8 months old
We had several short training sessions today, working mostly on our retrieve, and we really had a breakthrough. He is now about to pick up objects (spoon, pencil, dumbell) from the floor several steps away, then walk over, place it in my hand then wait for the cue to release the object. We can hold objects together for 15 seconds+. I am very very happy with him! I can *definitely* see a solid assistance retrieve before he's a year old!
Training this type of retrieve is *very* different to just playing fetch. I am looking for very controlled behaviour, lifting the object right behind his canines, being controlled in how he comes over to give it to me (no boisterous running or anything), and only doing it on cue. Once he has this cue down pat with all sorts of objects including unpleasant ones like hair brushes, we'll start practicing it in public, where he will really be useful to me. I've always wanted him to be able to hand me the handle of my handbag, as I hate having to reach down for it, so I think I'll try sewing a patch on the handle, partly to mark where he is to pick it up from, partly to protect it. He won't actually have to lift up the bag itself, only the strap, and then I can lift it myself. This is similar to training him to pick up his own leash, which is another thing I will have to do (dogs have to do this in airports, for instance, when they are called through metal detectors). Once he has a lot of experience in different places with different objects, then I will start teaching new cues for different objects.... for instance picking up delicate things like credit cards usually needs a dog to use their lips and not their teeth, so needs to be completely retrained. Similarly for pieces of paper, so they don't get slobbered on. So getting a basic retrieve in place is going to be great, but it's only the first step.
I got two doggy things in the mail today. The first was my new halter, the Infin8 by Black Dog. I am very very happy with it! This is, so far, my favourite out of the Gentle Leader and the Comfort Trainer. It is very different in design to the other two, as it has a martingale collar, to which a figure of 8 thin band is attached and wraps around the muzzle of the dog. When the martingale tightens, the halter part tightens too. The idea is to start with the band tight-ish, and once your dog is really behaving nicely, you start loosening it more and more, until it's really just a collar. I am very impressed with the quality of the halter, it surpasses the other two, and Knightley is far less bothered by it. It was much harder to adjust for size, but once you've done it, then you don't have to do it again. I think it would have been easier for me if had been able to get the smaller size, but as Knightley is still growing, I opted for the larger - as he was between the two in size. It meant a lot of adjustment to get the big one to fit. Anyway, I like it a lot, and think I may have hit open a winner here.
The other thing I got was some kangaroo jerky, as jerky I had got in the past Knightley had loved - but it had been expensive pet store jerky. This was obviously a little more 'rustic', as some of it still had kangaroo fur attached!!! It was also like an eighth the price of the stuff I've bought in the pet store before. Knightley absolutely went nuts when I opened the package, and it has been a hit all day for our training. I have been hard pressed to find things to take out with me since I started Knightley on a raw diet. I would rather take raw meat, but I don't really want those sticky bloody hands outside the house, especially out in the public where I might be putting my hands on public furniture etc. This jerky, which is obviously very natural, may well fit the bill. Only problem is it's rather hard to cut up!
Anyway, the pup is breathing deeply beside me on the bed right now, sleeping soundly, and I think I might just join him.
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!