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 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.


  1. I was reading this and thought you were talking about Shai in parts! Ha. If a child is allowed to pet Shai, he also may roll over on his back. He has a problem we are working on sniffing merchandise, but I think English Goldens have such a magnificent nose that it is harder for them to resist. On AKC Canine Good Citizen certification, his biggest challenge was other dogs. Shai's biggest challenge for us is that he also was hopeless around other dogs. Such a problem that I am on my third professional trainer. This one has really gotten Shai to the point of hope. Ha.

    While I was reading this, I told Bart about the public transport system not letting you train him. We said the same thing you did. How stupid. How can a dog be trained before they got on a bus or plane. training requires doing it. Shai will likely never be good on airplanes for example or buses because we have not had access to them. Elevators were hard enough to find. You have to get him on all these thing now or sooner than now.

    Love reading your journey as I am still on the same road. Just down a little farther with Shai now 2.

    1. Knightley and Shai could be cousins. I think our English Goldens just love people so much it is that much harder for that part of the public access training. It's the same for dogs in Knightley's case - he just loves them-, and it sounds like it's also the same for Shai.

      I'm glad you agreed with me about the stupidity of the transport system! They have even denied me the chance to train on a bus at a full stop at a depot. I am extremely annoyed with the whole situation. Part of me wants to push my public access training on faster and ignore the task training just so I can get access to these things. I just don't know. I am just really annoyed at how little give and take there is given to assistance dogs here. Letter to politician coming up, I think.

      Well one plus is he has had a fair bit of experience on elevators.... they don't stop me getting on those!

  2. Hey Lyssa, just catching up on what you and Knightley are up to!

    Re the bus: have you talked to Dean's to see if they have a better policy?

    1. Hey Jodie! It isn't a bad idea to check out Deans, but I wouldn't be expecting a yes from them either. Then also, the fact that they are mostly over state lines might complicate the issue as NSW has different laws about assistance dogs... I just can't believe they won't even let me on a bus that isn't going anywhere. He really should be getting experience on a bus ASAP. I'll keep Deans in mind though.

    2. Hi Lyssa,
      I was having a think about the bus thing while I was on holidays. We unfortunately are in the same boat. Assistance dogs just aren't common here so currently we are fighting quite a bit of legislation. Currently we are trying to get legislation changed to allow assistance dogs on planes ( i.e. qantas and Virgin) Sadly they only recognised "guide dogs and hearing aid dogs" which is CASA's regulations. So currently I have a friend doing alot of work on this with our organisation as it's unfair. The disilibility Discrimination Act was updated in 2010 and yet CASA, and Qantas are quoting old legislation. Makes me cranky though. Anyway a little off topic I know but my friend told me that I could give you her email address and she's happy to fight the good fight with you regarding ACTION buses. I'm just not too sure what exactly she can do as I know you don't have your public access yet but I would be more inclined in getting Knightley to pass this and then teaching him the more specific tasks. That way ACTION buses can't say you aren't allowed on their buses as you would have your public access.

      Also regarding people trying to throw you out of places, remember to stand your ground on this one. I had a security person try to throw me out of DFO. The thing was I had already been there and done what I needed to do and was leaving when he stopped me. Even though my dog is clearly marked as a Service Dog I still get stopped. Unfortunately it will just happen and you will just have to do some educated but remember you and Knightly have rights. This is something that I am constantly faced with but hopefully in time people will try to just accept it. They don't need to understand it but they do need to accept it.

      Is there a way I can send you my friend's email address privately?? I just don't want to post it here. That's if you are interested. Am enjoying reading the blog and the progress you are making with Knightley.

    3. I would love love love to be able to take Knightley on Qantas/Virgin like US/Canada is able to. Some Assistance dogs can - if they are from Assistance Dogs Australia or similar. GRRRR. I am interested about what you said about your friend offering to fight the fight lol. I have often thought there needs to be a lobby group for those with dogs from smaller less recognised programs and owner trained dogs. I was thinking about writing to the Minister here in the ACT in charge of disability matters. I am definitely thinking about getting his public access early just to get access to training things like that. How very frustrating. If your friend has a facebook account she could contact me there, as can you of course (info up on the left bar), or I can give you an email address. Let me know. Sorry about the delay replying, hope you still see this.

    4. Actually, she (and anyone else) can contact me at a new email address:
      downunder (dot) assistance (dot) dog (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. No worries lyssa ill send you her email. unfortunately we aren't a lobby group just a couple of ppl who have assistance dogs in Canberra fighting the fight for others.

    1. That's really good of you. I actually sent off an email to the Minister of the Legislative Assembly responsible for disability issues, generally whining about the lack of info about assistance dogs here in the ACT, and specifically about the problems with ACTION. No reply yet, but we'll see what reply I get from whatever office flunky reads it.

      Yeah I got that you weren't a lobby group... but I think there needs to be one! Assistance Dog Owners Association or something! There should be something official to fight for our rights. The air plane thing really annoys me a lot too, grrr.

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    I've been searching everywhere, calling govt departments and DAS trying to find out what i need to do to get my (owner trained) dog a public permit... No one has been able to tell me anything. Do you mind if i ask where/who it was you were eventually able to find out from?

    The only thing i'm still not clear on is whether i need some kind of permit to take him in public for training purposes... Can you take a dog into 'closed' public spaces (shops, restaurants) while they are in training?

    So far i have been putting him in a vest with 'in training' plastered all over it, carrying a doctors note, an obedience certificate of his, a training qualification certificate of mine and asking permission before taking him anywhere he would not otherwise be expected. I'm just not keen to push this method into more serious in public adventures before i have confirmation that it's appropriate!

    At any rate, i know this is an oldie so if you get about to answering my questions, thank you extra for that but either way, thanks so much for the information and i really look forward to having a browse through the rest of your blog :)


  11. I am also on the same route.
    My new puppy is in training to be my New Assistance Dog (she will be my 3rd Owner Trained Assistance Dog), and I am also in Canberra.
    My current puppy is only 5 months old so is at the VERY beginning of her training.
    While In Training they have the same rights as a certified dog and denying you access is actually against the law (Disability Discrimination Act etc).
    As stated above telling you, that you cannot use public transport until they are trained is counterproductive, they can't get trained unless they do and they can't do until they are trained, that is why when they are "in Training" they have the same or similar rights as a trained dog.
    Good luck in your training I FULLY understand and know what you are going through (and have just started going through it AGAIN, with a new puppy who is TOTALLY different to my last 2 and learns and acts differently (this one has a HIGH prey drive where my last 2 had little prey drive (meaning it was VERY difficult to train my last 2 to retrieve, but this one is doing that MUCH better and easier, but she is slower at learning other things, and seems to be more scared of new things).