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!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wonderful public training, retrieving awkward objects, hubby back!

8 months 1 week 4 days old

Firstly, for those who missed it, I have a brand new Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/DownunderAssistanceDog. Do go ahead and join the page to get my updates about what Knightley and I are up to on a day to day basis, especially when I don't have the energy for a big post here. Also, if you ever want to contact me for any reason, it's a great way to do it.

I'm trying out a new 'thing' on my blog... bolding important phrases and words, so that you can scan an entry and see what is important, what has happened, and get the training messages quickly. Gimme a yell if you hate it!

The last couple of days have been pretty full on for both me and Knightley! Hubby came home from his 3.5 week trip to England on Easter Friday, and Knightley went to the airport with us having got permission to take him inside. It was his first time to the airport, and was his first time for several other things. He'd never been on a lift before (that went REALLY well! My dad and I repeatedly told him what a wonderful dog he was while we were in there), he'd never been on super polished floors and he was great with those, he'd certainly never seen moving baggage and that gave him pause.... but he was fascinated, not scared! I think he wanted to jump onto the baggage carousel too. He'd never heard loud announcements, and his head whipped around at first when the first one came over the PA system, looking for the source of the sound. Which obviously he couldn't find..... With strange noises and dogs, it is best to just act as if the noise is completely normal and then your dog will accept it as normal too. If you go "oh poor dog, I know, you just got a big fright, are you ok??", then your dog is likely to start getting an issue. Just act as if the noise is normal and your dog will believe it is. Once Knightley saw that I believed the announcements were no threat, he started more or less ignoring them. My husbands plane was late, but Knightley was pretty good (not ideal, shifted around a bit too much) and just rested in a down by my feet. All the work with down stays and relax has been worth it! Once again I felt like a bit of a tourist attraction, with soooo many people looking at Knightley. I can see that when Knightley is fully trained and with me all the time I will get a lot of attention from him. He gets a lot of comments about how beautiful he is, and I would have to agree. :)

Knightley was very happy to see hubby, but wasn't completely unprofessional in his welcome. We did have a bit of a slip up.... everyone was clustered around getting their bags and hubby got his smaller one and threw it towards us. It landed with quite a bang and obviously shocked Knightley quite a bit.... to the point he let out a small rather surprised bark! I was amazed... he hasn't barked before in public like that. So I told him to 'leave it!', and immediately turned around and we walked away from everyone. So that blotted his perfect record. As we were leaving I stopped at the only patch of grass outside and gave him his pee cue, and it worked immediately. What a good dog! A family was right beside the grass and saw me with Knightley, and was completely amazed. "Oh wow.... how did you do that....??! I wish my dog did that!" the mother said. I just responded that it was part of his training and was indeed very useful.

Learning to pick up my sunnies (sunglasses) where I want him to.
 I don't want him to pick them up on the lenses and leave slobber
so I am spending some time teaching him where I want him to put
his mouth. He seems happy enough to play along! When I
compare his behaviour to how he first was when I started retrieve
training there is a *huge* difference. There is almost no comparison.
He's such a good good boy.
That night after hubby came home he went to bed rather early, so we did a bunch of retrieve training with some semi delicate objects. We practiced getting Knightley to pick things up in certain places on the object. For instance, I don't want him to pick my sunnies (sunglasses) up by their lenses.... for while they are not expensive sunnies, I don't want to be seeing through drool when I come to pick them up! So I want him to learn to pick them up on the long arm thingo. So I got him to hold them first maybe 6-7 times, in the place I wanted him to pick them up. Then I started lowering them towards the floor. I would very deliberately offer the part I wanted him to hold, so that he never took the wrong part.

Retrieving a lid, which he has got a lot better at. He struggled
with anything flat at first, but now he seems to be able to
manage most of the time. He will hold it for a good long time
until I am ready to take it, and will hold it with me until I tell him
'thank you!' and then finally, he will let go. It really does come
quite naturally to him. We are slowly starting to very occasionally
do a retrieve without a treat reward, although I will do something
else instead, usually play with a toy or just make a huge fuss of

However, if he did (he has on other objects), I would just wait it out until he released the object and not reward him for it, then give the retrieve cue again ('get it!') with my hand over everything but where I want him to hold. I'd do a couple of short holds, not even letting go, offering the object, then 'thank you!' and he releases, then treating him. I would slowly reduce what my hand covers until he is still holding the right place despite being offered the whole object. Then I'd start letting him get some good long holds by himself, then start  lowering the object towards the floor again before each hold until it was on the floor but I had one hand on it. If at any time he wouldn't reach and hold it on cue, then I would go backwards a step or two and make it easier for him. This is one of the keys of dog training!! Don't be afraid to go back a couple of steps when things aren't going quite right.... or even right back to basics!

Then I put the sunnies on a flat surface at his chest height, all folded up except for one arm open, and asked him to get them. He did, then swung around and gave them to me. Very nice. We did that several times, and then I slowly opened out the sunnies, only paying for retrieves where he picked it up via the arm. Then I put it on another flat surface, close to the floor, with the arms open, and we did a couple more retrieves... and then the floor. Next time I will work on having him things up that I drop before the session... which is our problem at the moment. He will pick things up after I nudge them a bit with my toe to show him what I want picking up... but it takes a little while, and a fair bit of encouragement.

The last several days I've been at the National Folk Festival, with stacks of venues with all sorts of amazing performers from all over the world, awesome food, all sorts of stalls selling clothes, jewelry and all sorts, and lots of lovely food. There's one more day to go and then it's time to recover! I've spent most of my time in my wheelchair getting pushed this year, as my health took a little dip pre-Festival (see post about coming back from shops with Knightley). However, I got permission to take Knightley for public access training and socialisation, so he's gone with me for a couple of hours on one day and a few on another, and while I've had Knightley with me I've walked with my crutch slowly. He has been a VERY good boy!! He has experienced lots more firsts, like at the airport, such as applause, live music, walking beside me in a wheelchair (wasn't for long), lying still for events (needs practice) and having a grass floored venue that must be treated as a normal floor (if you're a regular reader you know that Knightley is a massive grass fan!! It was hard....).

What a fantastic learning experience it has been. I have really seen what Knightley and I need to work on in the coming months. Lots of zen, zen, zen, zen, until it is default and matter of fact. There was quite a bit of food on the ground, and Knightley was good at the beginning of the Festival, but then once or twice ate something from the ground... which is a *huge* no no (there was so much though!). That rather spelt doom. He obeyed me if I told me to 'leave it'... but there was so much stuff on the ground that I couldn't keep saying it continuously, and unfortunately it being the beginning of autumn here, there were leaves on the ground too which *looked* like food, so he wanted to check out every little leaf too. So default food on ground zen is something we need to work on badly. If he hadn't got himself that one or two pieces of food originally then I think we would have been ok, but after that every leaf was a potential snack, sigh. Anyway, lots of work to do!

I can't decide whether to take him back for the last day or not. Every day is another learning experience, and he isn't getting too tired because he is dozing a bit during some of the performances - especially the ones in the dark venues. Also, the last day is a lot quieter than the others. However, I don't want to burn him out as these are some big experiences for a young dog. Either way he is going to have a good long break from any public socialisation and training. Lots of walks and dog park visits for the foreseeable future I think.

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