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!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New purchases, and Knightley the professional???

10 months 2 days old

So in the last couple of days we've been buying things left right and centre! Firstly, we bought the car, which we pick up tomorrow....! (Read the last two entries to find out about our new [used] car). I'm getting over my hip injections much quicker than I expected... certainly last time I had them done it caused much more tissue trauma. I have high hopes the nerve block the doctor did will be very helpful, as it already seems to be helping. However, the question is how long is it going to last?

I've had a couple of doggy things arrive, including a 'eco' Easy Walk harness for Knightley. My mum has offered to take Knightley walking with her, but without some sort of no pull gear it takes some know-how to get him walking nicely. The Easy Walk harness should make it quite easy for her, and she shouldn't have a 32kg (70.4lbs) puppy dragging her around with Knightley wearing it. I tell you what, the eco version feels very soft, although it took me a little while to get it fitting Knightley properly. He grew out of his Freedom Harness some time ago, so it was time to get something new for relaxed walking. I also had some synthetic fleece arrive to pad out the straps on his assistance dog vest a bit, as he has become a bit harness shy of late. I am assuming it is because he is uncomfortable in it, poor pup.

Speaking of harnesses and gear, today I bought a heavy duty sewing machine, capable of sewing collars, leashes and harnesses/vests of any kind. I have been thinking about this for a while now as a possible way of generating extra income and have decided experiment. There is literally no place online in Australia where you can buy assistance dog equipment - I have always had to import everything from overseas, so there is a niche to fill. I have been playing around with a few different designs, a couple of basic capes, vests and a simple harness... as well as normal collars and leashes that I could make and sell. We shall see how it goes. I am going to start small and just learn to use the sewing machine well and get used to sewing nylon a LOT! One of my first major projects will be to sew a new harness/vest for Knightley, but to make it with a Y shape chest, not parallel to the ground.

This weekend my work/volunteer place has a big Kite Festival on, and I am thinking of taking Knightley and doing a couple hours volunteer work outside. The main problem is it's being held on very uneven grassy ground, which is partly why I want Knightley with me.... but also partly not, because grass distracts him a lot! If I put him in a down stay on grass I can see him want to start digging out of boredom eventually. I guess I need to take a mat and practice a bunch with mat behaviours outside with the mat on grass, because we have never actually done that. I know the place I volunteer (and do contracts) is unsure about Knightley and of course I want to get them on side, so if I can get his mat behaviour good before then, this could be the perfect opportunity to show them how well behaved he can be. I think I'll try to tire him out before the festival too, as kids and kite flying is likely to excite him just a bit!! He definitely needs the practice outside though, I found that out last weekend when he started losing focus when I was unable to focus.

Awwww, he just climbed onto my lap on the couch...... or at least, he's trying to fit. Only about a quarter of him fits these days, or maybe only a fifth, but he still tries. His fur is so silky from the raw feeding, especially his ears. I know the Golden Retriever breed standard says the fur isn't allowed to be silky.... but I can't help how lovely his food makes his fur! Today I found a butcher who stocks beef heart all week round, so that was a great find. It's definitely his favourite, and makes a great teeth cleaner! If you have a dog with bad teeth, consider feeding an ox tongue and some beef heart every week and see those teeth whiten magically. It isn't the bone that does the cleaning, although it helps, it's the tougher flesh that works like a rough toothbrush and floss to clean the teeth. Awwwwww, he just sighed and put his chin down on my knee. Don't we all love that in our dogs. I am so lucky to have Knightley. 

Anyway, time to put him to bed and myself too. We have to pick up the new car tomorrow and I'm volunteering too. It has been an incredibly busy week and I need to stay as healthy as I can, so sleep is in order.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Knightley 10 months old, new sleeping arrangements, hip injections and deposit on car!

10 months old

Well I usually get photos on the day of every month birthday, but today was just a bit too busy! I'll try to get some tomorrow. It seems sooo short between each month birthday, it seems only a week or at the most two since I was saying he was 9 months old. He neeeeeeearly lifted a leg when peeing against a tree today. My boy really is growing up. He also has new sleeping arrangements as of tonight. For the first couple of months of his life with us he slept closed in his crate, then after that we graduated to sleeping in a rather large pen (because he liked chewing things and destroying things a little too much... just loves things in his mouth - still does), and then today graduated to having the kitchen and dog/dining area to himself every night. It's extremely neat tonight, which is certainly important for the first night so he doesn't get into something on the first night and get into a habit after that. The main reason it's perfect in its neatness, and the reason I decided to make the change now, is that we have a rental inspection tomorrow (usually every 6 months, but it will be 9.5 months this time) and I wanted to put away the pen. When I went to check on Knightley after finishing cleaning the bathrooms to a soft gleam (! or trying, as far as rental houses can be pushed towards gleaming!) he was lying virtually in the middle of the floor, but I kind of expect him to be in his crate when we come out in the morning.... that is usually where he is in the morning.

It's just totally amazing how fast he has grown up. People who meet him when we are doing our public access training no longer recognise him as a puppy, although they often realise he is on the young side. When I tell them he is nearly 10 months old they are amazed how big he is (I don't really think he is big! compared to some other breeds he is rather medium sized!) and how well behaved he is for a puppy. If only they could see him when he grabs some contraband!! Still, he is a darling pup. Only two more months and we'll be getting hip x-rays which will tell us his future with me and whether he can truly be a working assistance dog. Unfortunately Golden Retrievers have quite bad hips, and while I am doing what I can to end up with good hips on Knightley, you can never know.

Anyway, today I had a couple of injections into my 'bad' hip, my right hip. Last time I had this done I was virtually immobile for a week.... I woke up the day after the injections and could barely move my leg. The injections were painful today, and they also did a nerve block for the first time, so we'll see what happens there.... but if they help this time, it'll be worth it. I expected to barely be able to clean the house tonight because of my hip but it has been ok, as long as I don't stay still for too long because then I start to seize up. It could be very bad tomorrow. I got a call from the place I work/volunteer and they are begging me to come in tomorrow as there has been a crisis and we have an important event coming up on the weekend. Rather stupidly I said yes, so I am quite sure I will need a wheelchair. It isn't going to be a very wheelchair friendly office, but I'll cope. I find it very hard to say no when people actually *want* me. It is something I have to work on - saying no for the sake of my health.

In case your missed the photo in my last blog post, our new
car! Plenty of room for dog face (my loving name for Knightley!)
in the wagon part. The car is in good nick although I would have
rathered a few less kms on the clock, but we don't expect it to last
forever - just until my hubby gets some well deserved raises at
work over the next couple of years! The car is exactly what we
wanted though. Definitely want to take it on a weekend away!
After the hip injections hubby and I and my parents went to the other side of town to check out the car we were interested in again (a used car, see previous post for details). To cut a long story short, we have put a deposit on it, and are buying it!!! It's 'our' first car, and has plenty of room for passengers, and Knightley too as it's a stationwagon. It's fitted out for a roof-rack as well, so we may look into that too for flexibility. Anyway, it has a few easily fixed minor issues, so we will be picking it up on Thursday arvo (Monday night now) when everything is fixed. The only problem is because it's a stationwagon, to go in the wagon part Knightley will have to really jump and he is *SOOO* bad at jumping lol. He can't jump into the back seat of a normal sedan - he sort of pulls himself up. I know it's partly a puppy thing... but hopefully he will learn to jump soon. He actually can jump quite well when he wants to, so we just have to harness that. Maybe big chunks of beef heart (his favourite) in the back after fasting him for a day!

Speaking of fasting for a day.... I mentioned in my last post that Knightley had had a bad tummy. I decided to fast him for a day to let his stomach settle down. It's always a good move to make, it means that any last diarrhea can make its way out and it also means you won't irritate the stomach again before it's ready. Bone if good to stop the runs, so I wanted to feed chicken+bone with large percentages of bone tonight, but the silly hubby forgot to get the chicken wings I asked him to, and we have no chicken in the freezer. He did however get a nice cheap pork leg roast - so Knightley got a smallish serving of that with the leg bones. Leg bones of the larger ruminants - cow, deer etc are not safe to raw feed as they can break your dogs teeth. However, small animals like rabbit and chicken are absolutely fine, and so is everything up to pig and sheep. Try to cut down on fat when your dog's stomach is upset too, just feed chicken or turkey. If you can't feed those, pork is the next best choice. My poor boy was obviously very hungry, and like usual it was great to see him happily gnawing and crunching away, but we'll see how his stomach is tomorrow.

Anyway, tomorrow I need to get up early to do some finishes to the house, so it's sleep time for me. Cross fingers for me that I can actually walk! Wish I could take Knightley to the office already for his retrieve, dropping things in a wheelchair is going to the awkward as I'm usually with a family member when I'm in the chair......

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Knightley needs practice working outside, nice walk, new (used) car and NEED A WEEKEND AWAY!

9 months 4 weeks 1 day old

Well it has been quite a busy weekend and I am terribly tired. Hubby and I went to the shopping mall yesterday and took Knightley. We needed a few bits and pieces, and hubby needed to swap a bracelet he'd got for me for our anniversary for a smaller size (obviously he thinks I have fat wrists!). Knightley did very nicely and got lots of attention as usual. We practiced our new 'flat' - the new cue for down. It was great, no delay, obeyed on every cue with no problems after starting with a bit of shaping. It's looking like I am going to have a solid down, hopefully for Knightley's whole life. Now time to start proofing it with even more distractions.

We then went and looked at some used cars. Our current car is getting pretty old and needs replacing but our finances aren't yet at the stage where we can buy a brand new car. So we looked around, found a possibility or two, but decided that there were some more cars across town we wanted to look at. I was absolutely exhausted after walking around a shopping mall and then a bunch of car lots. Knightley had been pretty well behaved up until then but as my attention was going and I was walking slower and slower he started misbehaving a bit. Of course that is the time I want him to step up and become a solid unmovable object! So he really did the opposite unfortunately and lost his focus. Last weekend when he helped me through my migraine he did great and focused despite me completely off in la-la pain land. However this time was outside, and Knightley doesn't focus well outside at all. So while it was very unfortunate he couldn't help me when I needed it, it shows me what I need to focus on. He can obviously be trusted a little to keep it together inside when I am not able to focus myself, but outside is another matter entirely.

Knightley meeting a lovely older female Golden on our walk
today. Knightley pretty much loses his mind when he meets
other dogs - he just loves them so much!
He woke up with a bit of a bad tummy this morning, so hubby and I took him for a good wandering walk where he could empty his poor tummy if need be. After the horrible weather earlier this week there was a good stream of water flowing in the storm water drain that runs by our house, and it's pretty good and clean so I let Knightley romp in it. We met another Golden Retriever on our walk today, a 12 year old female. Knightley ran around her like an idiot, trying to get her to play with him... trying and failing really. It made me realise that Knightley really is just about fully grown in size, although he has an awful lot of coat growing to go!!

My very happy rather wet Knightley.
He absolutely loves these walks. Since winter has come along it gets dark too quickly to get to the dog park more than once or twice a week. So I bought a flexi type leash (a leash that retracts and goes up to 5 metres in length) so that we could have walks along grassy areas and he could run around sniffing and just generally having a ball. Unfortunately I can't yet trust his recall there as it's a place where lots of other people walk their dogs, cycle, and so on.... and Knightley just loves people and dogs far too much. One day we'll get there. I don't approve of flexi leashes anywhere but where they will cause no possibility of harm to people when extending or retracting. As the lines even for a big dog are quite thin, they can even cut flesh when extending or retracting. If you only ever use the retractable/extending aspect of the leash when there are no people around you, and keep the leash locked in a fixed position of 180cm (6 foot) or less at all other times I think they can be useful. It certainly gives him the chance to get a bit of exercise but I can still walk very slowly. They can be especially valuable tools for those with service dogs who are permanently in a wheelchair, as they need many different lengths of leash throughout the course of a day.

Dashing through storm water at a breakneck pace. He's definitely
a water dog!
Speaking of wheelchairs, I have hip injections tomorrow that are supposedly meant to help my poor hip but past experience leads me to expect a week of virtual immobility. Whether after the tissue damage has healed there will be some temporary improvement is anyone's guess really. I'll be relying on Knightley's retrieve a whole bunch. I also don't want to skip my work on Thursday/Friday but certainly by Thursday I don't expect to be all that mobile. I could use my walker I guess but I am inclined to take my wheelchair. It's a heavy steel cheap thing I got when I first got sick but it's comfortable at least. I've been wanting to get a good quality lightweight wheelchair for a while now, but to get funding assistance from the government I need to see an occupational therapist, and I know to see the hospital ones the waiting list is pretty long. I've been thinking about another option so I may look into it. Whenever I am flaring and hubby and I need to go out, we take the chair.... but it is so heavy I can barely push it myself, especially if I am particularly sick. I'd also like the option of having Knightley help me with the movement of a wheelchair, in which case I should be minimising weight and resistance as much as possible.

A rather blurry photo of what we hope is our new car as of
tomorrow. LOTS of room for our big boy in the back!
Anyway, after our walk today Knightley's tummy seemed better, so we decided to take him with us to check out the cars over the other side of town. The big news is we think we have found ourselves a new (used) car! We took it for a test drive, and there were a couple of electrical problems, but if they are fixed to our satisfaction then we will go ahead with it. It's a stationwagon for a couple of different reasons, one of which that Knightley can go in the boot/wagon bit and get lots of room. It is pretty much exactly what we want, so we're going back tomorrow with a couple of other people to make a final decision. Unfortunately it will be after the local anesthetic injection from injecting my hips wears off and I'll be in a bad way... but it's just the way the world works out!

I've been wanting a holiday for a while now, but the state of our current car (not great, needs a lot of maintenance to be completely sound) has put me off a bit. However I think a new (used) car needs to bond with us and have a trip down to the coast! There's a pet friendly farm (with four very friendly border collies apparently) that has cabins and rooms, which I've been wanting to visit for many months that looks wonderful. I really need to get away - I haven't left Canberra since we travelled around temperament testing puppies in order to find Knightley. I wouldn't really call that a holiday though, and before that I left Canberra for my wedding a whole year ago in England........ it's definitely time for a weekend away!!

So, a very long very tiring weekend with several painful days to come. I need to get a semi-early night, so I'll be off now. *waves byebye*

Monday, May 21, 2012

A wonderful day, a horrible migraine and a very good dog!

9 months 3 weeks 2 days old

Yesterday was my 1st wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful stunning day and my husband and I had an absolutely wonderful day from the beginning of the day to the end. We started out with wicked but gorgeous pancakes at a restaurant in the inner city for brunch, then took the pup to the dogpark, then off to a fancy dinner and finally ended the day with a movie snuggled on the couch (with Knightley bizarrely watching the movie too!). I hope all our anniversaries are as lovely as yesterday was! Of course today I am completely and absolutely exhausted beyond measure, but it was completely worth it.

Anyway, I am still trying to get rid of a migraine I got on Saturday - as well as a autoimmune/autoinflammatory rash I've had on my face for five or six days now (when biopsied they came up with 10 possibilities, most likely was something rare called lupus tumidus.... but who knows really, sigh). Hubby and I had some shopping to do and I have been sticking to the once a week public outing rule with Knightley until he is a little older and ready for more intensive training, so we took Knightley with us as his weekly trip. The migraine reared its ugly head virtually as soon as we got to the shopping mall (maybe the lighting?) as hubby and I split up to do our separate shopping. By the time we met back up I could barely open my eyes and I was using some of Knightley's natural guiding instincts (going around things or people, or stopping when there was an obstruction) because I was in such a bad shape. Thankfully after hubby rejoined us, Knightley followed hubby and I was virtually able to close my eyes and let the pup lead me through the mall.

The migraines that hit suddenly virtually blind me with photosensitivity, and sometimes, like in the case of this one, give me auras too.... which makes my vision even worse. I really hoped that Knightley was going to be a natural alerter, and tell me when I was going to get one of my sudden migraines, but so far, he isn't giving me any signs I can see. I am thinking that it may be worth training Knightley to do some basic guiding techniques so if I do get a very severe migraine while out I can rely on him to help me to safety. I don't know much about guiding though, in comparison to the research I have done about mobility assistance dog training... so I guess I have a lot of research to do. Mainly the biggest concern is that I don't want him to guide all the time - only when I am such a bad way. Ideally he would just know when to do it, but if not, I would just give him a cue. I just don't know if you can turn guiding on and off like that?? Anyway, he was a very very good boy, and I really don't know if I could have got through the mall alone without him. Even when I was with my hubby, it meant Knightley could lead me and not hubby, who went off to bring the car closer. I was proud of my boy, who is nearly 10 months old, wow!

Where Knightley and I walked this morning. It's a fantastic area
to walk your dog... lots of paths, lots of open grass areas, and
the storm water drain which runs with clear water after rain
(which we haven't had for weeks...) that Knightley gets to splash
around in and run up and down the sides of the drain. We
meet heaps of dogs on our walks too. The weather has been just
stunning over the last couple of weeks as we get to the end of
autumn. The bluest skies you could ever imagine, but some
cold nights well below zero already - and it isn't winter yet!
So, I took a lot of breakthrough medication and much more on Sunday to be able to enjoy my anniversary, but without the breakthrough the migraine is still quite fiercely hanging around. No where near as painful as when it first hit, so perhaps my migraine abortive partially worked, but I am pretty immobile for the moment. Although I did manage to take Knightley for a little walk this morning before it just got too painful to move much, and yesterday's running around doing things caught up with me. I think a doctor appointment may be in order. I refuse to go to the hospital, because I am just too complicated for them.... and I then always end up getting admitted which I **HATE**!! Then comes then scans just in case it's my immune system attacking my brain and so on and so on.... arrggh... I more or less swore to myself after spending my 29th birthday in ICU that I would not be admitted to a hospital unless I was almost literally dying. Thankfully I have been less sick since then anyway, so it hasn't been all that hard to stick to.

Oh, and I've found my perfect training treat! Easy to rip up and free! Knightley tends to eat a fairly lean diet - lots of beef heart, some pork which sometimes is fatty, turkey and occasionally chicken which sometimes has skin, sometimes doesn't... and ox tongue which is very lean. Consequently I supplement with fat from the butcher which he gives to me free as unwanted trimmings. Good fat just pulls apart in your hands easily, so instead of just adding it to his meals, I feed his fat as treats now. He loves it, and it is higher value than his regular meals - which I have a hard time topping these days. His 'flat' is going well now, but I don't use it yet as every day usage - I want to make sure it is absolutely great in every single situation I can think of using shaping and basic operant conditioning, and then slowly fade the treats when it is learnt so I end up with a 100% reliable down. Unlike our last one which slowly grew less reliable and slower over time because I lured too much and faded too fast.

Speaking of raw food, Knightley now only eats one meal a day, and that is working a lot better for us than morning and night. While I was planning on keeping him on two meals a day until 1 year old, he just became uninterested in his morning meal, whilst he will happy eat the whole day's worth at night. Today it was an entire turkey leg which he efficiently cracked and chewed and basically completely devoured. Flesh and skin are natures way of flossing an animals teeth! You should see Knightley's beautiful glowing teeth - he often gets comments at the dog park.

Anyway time to sleep and hope this silly head settles down. *waves*

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Basic training, bit of a break from public work, and dog over-friendliness

9 months 2 weeks 3 days old

So over the last couple of days since the weekend I've been continuing to refresh Level 1 of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. I am trying to get Knightley's new down (cue is flat!) more solid, so that it will last a lifetime and always be solid and prompt no matter where I ask for it. His previous down I trained with quite a bit of luring, which is why I think it got slower and more reluctant when he was a bit stressed. This time I am trying to train it with mostly shaping and capturing - much better techniques for training a long lasting well trained behaviour. When it is perfect inside, I will start shaping it all over again from the beginning in the backyard and then out in the street and then on the grass with lots of smells around which is Knightley's big challenge place for getting focus. I've also been trying to inject some fun into our training, throwing toys and playing tug in between a few reps, keeping the session high energy and trying to treat often. The more fun I can make training these behaviours, the more fun these behaviours will seem to Knightley later in his work.

We're having a little break from public access socialisation. I don't want to push Knightley too fast, as much as he is coming up to 10 months old, I don't think we should be going out too often in public until he is around a year old. I think the 2-3 times a week we were doing was just a bit too much for this stage. I will stick to once a week for at least the next month, and continue with basic training and a little task training.

The area where we walk every day at least once a day. It's
great for bumping into other dogs, and as a bonus it's lovely
at this time of the year (autumn), and the weather is simply
beautiful, although very chilly overnight! Canberra has by far
the coldest overnight temperatures of the large Australian cities.
I am working on keeping him calm and working on zen on and around grass, and practicing walking with a harness and assistance dog style handle (loose, without forward momentum help) along our normal walk path. The main reason I am practicing along there is because a lot of dogs use the area for their walks and it's a great opportunity to get over his dog over-lovingness. It is the main thing he really needs to work on for his public access permit. When he has to pass a dog (eg tied up outside the shops) he will try really hard to turn around as I walk past to continue watching it, and will pull towards the dog the entire time. Last time we had to past a dog I had him stop near the dog, put him in a sit and fed him treats as he sat there slowly becoming more and more calm. When we walked off he was lovely and calm. I just need to do that a lot!

I am thinking a lot about the trouble I am having with getting access to the public transport here (buses). My request to be able to use a stationary bus in the bus depot has been denied so I am out of luck completely. There are a couple of possibilities in terms of maybe trying a different bus line based across state lines, or even challenging the bus company.... but sigh, it is unlikely those will be good fixes. It is absolutely ridiculous that when Knightley gets his permit he will be allowed on, but I don't intend to get the permit until Knightley is about 18 months old (or more if it takes longer). However, he really needs experience on a bus before he is that old as having him help me use public transport once again was one of my big aims, and the longer he goes without going on the bus the less relaxed he will be when he finally can. The very obvious solution is that I really push forward on the public access training and get our permit before task training is complete. I think I could probably be ready to submit an application for the permit in about three or four months if I really worked at it - and be happy that Knightley was going to be very professional in his behaviour. I could at least demonstrate some assistance retrieve tasks and a little forward momentum/counter balance (and not mention that I wouldn't be using that until Knightley was mature physically). However, I don't know whether it's the right thing to do just to make my training easier (it would make everything easier, not just the buses), as I wouldn't be using him as a working dog for maybe another 5-6 months after getting the permit.

It's hard to believe he is coming up to 10 months old. I frequent a Golden Retriever forum and there are so many nightmare stories about what their puppies start doing in the period between 7 to 12 months - the teenage months really - that I really thought Knightley would probably start going nuts too. This is especially the case because unlike the vast majority of dogs on there Knightley is still intact (he will have a late desexing at about 18 months in order to let his joints fully mature), so has the extra hormones playing havoc during this teenage period we are getting through this period very well. Apart from the very small amount of resource guarding (primarily when holding a large hunk of raw meat, bones and kibble don't do it) nothing has changed during this time period, for which I count myself lucky. I am also thankful the temperament testing I did has proved accurate and the good training foundation I laid down and the masses of research and reading I do continues to teach Knightley be a well mannered (most of the time) member of our little family. He really isn't looking like a puppy anymore though! Whenever I talk to people about Knightley they are surprised he is only 9 months old. I see him as not much of a puppy but not an adult, but he'll always be my fuzzy baby puppy at heart.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Great public training but things to learn, Knightley full of beans!

9 months 2 weeks 1 day old

Knightley's current vest. I don't like the fact it has a strap
parallel across his chest as that has been proven to restrict
the shoulder joints of dogs. I want one with a Y shape. Overall
 he just acts like he is a  bit uncomfortable and is starting to be a
 little 'equipment shy', in that when the vest comes out, he goes
away, which is definitely not what I want.
So today we had a great trip to our local shopping mall. This was the third time we have gone in. The first time was about 5 minutes, the second time was maybe 10 minutes, but today was probably 40 minutes. It's important to ramp up times in big new places with lots of varied experiences, or the dog can get overwhelmed by the experience. We also went to the food court area to give him practice lying under tables. He did get up twice but I put him straight back into a down. We also need to work on getting him to curl, rather than just go into a down. I have a feeling the reason he was getting up is he finds his vest rather uncomfortable to lie in. It is starting to get a bit small for him in the girth department, and while I could just get a girth extender I would rather get a vest-harness that is more comfortable for him in terms of the style, and less constricting of his maturing joints. I found one I really liked but it would have needed a small adjustment to make it useable, and the people selling it wouldn't do it and were quite rude in their reply too. I have since found a vest/harness at http://www.servicedoghouse.com that I like, but once again I would like an adjustment. However, as they make all their vests from scratch I hope that they will be amenable to it. So far at least, I have received very good customer service from them in comparison to the first place I tried.

Overall his behaviour was very good. The food court was very noisy, we even walked past a toddler having a pretty full on tantrum, and Knightley was completely sanguine. So the distraction part of a PAT would have got a big tick! The only trouble came in one of those $2 type stores, with a feather boa, which Knightley thought looked like the perfect toy for him, and started going for. He definitely longed to plunge his mouth into all those feathers, and I had to tell him 'leave it' repeatedly, and give him a bit of a pull away from them. Oh, he really wanted those feathers! It would actually be a good place to practice in, lots of tiny bits of rubbish on the floor, some narrow isles to practice close heeling next to me turning this way and that.... it was a good experience for him, but once again.... sigh... shows how much work there is to do.

Another thing I really truly must do is teach a tail tuck, but I think it can wait for another month or two, until we start really trying to train for his permit. When he sits next to me, his tail streams out behind him often into the path of traffic walking past. And Knightley has *quite* the tail these days, let me tell you! You can see what I mean in the photo I posted above. I know some people manually move it out of the way with their stick or crutch, but Knightley always gets up from the sit if I do that. I suppose I could just teach him not to move if I do it, but I would rather teach him to move his own tail. That can be harder for some dogs than for others, but Knightley has great back end awareness, so I hope it won't be too hard.

The last several days he has really been full of beans.... galloping everywhere instead of trotting, and wanting to play, play, play. It's like he has lost his puppy sleepiness and has suddenly discovered the boundless energy of late adolescence. I'll play a long game of fetch and he'll go lie down for a bit, but then 20 minutes later he'll be pressing another soggy toy into my hand! Or we'll go for a walk, and I'll make sure he does lots of running around and then we come back, he has a short snooze and then he starts barking at a speck on the wall. Crazy dog. He hasn't been going to the dog park anywhere near as much of late because it is getting dark so much earlier here as winter is coming, and I think that is contributing to the amount of energy he has. Unfortunately the dog park doesn't have floodlights, so if you don't get there by about 5:30pm then it's just too dark. So if you're working until 5, it's pretty much impossible, even taking into account we live close to both our works and the dog park. He got a good romp there this weekend, but that will likely be it until next weekend.

Knightley's raw feeding continues to go well, but I have swapped him over to nightly (!!!) mealtimes only, as he wasn't all that interested in eating in the morning and would just hold the chunk of meat in his mouth for half an hour doing nothing, until I eventually managed to take it away somehow. So it was obvious he was ready to eat once a day. That seems to be working out well, and if he seems particularly hungry during the day I'll either do a training session or give him a raw egg. I tell you what, he really loves beef heart. He could eat that every meal and be a happy dog! Too bad it wouldn't be balanced though.

Going to have some chilly nights this week, all below freezing. Knightley seems to be enjoying the nip in the air, but I'm not! Anyway, that's all from us here downunder. I hope everyone in internetland is well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Knightley's assistance dog permit, public transport, strides towards loose leash

9 months 1 week 4 days old

Working on sit stays outside. Inside these things are easy - outside
Well FINALLY today, after about 11 sporadic months of investigation, calls to different government departments, agencies, various call centres and more I finally hit upon the right person for the question. I had been trying to find out how to get a public access permit for Knightley here in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT, a region somewhat like a state that surrounds Canberra, the capital city of Australia), which is not exactly organised when it comes to assistance dogs. The only mention on the internet of assistance dog access in the ACT is to mention that to get no holds barred public access here your dog must have a permit. So this time I hit upon the right person after like five call transfers and half an hour on hold. All I need to do is when Knightley is fully trained is completely document his training (videos would be helpful apparently), get signatures from any trainers who may have helped me, and get a letter from my doctor saying that I would benefit from an assistance dog. Then I send it into Domestic Animal Services and they assess my training, and they hopefully give me the permit.

My beautiful Knightley, definitely growing up with a very
male Golden Retriever profile. You can see his yellow ACT
tags on his collar. He will get special assistance dog tags if
given the permit.
I will do it properly as if with a program, and keep a full training journal, as well as do the videos. I won't start keeping the journals for maybe another two months, until he is 11 months old. As there is no official format for this application, I will let both IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) and ADI (Assistance Dogs International) be my guide, in terms of training standard and training amount. Both IAADP and ADI recommend a minimum period of six months of training, and I can see Knightley being mature enough at 17 months, so I shall start officially training in two or so months, and Knightley's status in my header will change from "Puppyhood" to "In Training". In my mind he will start being a Assistance Dog in Training then. In North America, where assistance dogs are called service dogs, they called them Service Dogs in Training, but you often see the acronym SDiT. You don't actually see ADiT for some reason. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.... the recommended number of training hours overall is 120, of which 30 hours should be devoted to public outings. Theoretically you can count hours before the six months starts, but I will only be counting those after then. Knightley and I have a lot of work to do.

My good boy. Going well for his age but still lots to learn.
Looking at the IAADP website, the "Manners" section of assistance dog minimum training standards for public access is currently our main concern. Obviously Knightley's task training is the more important part of his training for his job, but I already have a good start on the task training, and the harder tasks can even come after Knightley has got his public access. Which is why all the public access training is so important, and not at all insignificant in its own right. Some of it is improving already, and some of it is not a problem.... but other things aren't so good. Here are the required manners in full, from here, with my comment in red.

Manners: a dog must acquire proper social behavior skills. It includes at a minimum:
A slow(!) recall back to me. Knightley tends to be a fairly steady
dog and I don't mind that, so long as his reactions to my cues are
instant. I would like a bit more dash, but that just aint my boy.
In addition to manners and task training, assistance dogs should
know basic obedience: sit, down, recall, heel, and stay.
  • No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals - no biting, snapping, snarling, growling or lunging and barking at them when working off your property. (easy)
  • No soliciting food or petting from other people while on duty. (no soliciting food fairly easy, but when people reach for Knightley's head, he leans towards them for pats.... so work to be done there)
  • No sniffing merchandise or people or intruding into another dog’s space while on duty. (he occasionally sniffs, and he's quite hopeless around other dogs, LOTS of work there.)
  • Socialise to tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors etc. in a wide variety of public settings. (easy, done this since a young age, will continue to expose him to new situations)
  • Ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity while working outside the home. (not good at this! he will leave the food on cue, but will not ignore on default, heaps of work here)
  • Works calmly on leash. No unruly behavior or unnecessary vocalizations in public settings. (pretty good, some leash work, not unruly but barked on two occasions in public before, need to make him ok with hubby walking out of sight)
  • No urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific command or signal to toilet in an appropriate place. (very good with first command, not quite as prompt with other, one time he had an upset stomach in public and whined and looked at me constantly until I got the message and took him outside, is a good boy!)

A life with this beautiful creature by your side, who would say no?
I know this is not considered a task, and you are not allowed to
have a dog with you for this reason, but Knightley makes me feel
so much more -able-, just having him with me when I am out. He
takes the dis out of dis-ability just by boosting my confidence.
Yep, I love my dog quite a lot. If he were to fail now as an
assistance dog I would be absolutely beyond consolation.,
So, I have something real and tangible to aim for now, which is great because my training has become a little fuzzy of late. I will focus on training that would be part of a PAT (Public Access Test) if Knightley was going to take one. I really like these examples from IAADPs PAT (taken once again from here).

 ( 1 ) safely cross a parking lot, (yes) halt for traffic, (yes) and ignore distractions; (sometimes)
( 2 ) heel through narrow aisles; (fairly well)
( 3 ) hold a Sit-Stay when a shopping cart passes by (yes) or when a person stops to chat and pets the dog; (sometimes flops down for a tummy rub)
(4 ) hold a Down Stay when a child approaches and briefly pets the dog; (yes but sometimes rolls over onto back)
( 5 ) hold a Sit Stay when someone drops food on the floor; (yes) hold a Down Stay when someone sets a plate of food on the floor within 18" of the dog, then removes it a minute later. [the handler may say “Leave It” to help the dog resist the temptation.] (if I can say leave it, yes, if not...)
( 6 ) remain calm if someone else holds the leash while the handler moves 20 ft. away; (yes)
( 7 ) remain calm while another dog passes within 6 ft. of the team during the test. This can occur in a parking lot or store. Alternatively, you could arrange for a neighbor with a pet dog to stroll past your residence while you load your dog into a vehicle at the beginning of the test. (NO!)

So I think I'll do some concentrating on PAT type training for a bit, to get him ready for more public access outings in a couple of months time. Our public outings have been mainly only to our nearby shops, which I have permission for. Unfortunately, I have no rights of public access until he is fully trained, so wherever I take him I must get permission first but I have found businesses to be very accommodating so far. I have taken him very briefly to our big shopping mall, to an office supply store, and we went to that factory outlet mall the other day as well (where I had my first access challenge). That's about it so far though, apart from poking our heads into my work the other day for about 2 minutes so he could get a handle on the floor.

Anyway, that is enough talk of Knightley's permit and his training towards it. Recently we have finally made some strides towards a reasonable loose leash, especially when Knightley is 'working' in his vest. It does partially dissolve under stress, but it is a good start. I have found it very hard to click and treat whilst outside while holding a leash and a crutch, so it has taken me much longer to train than I had wanted. Looking back I would have done it differently from when he was even a baby puppy. When he was a baby I would stop if he pulled, but I was happy enough to have him out of heel position. Now I realise stopping still gives the dog quite a bit of satisfaction, you really must BACK UP as it swings the dog's head away from whatever it wants to get to. If you just stop, it can stare and continue to pull to try to get to the thing it wants. Not good. Also being simply happy to have him not pulling, but not have him in heel position has created a dog who is much harder to now GET in heel position lol. I should have insisted on it from the beginning. There are SO many things I will do differently with my next dog. Poor Knightley gets to be on the receiving end of all my mistakes!

I had some unfortunate news yesterday. Our public transport service (buses) won't allow Knightley to ride until he is fully trained, not even for training purposes. I've been talking to a guy from there for a few days, as I wanted to get him on a bus before he was much older just to get him used to the motion, and lying under my legs etc. The younger the better really - once passed six months that is. But they won't allow him on there until he has his permit, which is completely daft because that means he will theoretically be fully trained and won't have been on a bus. I then had a brain wave and called the guy back and asked if I could take him on a bus while it was in the bus depot. It would allow us to practice getting on and sitting down in various different seats, and would also show the permit people that I had taken my training seriously. Still, I was mighty annoyed. How stupid that a dog has to be fully trained before it can touch a bus, but to be fully trained it should really have experience ON the bus! The world is a silly place.

On that note I shall leave you all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Knightley a lovely boy, lots of offal, comments in lieu of posts, life been busy!

9 months 1 week 2 days old

Firstly, you may notice that I've played around with the design of the blog. Hope you like the change. Also, there are buttons DIRECTLY under each post where you can tell me whether you liked the post or not and more. Please use these as it will guide me in what I write. I take note of what posts I write get the most hits, but this would give me more direct feedback, as most people don't comment (hint, hint).

Things have been very busy, and I was pretty exhausted by my marathon of a last post.... so that partially explains the lack of posts. I've also been responding to a lot of comments recently, most notably to this one on raw feeding about the associated risks (or not) to humans, which I think are extremely minimal unless you are very ill with a compromised immune system and/or have very poor hygiene habits. Which was backed up by my GI specialist when I asked him about it. He actually told a funny story about a child of one of his doctor friends who kept on getting a mild stomach upset again and again, and came to him for answers. After a lot of investigation gave no answers, finally the child's mother caught her drinking from the dog's water bowl. He said something like water is likely to keep the nasties alive (anything wet really), whereas a bare surface isn't so good. Of course bacteria and viruses are another matter.

I've had to take down a few of my more popular posts, just in case anyone has been looking for them. I've been receiving a lot of spam pageviews (and I mean a lot), so I just took those pages down for the moment because it's only three posts and the guestbook that are being spammed. Rather odd, and even more odd that the spam is coming from Canada! Not what one gets to expect.

Knightley and I have done a little public training. We got permission to take him to a big factory outlet mall, and got our very first access challenge from security there, who asked if he was a pet. I mean really, did he look like one?? - he did have all his paraphernalia on. Thankfully due to having permission it was cleared up quickly. They also need to train their staff better that guide dogs aren't the only serving assistance dogs in the world. What if I'd had an invisible disability and Knightley was fully trained so I hadn't needed the permission? I also got assumed as blind for the 10000th time. People in Australia just aren't used to assistance dogs like people in North America are. The person in question actually asked if Knightley had accidentally led me into any light poles today... I mean... really! Anyway, he did well and was called cute/beautiful for the billionth time. We also managed to drop into a butcher and get brains, tripe (not green tripe, more's the pity, it isn't allowed to be sold by butchers in Australia), and spleen!!

I seem to be getting over what seemed to be a flare, and so have been volunteering some more at the Arts Centre. We took Knightley in for the first real time yesterday. He ducked inside the entry way once before months ago and found the ultra slippery floor difficult to manage because he was excited at the time. However yesterday he was good and we walked around the exhibitions briefly with him in control nicely. I'm proud of my boy - we just need to work on our task behaviours some more in public. When I asked him to hold my sunglasses while out at the factory outlet he dropped them instantly.... so I guess I need to take him up to the local shops with my clicker, sit down and just work on the basics of an assistance retrieve from the beginning.

Another thing I need to work on for him is when occasionally allowed to meet people in public for practice, instead of remaining in a sitting position, he will flop to the ground, wanting attention and a tummy rub...... not so good. Practice, practice, practice!

One thing I do love is the way people's faces light up when they see Knightley in a place they don't expect to see dogs. He gives other people joy just by being with me, and he gives me (and my husband too) so much joy in our day to day lives too.