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.
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.
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