a normal martingale collar.

      I like it for when I am taking him into new places and there could be some big distractions and I may need some more control than what a flat collar gives me, but I don't want something as harsh as a gentle leader. When he lies under tables I take the halter part off and just leave it as a collar. You can find them on ebay, but you can more easily buy them here: http://blackdog.net.au/