7 months 4 weeks old
We've had some great training sessions in the last couple of days, really getting back to where we were before on our retrieve holds (and more!) before I stopped training them in order to concentrate on finishing Level 2. We've got to the point where Knightley will walk three or four steps on cue, take an object from my hand, and hold it with me for at least 10 seconds, 5 of which he is holding it by himself. I then start holding it with him again, then tell him "thank you!" and he gives it to me. The next step is to get him walking more like 4-5 steps in order to get the object, then to let go and have him walk to me to deliver it, hold it together, then tell him thank you. I have managed to get him maybe half a step towards me to give me his dumbell, but I'm going to wait until we have at least a 15 second hold (together) until I push for a couple of steps walk towards me to deliver. Today I did manage to get him to take the dumbell from a stool on cue for the first time. It was the first time he didn't just take it from my hand. So we're definitely getting there!
I'm trying not to rush this, but I'd really really love a trained assistance retrieve a bit ahead of schedule!! I have actually used Knightley to pick up things before, but in that case it is moreso his curiosity. For instance, I've dropped my keys, and I nudged them with my foot and made them 'dance' a bit to get Knightley interested as cold metal isn't hugely fun, then when he picked them up, I praised like crazy and lightly held his collar to stop him retreating to inspect his new toy, while quickly grabbing a treat from my pocket which I exchanged for the keys with again, lots of praise. The technique works to an extent, but only if I can tempt him to pick it up. It needs to be a cued behaviour - in this case, 'get it'. So, it's going pretty well.
Our eye contact, where Knightley needs to keep 15 seconds eye contact with me without me actually looking at him, is going well. We are up to 15 inside, but not outside. Focusing outside is not Knightley's strong point, especially around GEE - ARR - EEH - ESS - ESS ! (Better spell it out right now or he'll wake up as he lies beside me on the bed! That's how much it excites him! Although we are working on it). We did some eye contact work up at the local shops today. He really does find it pretty hard to focus with all those fascinating people around. I think it's a perfect place to work on this actually, but it's going to be hard to get up to 15 seconds in a very high distraction place like the local shops after 5 on a weekday.
I did make an interesting discovery though. When we are doing public 'assistance dog' training, Knightley automatically goes into 'assistance dog walk', which is a very measured walk, almost a plod lol. Last time we were out practicing our public manners, I tried him with only his collar, and he was actually quite good, there was barely any pulling. Far better than he is just doing loose leash. I suppose there could be a few different reasons for this, but whatever the reason, perhaps I won't actually need the halter much afterall.....
I have noticed something a little worrying in the last week or so - the development of a small amount of resource guarding. He growled at me and did a wrinkly face when I tried to take a bottle cap from him, and I was pretty shocked. He has also been very protective of the food I've been feeding him, which obviously being raw, is very high value, so isn't that surprising. I was pretty shocked about the bottle cap though. I am being very very careful to 'trade', giving good treats for whatever Knightley might have in his mouth (he is a golden retriever puppy afterall, and despite his training, he likes getting things in his mouth as much as possible!), and giving him total privacy when he is eating so he can relax with the food.
Immediately after the bottle cap incident I went and ordered the book Mine! by Jean Donaldson, which is meant to be *the* best book for resource guarding problems, so hopefully I can nip any behaviour in the bud. I've also ordered some new equipment from my custom leash/harness maker, and one of those is a leash belt, with specially made double ended leash, so I think we might do a bit of umbilical leashing to put Knightley in his place., I'm thinking some other techniques from Sue Ailsby's "Leading The Dance" wouldn't go astray either, which is a program for behaviour problems that includes operant conditioning techniques (clicker training, basically!). Follow the link to Sue's page on the link sidebar if you're interested in reading about Leading the Dance. I am not hugely surprised about the timing this has come up - 8 months is a big time of change and hormones for dogs, I was almost waiting for something to happen with my almost perfect pup! If this is all, I will be lucky!
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!