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, June 27, 2012

A busy weekend, some rough days, shaping, and a new vest for Knightley!

10 months 4 weeks 2 days old

Last weekend was pretty busy! We had winter solstice celebrations and art markets at our Art Centre, and I volunteered there for five long hours. Got a bit chilled too. Ended up doing a pretty full on (for me) 11 hour week there, as there was so much to get done. However, it all came together and was a great success.

I was really tired on Sunday though, after the stress of the obstetrician appointment on Friday, then the long day on Saturday. I guess it wasn't much of a surprise that by early Tuesday morning, my body was in serious pain - too painful to even stay in bed as contact with the mattress was just too much. So I got up super early and went and spent time with Dr Knightley, who did help with his furry happy enthusiasm and long adoring looks. He was a really really good boy actually, and was very gentle and spent a good part of the day on my lap keeping me warm. It's kind of odd how much of a lap dog he has become recently! We weighed him just a few days ago and he is a whopping 34.2kg (75lbs)! Pretty heavy for very nearly 11 months, and particularly heavy for a lap dog!  I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up 36kg (80lbs). He is pretty slim right now too, so it isn't from being too plump although he is a solidly built Golden.

I woke up this morning once again very sore but was able to get back to sleep despite the pain. I have skin rashes on my face, neck and chest too, mostly just really dry tight flaky skin, but some puffy red as well. Just not going through a good patch I guess, and like usual there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I hate feeling so powerless. My skin got so bad about 18 months ago I would only go out with a hat pulled well down over my face. Thankfully it only tends to last for a week or two at most. I had some scans fairly early in my illness that suggested that my heart and lungs were affected too as I had fluid buildup around them, so I suppose during these bad periods that could be some of the pain I am feeling.

Anyway, Knightley and I did some free shaping the other day. I have a little shower stool that ended up being too short for me, but I use it often as a useful little stool, especially as something to sit on during training. This time I used it for some training practice for Knightley. As we started getting into our shaping I made the decision to train him to put one paw up on the stool and started clicking for any interaction with the stool, looking at it and nosing it. He liked being clicked for nosing it and started putting his chin down on it, I clicked that but probably shouldn't have.... because it wasn't really any closer to what I wanted and he then developed an obsession with putting his chin down. I couldn't help myself because it was so cute and clicked it again, and then decided to move on and ask for more interaction. Of course he put his chin down again and when I didn't click straight away he got annoyed with me! Barking at first, then just sitting looking at me sulking. Then he started looking at the stool again and we were away. He nosed and prodded it, and I just kept on clicking, trying to tell him that yes it was something with the stool. Eventually he prodded it with his foot and instead of just one treat after the click, I gave him like five and a bunch of pats. He got that message! After then it was all about trying to extend the amount of time he kept his paw on the object. He did well. Even though my description sounds like it went on for a while it was pretty quick and he did well. I've thought about turning it into a trick where he pats things on command, and actually lifts his paw up and down. I reckon that'd be pretty cute. Training tricks will really improve your skills as a trainer, especially if you use techniques such as shaping which relies on timing, and an understanding of basic clicker theory and canine body language.

Knightley's new mobility vest, which is 99.5% finished.
I am very happy with it and think it could be a very good
seller. I'm thinking of making a few of them and putting them
on eBay just to get a bit of income coming in!
Before I went into this flare I managed to finish - more or less at least, before I ran out of thread, again - Knightley's new Y chest mobility vest. I am very happy with it! I can think of an improvement, but only one and I need some new hardware for it - which I have ordered but it's coming from Canada!

Knightley seems to find it really comfortable which was the main aim really. He just didn't like his old one from Active Dogs, especially when it came to relaxing under a table. This vest is by far the most complex I have made so far and has got me thinking about making a full on mobility harness with solid handle. That will really be the challenge. The wadding I am using is reasonable for what I am using it for, but for the stiffness of a small stable saddle that needs to take part of a person's weight I will need to source something else. The thing is, many of the mobility harnesses around are made of leather, so the leather itself gives it much of its stiffness.

Seeing the vest spread out on the floor. I made the chest pad
just a bit too big, but I will know for next time.
When Knightley is fully mature I will myself be wanting a mobility harness so it's worth developing something! I'm thinking some thin plastic cut into strips, something like PET, may stiffen the saddle... at least where I won't be sewing - because while my sewing machine is managing pretty well so far, it couldn't cope with several layers of webbing, cordura and plastic! Anyway, feel free to suggest ideas people.

I have been thinking a lot about my obstetrician appointment quite a bit since last Friday.  He really was quite negative about the idea of me having a baby but we really are going to try. I have also been thinking about Knightley and our training, in terms of when we are going to try for kids. I would really like to get Knightley to a really helpful point, AND to a really reliable point in six months if at all possible, as that is when we are aiming for, for baby try time. If I've lost enough weight by then, in the obstetrician's opinion! I put on quite a bit when I was on steroids, lost a bit of it, then gained it back when I was put on another medication. I'm also lacking in appetite a lot of the time, probably because the most exercise I get these days is my slow walks with Knightley. So I eat nothing, then probably make up for it too much - not so much the wrong sort of foods, just eating at the wrong times and not often enough. Add in my medications and it is so easy to put on weight. :( So I want Knightley to be able to really help by the time I will possibly becoming pregnant because it would be a difficult, painful and potentially risky time for me - so anything he could do to help would be really great. Realistically it won't happen when we start trying, but I'd like Knightley's training to get more serious soon. He does turn 11 months old tomorrow afterall! (and it's my Dad's birthday). I just need to make sure Knightley learns to walk REALLY politely on the leash before that time so I don't risk getting pulled over. Staying pregnant is going to be a huge challenge.

So that's what has been going on with the gorgeous muttley mutt and myself, and why I haven't been doing many posts! Hope everyone is well out in internet land.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Massive news: a very very very important appointment, a Birthday, the Come Game, new gear

Well, the last few days Knightley has just been absolutely CRAZY with energy, especially in the evenings. The type of energy where he jumps on and off the couch 30 times and there is no reduction in his eagerness to GO! Hubby and I had a great session of the "Come Game" with him, and he was the most enthusiastic he has ever been about it (skidding around corners, bashing into furniture.... he was running for the reward of chopped up beef heart, his favourite, but still!).

For those who don't know it, the Come Game is a fun technique from Sue Ailsby's Training Levels (following the so called tab in the title bar to find out more about her Training Levels) to teach your dog to come. You really need to have an assistant with you, and both have clickers (or you can say 'yes!' in a happy tone, but clickers are always more accurate and more helpful to the dog). The main trainer or person most likely to elicit a successful recall starts the game by making some noises (NOT using a 'come' cue).... and as the dog turns and comes towards them, that person clicks/yesses, and as soon as the dog gets to them, they give the dog their treat. Instantly that person loses all interest in the dog, looks into the distance and becomes really boring and the other person starts making recall type noises (pup pup pup!!! or something). As soon as the pup turns and starts coming towards them, they click/yes and treat the dog upon their arrival, maybe a few happy pats, then completely boring.... then the other calls again.

Once the dog knows how the Come Game works you can use it to introduce, or work on your come cue. As your dog swings around to start running towards you, say your cue, click (assuming your dog keeps running!) and lots of praise and treats when it arrives - then ignore and continue like usual. Use really fantastic treats and pick a time your dog is full of energy. It actually tired Knightley out better than a walk would have!

Having said that though, after an hour or two he is back to his normal self. He has also rather suddenly decided that he is a lap dog. When he's particularly full of beans, he thinks bounding like a kangaroo from the floor onto my lap while I'm sitting on the couch is a good idea. Keep in the mind this is the dog who would have us think that 95% of the time he can't get into the back of our stationwagon. Uh huh dog. I actually like how he developed this thing for lying over laps, even though only a fifth or so of him fits on.... maybe a sixth, I'm not sure. I rather like the pressure (as long as it isn't a sudden 33kg (73lbs) kangaroo hop) and the warmth is lovely for my ever sore legs.

On a rather different topic, today is my lovely hubby's birthday! Last night I actually put some effort into our evening meal and cooked a roast beef as tonight we will go out for our meal... so he got a home cooked birthday meal out of me too. He was out at a movie with his work friends for a couple of hours, so when he got back I had the roast all ready to go - well rested too! My chef friend would have been proud. It was really really nice if I say so myself, very pink and very very juicy! I used quite a few spices on it, and Knightley even got a taste after we had finished and he definitely approved!!! We have plenty left over so I will be able to use it for super high value treats for Knightley as well as for sandwiches etc. Anyway, happy birthday to my ever cheerful hubby who is so good to me, especially when I am particularly sick. Any birthday comments on here will be passed on lol.

Design #5 in all its glory. This a prototype with a black 1000 Denier
Cordura lining, and a rip proof showerproof polyester top.
Knightley got to play dog model again last night. I'd been having some trouble with the quality of my thread, so went out and bought new thread. I need to find some good thread suppliers online as I can't afford shop prices for heavy duty upholstery thread. Anyway, my next assistance dog design is finished, but I think I will change it a bit. I intentionally made it a little smaller, so hopefully will get another dog to model it (maybe at the dog park?). It's what I'd call a medium, and Knightley *just* squeezes into it.

A very comfortable dog - comfort for the dog is my greatest
This one is design #5, a basic band to sew patches to, with no D rings or handles or anything. It can come with two layers or Cordura, or one layer Cordura and one of ripproof shower proof polyester. The polyester version is a nice light band which can get wet and will dry easily. The Cordura version is just your normal heavy vest material and once wet will take a while to dry. Both are strong. I made this one with contrasting white stitching, which could be requested if anyone took a fancy to it.

Oops, I cut off his nose! Thankfully Knightley is good at
standing and waiting/staying. I'm planning to shorten the vest
a little but everything else will be more or less the same!

Like with my Design #1 you can see the dog has a good range of motion and it is very comfortable - this is despite it being a little too small! Once again, like Design #1 it has quick release buckles on the girth, but whilst being adjustable on the chest, it doesn't have a quick release buckle. You just slip it over your dog's head then do up the girth and away you go!

My final bit of news is I had a very very important medical appointment today. Hubby took the day off, partly to go with me, partly because it is his birthday anyway! I hadn't mentioned it on here before because I wanted to keep it under wraps until this appointment was over, but for the last three weeks or so I've started dieting to try to lose weight. I've already lost 5kg (11lbs). I always battle with my weight, but even more so now with the complete lack of aerobic activity I do, and all the medicines I am now on that have weight gain as a major side effect. But now I have a very serious reason to try to loose a reasonable amount of weight.

This is because today I saw an obstetrician. About seven weeks ago my GP talked to me about the slowly fading possibility of me having children. I have always wanted kids, but she said my body is going to be less able as time goes on so if I wanted the I really must grab the time soon to try. Hubby and I had always planned on waiting a few more years until trying but my lovely GP said that definitely wasn't a good idea. So she got me an appointment with high risk pregnancy specialists, and today we went. I have been reading about lupus/auto-inflammatory diseases and pregnancy, plus the many other things that I have problems with.... and it had certainly been scaring me a bit. I had been hoping for an appointment today that would be at least mildly reassuring but instead the obstetrician came very close to telling us not to try, but said he couldn't tell us it was impossible because nothing is ever impossible. I am certainly going to find it very hard to get pregnant, and just as hard to stay pregnant.... not to mention the sheer pain of it all. Then handling having a young baby will be extremely difficult, but at least that can be managed. The pregnancy bit is all down to my body. About half of my medications would need to change, it even means having injections every day - ugh.

So that's my rather massive news. I go back to the hospital in September to see how I am going with my weight loss and general health, and we will be planning the pregnancy further. We have to wait for when my body feels fairly well before trying for a bub, but we hope for sometime early in the new year. I'll be seeing  my immunologist next month so will be getting his take on all of this then.

This blog might become a bit about weight loss with mobility problems and possibly even a high-risk pregnancy if I am very very lucky. I hope none of you mind, these battles to be 'normal' is what living with a disability is all about - especially as a younger person, and it very much links into my posts about training Knightley. So wish us luck, we're going to need it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A new page for Australian assistance dog equipment

10 months 3 weeks old

So, if you are observant you may have noticed straight away that there is a new 'tab' up the top of the page that says 'Assistance Dog Designs'. I just spent a heap of time making rather horrible drawings of each of my designs, and doing non-horrible descriptions of them (well I hope they are non-horrible lol). That way if any of my Aussie readers (and I know you're out there even if you don't comment!) are interested in some of the capes/vests/harnesses etc that haven't been finalised yet, they can just wait for what they are interested in.

I will be offering this gear to overseas customers but not until I am more set up, website, PayPal etc.

I have been quite busy, going between actually doing things and falling asleep on the couch... hence the lack of real entries. I took Knightley on a training trip to the shopping mall on the weekend, as I needed to buy some better needles for going through many thick layers of webbing and nylon fabrics - as I broke a needle a couple of days ago after it having struggled to sew the handle onto the vest. Knightley was pretty great. There were some fluffy feathers on the floor of the sewing shop and he DIDN'T GO FOR THEM!!! Shocking!!! Amazing!! Usually he would break focus and scoop them up in his mouth... Not this time. We might be getting somewhere. We then went on and got some fish for Knightley's evening meal (I try to feed fish once every month to six weeks), as well as three huge ox tongues to freeze. There was a little girl, about 2 years old, who couldn't stop looking at Knightley. Her parents were telling her that Knightley was a special dog and wasn't scary - obviously she was scared of dogs. I asked her parents if she would like to meet Knightley. So they came over and I told Knightley to visit, and he was very good, stayed in a sit (no flopping onto his back for a belly rub as he likes to do!) and very polite. The little girl was still quite timid but her parents thanked us for allowing the opportunity.

Knightley is getting very close to opening the door/cupboards the whole way now, by holding on to his shower scrub and backing up. Sometimes he only goes several steps and it doesn't get enough momentum, sometimes he gets in the way of the door. It isn't as simple as it sounds! Once he has got the idea there are still further things to deal with. Still, we are getting really close. While I don't need it on a day to day basis, I do go out in a wheelchair if I am am 'flaring' or if it's a long distance, and opening doors in a chair can be a big pain in the behind. Previously I usually go with someone if I am in a wheelchair, but I am looking into getting a much better wheelchair that I could move easily myself, and when Knightley is fully grown he could help me too. So that's why I am teaching this. That and there is one cupboard in the kitchen which is very low and it would help if he could open it for me.

I have started on one more simple piece of equipment before I go for a tricky one (the mobility vest), but it's great to have one completely finished. I'm quite proud of my first effort too. Here's Knightley modelling the final finished Design #1 last night. It is for sale to Australian residents now, in blue, red and black.

Anyway, time for me to do something today!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My first prototype - an assistance dog vest/belly band

Well, Knightley got to play fashion dog model last night. After starting two days ago and with a few hiccups I have produced my first prototype. I wanted to start with something easy to sew, so chose a small vest/belly band. It is padded, has two layers of 1000 denier Cordura, adjustable two ways - and has a single D ring for a leash attachment and an optional handle (note, not for mobility reasons, only for holding your dog!). Earlier yesterday I finished the main part of it, and had Knightley show off that and took a bunch of photos, then later last night I added the D ring and nearly finished the handle too.

Padded assistance dog belly band/small vest, with D ring and handle. Best of all
for all you fellow Aussies.... made in Australia with Australian fabric too!
Click on the image to enlarge it and see the vest in more detail.
For a first effort I am very happy with it! I wasn't sure which side to put the male/female quick release plastic fasteners, so stuck to what Knightley's ActiveDogs vest already had. Now I think I would rather it the other way. Any input?

Knightley seemed very happy in it with no restriction of movement.

I was trying to get a photo where you could actually see the chest
strap, but really couldn't because of his growing fur! So I resorted
to the following pic...

Knightley in his 'relax' position. This way we can see the construction
of the vest as he lies on the ground. He seems to find all positions
very comfortable with it on. I would be happy to make Y chest versions
although I don't see the need with this one. If you notice, I have placed
the chest straps fairly high up so they shouldn't interfere with shoulder
movement, and this isn't a mobility type vest anyway and the straps
shouldn't need to be fastened tightly.
This version would come in blue or red. Or black if you wanted. And I am considering optional mesh pockets on the side, and if you wanted a black vest I would give it blue pockets to give it some colour. At the moment I would only be taking Australian customers until I get set up a bit more. So if anyone is interested in this, and any more designs to come, let me know either here or by emailing downunder (dot) assistance (dot) dog (at) gmail (dot) com !

Any comments on the design please do tell me. This is just a prototype as I said so is open to improvement!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stunning drawing of my assistance dog mobility harness plans!

10 months 2 weeks 1 day old

So, I'm lying in bed right now at 20 to 4 in the middle of the night on my laptop writing this. I've been fiddling with designs for a heavy duty mobility harness, which I wouldn't consider manufacturing for a good little while - if ever. Having said that, it would be nice to have it on the market and have that option.......

Anyway, I thought my absolutely stunning artwork deserved to be shared with the world at large. Do keep in mind that I did this on my laptop in complete darkness on a trackpad!

My plan for a mobility harness. It would be a Y chested harness, with
padded nylon straps, a padded cordura saddle, D rings for a foam or
padded webbing handle, and a static handle for balance and support.
It would have the additional belly strap that sits just behind the chest
for additional stability. It would also have a padded cordura chest plate,
for safer more comfortable pulling. This harness could feasibly be used
for limited wheelchair pulling.

I think the smile is quite delightful! It really did come out quite horse like, but I was aiming for a golden retriever, lol.

The only Y chest mobility harness I know of is the Bridgeport harness, which has a reasonable amount of negative feedback. I'd really like to give another option, and if I can make it a reasonably cheap harness, that would give another cheaper option (unlike the nearly $400 Bold Lead harness, plus $50+ for postage to Australia). The only thing I am stuck on as part of the design is what to make the static handle out of. At the moment I am thinking aluminium would be easiest, but I would have to get it custom fabricated for me and I have absolutely no idea how expensive that type of thing is. The other possibility is plastic, and that has more possibilities perhaps - I don't know whether it would need fabricating in one piece or whether it could be somehow made into that shape with three bits..... So as you can see it would be a more complicated design than the others I am planning. It could possibly be the most popular though.

Anyway, while I am writing a fairly frivolous post anyway, I may as well say that I actually have a confession to make. I've been spying on you. Blogger comes equipped with some basic monitoring software to let you know who is visiting your site, but I've been using some more advanced stuff for the last couple of months. They just updated their software and it has made me realise I actually have quite a few regular readers from all over the place.

Mostly I find this revelation really nice. I just wish you would all come out of the woodwork and say hello. Some of you out there are reading for months, often, and just keep to yourselves! I am glad you enjoy reading my ramblings and looking at horrible drawings of dorses (dog/horse), but Knightley really likes it when I pass on hugs from his fan club, so don't be shy.

Ooops just dozed off for a bit there. I actually have more success sleeping sitting up than lying down these days, I think it's just a less painful position.

Anyway, time to try sleeping properly again! Hope you enjoyed the dorse, and I hope you don't mind a bit of spying.... it helps me produce a better blog.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mud everywhere! A life reward for Knightley

10 months 2 weeks old

For being such a good boy yesterday Knightley had a treat today - what trainers call a 'life reward'. We went to a dog park we had never been to before, which is rather different to our usual one. It has separate small dog/large dog areas, and a muddy little stream running through both fenced in areas. It also has a bunch of pine trees and lots more to explore - simply lots of interest.

Sitting down in a massive pool of mud. He ended up being a
black faced, black legged dog. He certainly didn't look like his
normal beautiful cream colour!! And I only washed him earlier
this week!!!
He had some fun playing with the other dogs, running around exploring at first... and then he started discovering the mud. Oh dear. Really really oh dear. At first it was just the paws, but when two labs eventually joined him they started running back and forward along the muddy little stream getting absolutely disgusting. The final 'nail in the coffin' came when he started digging in a deep pool of slick mud, dipping his face right into the mud.... and then sat right down in it. Everyone watching just groaned. Hubby was in two minds of being horrified and finding it funny.

Digging in the mud. He was so so so very happy and pleased
with himself. He really deserved today. You can't even see his
head because it is so black with mud!
For me it was just great seeing him so carefree and having so much fun. I really didn't care that he was getting so dirty - although it just wouldn't have been possible before our new car. Although in the future we will be prepared for this dog park by bringing water and towels.... we didn't realise it came equipped with mud baths!! Anyway, he raced back and forward with the labs, getting more and more mucky and I thought sooner or later he would lie down in the mud. So we decided to leash him up and leave. But he was just too dirty to go in the car, so we walked the short distance down to the big central (and unfortunately very polluted) lake here in Canberra and Knightley had a quick dip to get the worst of the mud off. Then as soon as we got  home it was time for his second bath this week. I had heard that Golden Retrievers are drawn to mud like flies to honey but this was the first time that Knightley had access to real honest to goodness sticky gluggy mud - and he absolutely adored his time. He was still galloping round when we decided to go - I think he would have kept on going for ages.

His other muddy playfellow. Unfortunately Knightley with the
long fur got a much worse dose of mud..... or fortunately if
you asked Knightley!
I believe it is very important for dogs that are getting a lot of training, especially in public access training in high stress situations like supermarkets which Knightley had yesterday, that they have ample time to relax and just enjoy themselves. Dogs are dogs after all! If dogs do dream, which judging by the funny noises Knightley makes while he is sleeping he certainly does, he'll be dreaming about his wonderful day tonight. I also found a four leaf clover while I was there, so it was a good outing all round. Hopefully I will indeed get good luck!

A couple of days ago I received some top quality grain free, single meat ingredient kibble in the post. I plan to use it only for treats and in the Manners Minder, and Knightley actually loves it. So that's really great. I will minimise its use as much as possible but it's nice to know there is something there if I don't have time or the opportunity to cut up some raw meat. We've been working on his retrieve some more as it has become a little sloppy - sometimes when he picks up things for me he won't walk all the way towards me to put it in my hand, or he won't lift it right up to my hand level. It's going nicely in the training sessions though. I'm trying to keep our sessions short and upbeat so raise his enthusiasm level, especially with his recall, which has never been his most enthusiastic behaviour unfortunately. I'm also planning to start working on different types of retrieves - with his lips on delicate objects. His retrieve is one of his most important tasks for me so I want to train it well. Another thing I really want to work on is his mat behaviour. Specifically on the mat beside me while I am on my desktop computer. I want to look for a really portable mat to buy - one that would be easy enough to roll up and take with me to various places. He certainly knows what "on your mat!" means, but I want to extend his time on the mat from a minute or two to half an hour and more.

Anyway, all is going well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fantastic public access training and teaching the family to walk Knightley!

10 months 1 week 6 days old

Today I needed some prescriptions filled, and the shops are not at all far away and Knightley needed some public access work so off we went together. He behaved like a dream!! I can't actually believe what a good boy he was. First I went to drop my scripts off (I had like 7 to get filled, yes I take a *lot* of medication), then I had about 15 minutes to use up while we were waiting. So we went into the supermarket to do some training. He was such a good boy. I had his halter on really loosely (the Infin8 is very different to other halters, it acts more like a mix of a collar and halter and as you slowly loosen it, it becomes even more like a collar), but he didn't try to pull at all and heeled very nicely. There was a bunch of onion peel on the floor in one place and I saw him eyeing it but told him to 'leave it' and he instantly ignored it. What a good puppy! There was very little sniffing, and he ignored the people completely! Wowsers. Despite the fact I am doing very little public access work (I decided that once a week is enough until he reaches a year of age when I will start taking it more seriously) he is still learning from each trip we do together.

Looking a bit lonely in a stay, doing some training
in the supermarket. Maybe he's worried I'm about
to leave him?? I don't know. Each time I put him in
a stay he seemed to get a little mournful. Maybe I
need to work on me leaving him as a wonderful
 thing - rather than me coming back to him.
I did some basic obedience practice inside the supermarket. We were there at a time that wasn't too busy, so the aisles were relatively empty. We did basic sits, wait then recall from the end of the leash, stay with me walking around him in a circle, and then stay with me dropping the leash and walking a few metres away. All perfect. Then I went out of the supermarket and into what is still an inside area but was not very populated, and we worked on down stays where I stepped over him, and worked on stepping near his head and tail without him shifting. All once again perfect! GOOD BOY! I was so happy with him. We left it there and went into the chemist to wait for my prescriptions, where I let him 'visit' with one of the assistants there. He was very grave and gentle and stayed sitting - yay! One of the problems I have is with him flopping down on his back for a tummy rub from a sit or down when I allow visits. He got lots of praise and a treat for staying in a sit. Then into a down stay under my feet while I sat and waited for my meds.

After everything was done I took the handle of his vest, and he walked nice and slow and loose home. I am training him that only if I put pressure on the handle is he to lean into the vest. Otherwise he isn't to pull. Even without him pulling it still helps with my balance overall.... it just makes me feel safer. I am just so much more confident with Knightley - and he is only beginning to work for his living!

Anyway, soon after we got home Knightley and I were off to my parents place for an afternoon with my parents and brother. Knightley had a great time exploring their big backyard, getting into all sorts of trouble. He decided that tearing up weed mat is a LOT of fun and kept on returning to do it again and again throughout the evening whenever he went outside. I think we encouraged him a bit because the first time he did it was so funny - I think in his doggy mind he was trying to help as my mum was trying to pick up bits of weed mat. My parents will be looking after Knightley for one night in July and two in August as we have a wedding to go to in Sydney in July, then we are going to a company weekend for my hubby's work in August up at the snow. We went last year just before we brought Knightley home (have a look at this old post from last year if you are interested in seeing snow in Australia! Yes, it does exist!) and it was a good weekend. Maybe next year we'll take Knightley when he has his permit. It is becoming more and more likely in my eyes that Knightley will indeed become a fully functioning assistance dog. Unless there is a big personality change we are on track.

Anyway.... back to what I was talking about.....! So, as my parents will be looking after Knightley, today we all took him for a short walk, and I had his Easy Walk harness on him to make it relatively easy for them. They all had a go, including my brother, and it went pretty well really. I showed them how to walk backwards if Knightley pulled to get him back into a rough heel position so that he will learn he can't get away with pulling with them. It helped that Knightley was pretty tired already from our trip to the shops and doing training there, and then romping around their garden. They may not find it quite so easy first thing on a morning! I also went through quite a few of Knightley's basic cues with them, although I think providing them with a 'cheat sheet' is a good idea. When we got back Knightley eventually flopped down and slept. I am pretty sure that he will have a good time with my parents and will get quite spoilt. They are quite fond of him, and as long as they keep up the exercise I am sure he won't cause too much bother. A tired dog is a good dog! My mum is also keen to do all the raw feeding stuff while she has him under her roof, so that's good. I believe she is also quite keen to get the food too, although I did offer to bring over weighed, bagged food to make it easier. We shall have to go on a shopping trip and get enough for the three nights he will end up spending under their roof.

I need to have a raw food shopping trip myself actually. I've nearly emptied our freezer of food for Knightley except for a few bags of bits of turkey. I have no red meat left and no organs. So it's definitely time to do some shopping! Maybe a bunch of beef heart, and some ox tongues would be great. Lamb necks are really cheap too, give him great healthy red meat and take him ages to eat so they tire him out! This is an vital consideration because Knightley has sooo much more energy than he used to! I used to wonder if Knightley would ever actually have the stamina to be an assistance dog, but I guess it was just puppy energy.... puppies are always going 100% to 0%. Speaking of not being a puppy anymore, the leg continues to raise, but only very occasionally and only against trees!

My final bit of news is I've set up my new sewing machine and have started playing with it. I have also ordered my fabric to make my prototypes, and bought a few more bits and pieces at a sewing store last week. Once the fabric, webbing and clips/D rings/O rings/etc arrive I'll be good to start on my first vest. It will be a mobility harness/vest, as Knightley needs a new one, so that will be my first priority. The sewing machine is extremely easy to use and I'm very happy with my purchase.

So today was a really good day. Knightley is coming along so well and I am bursting with pride!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The leg has risen! And many decisions to make

10 months 1 week 3 days old

Well!!! After some twitches, and then peeing closer and closer to trees until he was almost trying to be absorbed into them... Knightley has finally lifted his leg! It was very matter of fact, no wobbling around as I have heard other dogs do on their 'first time', and he wasn't even proud of himself! Well, I'll be proud of him for him. Some people de-sex their male dogs when they first lift their leg to pee, as it usually happens somewhere between 8-12 months and shows something I guess as relates to sexual maturity. I think it's a bit odd though. Much better to de-sex when the growth plates have fused at around 18 months, leaving the joints properly formed and reducing risks of hip dysplasia. It also reduces the risk of many cancers that Golden Retrievers are prone to.

Anyway, Knightley got *SO* mucky on our morning walk yesterday, rolling in wet muddy grass and splashing around in a rather full storm drain that I decided I couldn't wait to take him to the pet store's self service dog bath, and that he needed to be washed NOW! He wasn't thrilled with the prospect but he put up with it. I've trained him to like baths more than he may have by stuffing him with chicken whenever water and shampoo come out. He is definitely better than my previous dog Clipsy was in the bath!! I so love positive reinforcement. Knightley is even softer now, if that's possible. I love resting my face against his coat and feeling him breathe, and now he smells so nice too! Having said that though, he never gets that doggy smell anymore, not since I started feeding raw. Anyway, I was completely and absolutely exhausted from bathing a rather wilful 10 month old 32kg (71 lbs) bag of muscle and fur... but the results are worth it. Now I am reluctant to take him anywhere he is likely to get filthy! I'll try to get a nice photo of him in the sun tomorrow and add it to this post.

The good news is today arrived a very generous bunch of fabric samples from the place I shall be ordering my fabric from to make the assistance dog vests/capes/bands etc. The company has been great to deal with so far, and they are even giving me a 10% discount as I described my situation and asked if a discount was at all possible - not really expecting one. So that was nice of them! Anyway, I was just planning to make everything out of Cordura, which is the standard for the heavier vests etc, but they sent so many samples in a huge folder and it has raised more possibilities. So today I spent a good couple of hours going over my designs and have come up with some really good options - but there are still so many decisions to make!

So far I am planning:

  • a fairly heavy duty mobility vest/harness with a Y chest and plastic handle, which is what I will work on first as I want to make one for Knightley
  • another one similar to the mobility vest/harness with Y chest and plastic handle, but it will be with lighter fabric and with partial mesh - for summer
  • a simple belly band, which will be extremely comfortable and can be made in really any size
  • a more substantial style belly band with a handle on top (looking at sourcing plastic handles)
  • a fairly heavy double layer cape with or without zippered pockets
  • a lighter cape made of light waterproof materials, half mesh - for summer
  • errrr and one more that I can't remember off the top of my head and I am not getting out of bed at this time of night to check my plans, so I'll edit this later to add it!
I'm also planning a basic guide dog harness, and I'd like to try to make a Y shape chest version if possible.

If anyone has any suggestions to make things other stores don't carry, please do let me know! I'm going to order in some other bits and pieces that I have found useful myself, like flashing lights to attach to collars, handy gear for on the go like water feeder bottles, snap open treat pouches, clip on saddle packs (which I would likely make) and more. I'll be starting slow and just seeing how things go at first. I made up some patterns today, just out of newspaper... but it's a start. I'll be ordering fabric to make my prototypes tomorrow. Also, after not being quite sure whether to or not, I have decided to go ahead and register myself as a sole trader business. It was going to be problematic using PayPal if I didn't, so it will be much easier this way. I was planning on starting very much as a hobby, but I guess I may as well treat it a bit more seriously from the get go. Who knows where this could lead. Probably selling the sewing machine on as second hand in six months time! grin.

We had a good training session this evening, with Knightley nicely enthusiastic. He really is a very good dog when he's 'in the game' and wants to train. We did lots of 'flat', cupboard closing, hand targeting, sit from flat etc. All great. Then we went outside before I went to bed but he was quite hyped up and he pulled like a steamtrain.... sigh. He has interesting equipment association - he is pretty good in his various harnesses, really good in his vest, but with a simple leash attached to his day to day collar it's like a signal from on high to pull mummy's arm out of it's socket. Of course I refuse to be pulled and walk backwards and all those good things, but he's just so full of energy these days he isn't really able to think! I wonder where the flirt pole has got to... that's what we need I think...... He actually did stop pulling once we reached the grass as it's rather cold here tonight, -5 C (23 F), and he stopped to work out why his feet were crunching and so cold! It's going to be a very heavy frost. I wish we'd have some snow, I'd love to see what Knightley would make of it but snow in Canberra is rarer than it used to be. I am going to actually have a trip up to the ski fields again this year in a couple of months time (only a couple of hours away) but Knightley is going to stay with my parents. He'd be allowed to come if he was qualified, even though it's in a protected National Park.... but he's still a long way from his permit.

Speaking of Canberra, I've added a few Qs to the FAQs page, specifically one talking about Canberra which is a rather interesting city - originally designed by an American! I've also updated some of the other pages too, so have a read especially if you haven't done so before. I'm so very tired at the moment I'm not able to do much other than fiddle on the computer - oh, and sleep which I am doing very well during the day at the moment but not so well at night! LOL! Bodies.... crazy things!

Take care of yourself internetland.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Assistance dog equipment plans progressing, and some car training

10 months 1 week 1 day old

Well, if you're a regular reader of mine, you'll know that I've been considering starting a bit of a hobby/small business making assistance dog equipment. There is literally no one in Australia making that type of stuff, everything has to be imported from overseas. I often get search queries from inside Australia looking for vests and harnesses, so there is obviously a niche to be filled. I've looked into costs and done quite a few sums trying to figure out profits on individual items, and it looks reasonable. It is also something I can do from home without having to exhaust myself.

My new sewing machine! For heavy duty sewing with leather,
thick nylons, upholstery fabrics and the like. Well up to the task
yet not ridiculously big. I'm itching to start!
So, I've gone ahead and bought a heavy duty sewing machine, which arrived yesterday. My sewing skills are a little rudimentary, enough to sew basic clothes, but certainly enough to sew doggy equipment. I'll be glad to improve my skills anyway, which I am sure they will rapidly! Today I've made a rather large order of webbing and lots of clips, D rings, O rings and lots more. I've also asked for a quote for some black, red and blue Nylon Cordura 1000 denier, which is what the good vests and capes are made out of. I've also asked for some samples of some lighter polyesters. I've done some sketches of possible designs and have come up with five basic designs, from a very simple loose belly band that you can put patches on, to a quite substantial extra padded Y shaped chest mobility vest-harness. I'd really like to make one of the latter ones for Knightley, so I might start refining the design of that one first. I'll then make up some prototypes and then run them by my vet for his opinion. I'm not making anything wildly different from anything out there, so I can't imagine their would be anything problematic physically about the designs, but you can't be too sure can you?

I'll also be making basic collars and leashes, including the 'euro' type leash which is so useful for assistance/service dog handlers. I'm considering a no pull harness as well, we'll see. But there is a lot of practice to do first, including getting used to my lovely brand new sewing machine. If things went well I would look into buying a second hand embroidering machine, just a domestic one, so I could make my own patches. In the meantime I'll buy in ones from where I usually get my own patches. Hopefully they'll do me a bulk deal. Edit: if you'd like to know the exact details of what I'm planning to make, take a look at my next entry!

So, it's exciting times. But onto other topics.

I've decided to take Knightley to the vet sometime soon and get his hips checked out to assuage my worries. Before I go though I will get pet insurance for Knightley. I was intending to wait until Knightley was a year old and we started his more advanced training in earnest, but his hips have really been making me nervous, so I think I might take out the insurance early just in case something is wrong. His hips seriously sway when he walks, and it *looks* like his right hip sort of clicks when he walks. It gets to a point in his stride where it moves very suddenly, kind of like a click although I haven't been able to hear anything. I have also noticed that he has mostly stopped lying on his side and always does a 'sphinx' down. While the sphinx down is the proper down, I do wonder about the reason for the change.... could it be a sore hip??

I've been extremely tired and sore today and haven't been up to much but sitting on the couch, and I think Knightley realises it somehow. He has this amazingly serious expression on his face, as if he is carrying the entire weight of the world on his furry shoulders at this very moment. We definitely have cultivated a very close bond.... I just really really wish he would alert to my migraines, specifically the ones that come out of nowhere. I've been doing some web searches on training migraine alerts if it isn't innate (some dogs just do it naturally) but haven't come up with much. Awww, he just crawled onto my lap.... well, as much of him as will fit. His head and one of his legs crawled onto my lap. The other leg is trying to but keeps falling off lol. What a darling he is.

I'm doing bits and pieces of training - what I would call incidental training - despite feeling pretty run down at the moment. For instance the new car is a stationwagon (does the whole world call it a stationwagon, I don't know?? oh well), so now Knightley can go in what is really the boot (wagon?) and have so much more room. I had his car protocol trained pretty well before, he'd get in (extremely clumsily like the ungainly teenager he is), be clipped into the seatbelt and lie down and relax nicely. When we got to the place, I'd open the door, unclip him and tell him to wait until I told him to jump off. At the moment he isn't fastened into the wagon part, and even needs help to get up there. So I'm working on his jumping (just low jumps of course as he is young). Jumping is included in Sue Ailsby's Training Levels, which is what I've used to train Knightley's basics. He's actually quite good at jumping over things, but isn't much happy at jumping up onto things. We'll continue practicing because even lifting half of him is semi heavy and I certainly don't want to have to reach down to his paw level.

The other bit of training of note I've done as relates to the car was done very much on a sudden whim - I didn't have any treats with me, so instead of using pure positive reinforcement, which is what I rather, I had to use negative punishment (taking away a good thing). Since Knightley isn't clipped in at the moment, as soon as the wagon door comes up, he tries to jump out. I would much rather a controlled exit, in fact it is generally required in some of the PATs (public access tests) out there. There are a few things I should learn from this, as I found he wouldn't actually 'stay' in this situation. Dogs are very poor generalisers and you need to practice cues in as many different situations as possible, because of exactly this reason. Obviously being given the cue through glass was something Knightley thought meant it didn't count! So I need to work on his stay more in situations like that. However, I wanted to be able to fix it right there and then, so I improvised. I asked for a sit, which he would do through the glass (that cue has been used in so many more places than stay), and started very slowly opening the wagon door upwards. As soon as he broke the sit, I closed it. I asked for a sit again, gave lots of verbal praise, then started opening again. Every time I did it I was able to open the door a little further until eventually Knightley realised unless he remained sitting the door wasn't opening and he wasn't going anywhere. Finally the door was fully open and he remained sitting. Obviously it will need more practice, and next time I will use treats as well, but the technique worked nicely - especially as I actually couldn't have got him treats easily in that situation. I will be making a special seatbelt for Knightley myself when I get some of my supplies.

I'm excited to get started sewing, so I'll likely start making something else on the sewing machine while I wait for all my supplies to arrive. Anyone in Australia want a custom leash or two while I work out my sewing machine? The webbing is going to take at least a week to get here mind you.

Anyway, hope this entry wasn't too boring! The weather is just horrible here today but I'm all warm tucked up on the couch with a huge furry lump on my lap listening to the rain and wind outside. Life could be a lot worse.

P.S. I'm also going to try my hand at making a simple guide dog harness, but I will absolutely need a volunteer guide team in Canberra to try it out. If anyone knows one, please get in contact with me. It likely wouldn't be for a couple of months yet, but I may as well start to put my feelers out now.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A perfect dog day, and eating turkey with Knightley!

10 months 6 days old

A photo you may have already seen of Knightley pelting
down the drain. The water runs nicely clear after the first
couple of hours of rain (I think at first the storm water drains
need flushing) and it's really great exercise as the water gives
 him extra resistance when he's running so he tires out more
 quickly. With a 10 month old pup, this is a GOOD thing!!
Well, after yesterdays's insanity, I badly needed a quiet day - so that's what I got. Unfortunately Knightley was completely recovered from his long day yesterday and was full of beans, virtually bouncing off the walls. It was quite wet outside this morning, but wasn't actually raining so Knightley and I had a longish slow walk via the storm water drains which had quite a bit of water in them from all the rain yesterday. Knightley had a ball running up them, in and out, getting thoroughly soaked. It was a pretty chilly day, so I made sure we kept moving and didn't stop so Knightley wouldn't get chilled. I made that mistake a week ago or so after he'd done some splashing around, and I decided to do some loose leash work and walked him back home very sedately. On the way back I started to hear something very strange, and finally I realised it was the poor thing's teeth chattering!! I didn't even know dogs did that. So now I make sure he keeps running, and he seems to be fine. It's actually quite amazing with his double coat (Golden Retrievers have two 'coats', a rougher outer coat which is nominally waterproof and a fluffier undercoat which actually stays quite dry), unless he actually gets literally wet to the skin, his undercoat can keep him relatively warm and only the outer coat gets wet.

We continued on up to our local sporting/high school oval where recently he has made some friends with some local dogs and their owners and had some fun romps. No dogs were there, but the oval was nicely waterlogged and made for some great rolling fun, and general galloping around. By the time we got home Knightley didn't quite look like the dog of impeccable breeding he is!!! I gave him a really really good rub off (Golden's are prone to fungal skin infections unless you dry them thoroughly), and he curled up in his bed and slept for a couple of hours.

Clipsy, my lovely previous dog when he was about
Knightley's age. He died far too young from a genetic
heart murmur as so many Cavalier King Charles
Spaniels do. I still miss him, but having Knightley
has definitely helped.
Hubby and I also took him to the dog park today and he had a great time. We hadn't been for two weeks! Shocking! He has so much more stamina these days... he runs around with the other dogs for a lot longer than he used to - he actually used to get tired out pretty quickly. Definitely not an athlete is my Knightley boy. The last time we were there he humped a very cute tricolour Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which is what my last dog was.... and once again today, he couldn't resist what we think was the same dog. Poor thing, we had to eventually go and grab Knightley's collar. He didn't care about any of the other dogs, just this little Cav! Knightley has definitely grown up a lot recently. When we first started taking him to the dog park at five months old, he was the biggest sissy lol... jumping onto his back in submission for every single dog, even the tiny ones. Now the tiny ones are often submitting to him! I have to say though.... I am rather looking forward to having him de-sexed when he turns 18 months (or so). He looooves humping his bed, and now it's obviously starting with other dogs.... who knows where it will go next. Hubby is sad about the de-sexing of Knightley though, I think it's male bonding and sympathy!

So tonight Knightley had one of his big meals. I vary the size of his meals a bit, as well as the type of meat, complexity of the meals, and cut. Tonight it was a turkey leg, which takes him AGES to eat, so I got my camera out and took some photos as he ate. It's actually a fascinating process, almost like giving your dog a meaty kong. It isn't as easy as him just going chomp chomp chomp, but he has to think about strategy and try different techniques. Not to mention the physical workout!

We start in his crate with the very large chunk of turkey. This is one of his meat/bone meals. Every fortnight he eats about 5 meat/bone meals. Today I chose to give him one because his stool was a little runny and bone helps firm it up. Raw feeding is as simple or as technical as you make it! This photo is at the beginning of the feeding session. He's looking at me wondering what I'm doing with the funny black thing I'm always pointing at him! What a gorgeous dog, if I say so myself.

Knightley's now getting into the turkey leg. I usually feed his food semi thawed, mostly because the large cuts don't have time to thaw, even if I take them out the night before. I do like to chose on the day anyway, not the day before, depending upon what I think he needs for optimum health. You can see how he puts his head right down on the side so that he can use his molars to cut the meat away from the bone. He'll do this for a while, then pull the chunk he has cut away with his front teeth.

To make it easier for himself, he removes the skin as he goes. He licks the skin to get a bit sticking up, then just holds it in his front teeth and lifts the whole leg off the floor. It peels away, then he cuts it off with his molars. Smart little doggy. The skin can be quite tough, so he'll often eat that first before starting to cut with his molars again. It's important that he gets some skin, as that contains all sorts of good nutrients. If you feed skinless chicken/turkey, it is a good idea to supplement with some other fat. I get bags of grass fed beef fat from my butcher free to supplement Knightley's leaner meals, and Knightley LOVES it.

You can see he's really getting somewhere now! He has the bone exposed, and once he has stripped more of the meat from around it with his molars like you see in the photo, it'll be really down to business! He's eaten a good chunk of meat already at this stage though, and sometimes he will have had enough and will just stop. I find that Knightley self regulates his feeding on raw WAY better than he did on kibble. In fact, he just didn't on kibble. With kibble, he ate everything in the bowl. Because it takes so long to eat a turkey leg, it gives him time to realise whether he is full or not. He usually finishes he raw meals, but not always. I think that is a very good sign that he knows what is right for himself.

The next stage, bone cracking time! He usually lies down for this and sometimes pins it down with a paw. He loves the taste of bone marrow and will start splintering the bones and then rather elegantly licking the marrow from the split bones. It's quite funny to watch. When you start feeding edible bone you generally start with chicken bone, nice soft ones. As time goes on you can feed everything up to the weight bearing bones of large ruminants. Leg bones of cows, deer, elk etc are all out, and shouldn't even be given to gnaw on. They can easily break teeth as they are too dense. Leg bones from sheep, pigs etc are acceptable. Turkey leg bones give Knightley's jaws some reasonable exercise without taking forever to eat. It is quite scary how strong his jaws are now though.....

Crunch, crunch, crack! The type of raw feeding I do is called whole prey, where you try to give your pet as much of prey animals as possible over time - many different meats, organs, blood, bone and so on. Without this variation your dog will be seriously deficient in many different nutrients. It is even more important when raw feeding cats. They MUST have a very high level of variation in their diet, and must eat a diet with high levels of taurine - so feed lots of red meat. This is the case with dogs too, but it isn't quite so imperative.

Only a little 'stump' left and virtually all the meat is gone. I monitor Knightley when he is eating, especially when he is eating bone in meals. You never know. I am hopefully going to do a canine first aid course later in the year, which I think a sensible idea for anyone with a working dog partner, and also for anyone who raw feeds. Something bad can very very very occasionally happen when your dog is eating, eg choking, or just scratching. It is more likely to happen if your dog is what they call a 'gulper', which can usually be fixed by simply feeding very large chunks they can't swallow at once, and feeding their food frozen. Thankfully Knightley is a chewer, so I don't worry. But I still watch.

I hope you enjoyed a mealtime with Knightley. It took him forever to eat that turkey leg!!! I was falling asleep!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A successful (but wet) day for Knightley (except for a bark!)

10 months 5 days old

The view outside the Arts Centre - nice kites but NOT a nice
day at all. It was still a success despite that though.
Well, today was our much anticipated Kite Festival day at the Arts Centre where I work/volunteer. The weather forecast had looked pretty good, 20% chance of rain, and only in the evening. Of course they got it all wrong and we woke up to drizzle. Ugh. So much planning and effort had gone into it all but we had to move it all inside, it was a great shame.

Anyway, the day was still fully on, it just wouldn't be outside much at all. I had been planning to take Knightley because it was going to be outside and so he couldn't really cause any fuss if he misbehaved a little outside. Also, if he did behave well it would be good for the staff to see, as I would really like to take Knightley with me to the Centre when he is fully trained. However, being inside I was a little apprehensive as I was staying for several hours, and wasn't sure at all how Knightley would handle all the fuss, and whether he would settle enough for me to actually 'work'. I was on the information desk, greeting people as they came in our doors, so I did have to be able to concentrate. Anyway, I got permission to take him anyway, but decided that hubby should come in with me and Knightley and if it looked like Knightley wasn't going to be able to settle down, then he could just go home with hubby.

He settled down to his well trained plodplod quickly, and despite lots of little kites, banners, music, and a very loud MC in a wig on huge stilts he wasn't phased much at all (we even had bunches of kids running back and forth in kite races later in the day and he slept through them!). I was very proud of him. I ended up at the information desk for about four hours, although I took Knightley out into the drizzle several time for toilet breaks, and he went on cue each time (I LOVE those cues so much when it's raining and I just want him to do his business so I can get back inside). He got lots and lots of compliments about his behaviour (and how gorgeous he is), and I think actually having a rather cute dog lying under the table at the front of the building was a positive thing, not a negative as I think some of the more senior staff members see the potential of Knightley to be!

We did have one bad moment though. And I cringe to remember it. Our Executive Director who has previously given me paid work at the Centre and in general has been very good to me was thanking people separately over the PA system, after thanking everyone for coming along to the event. She mentioned me, and said I was the one with the 'companion' dog... don't know why some people say companion instead of assistance/service, but anyway.... So everyone looks at me and Knightley of course. She finishes speaking, everyone applauds. Then the MC guy on massive stilts yells out to all the kids in the audience "So, is everybody having fun here today????" .... and ...... cringe cringe cringe..... Knightley barked!!!! Just one single bark!! OH NO! I wanted to crawl away in embarrassment! Anyway, the MC guy laughed and said "I guess that means yes!!" and like 200 people laughed at Knightley's naughtiness. I was so shocked and appalled! I think he kinda just wanted to join in and play... he'd been very good really, very self controlled for a 10 month old dog surrounded by such fun, music and chaos.... and it just got too much. Still.... he has done this single bark a couple of times now. Once was when hubby came back from England a couple of months ago and collected one of his bags from the conveyor belt in the airport and just threw the bag towards me and Knightley without really thinking. Knightley was so shocked he let out a single bark. He's done it once somewhere else too, but I can't quite remember where.

Knightley finally comfortable at home, resting on the couch with
me after the event finished. We were both exhausted and I fell asleep
shortly after taking the photo. Knightley later decided to crawl onto
my lap and did his best to stay on... he really is getting big! He was
so lovely and warm for a miserable winters day!
Anyway, the other difficulty we had, but this wasn't naughtiness really, is that Knightley just couldn't get comfortable on the shiny hard floor under the table. He would *nearly* go to sleep, and then get up move around, lie down and try to sleep again. I did think about taking a mat of some kind but didn't really have something appropriate. I have actually been looking  for something like that as I'd like to train him to lie on a mat next to the computer when in that room, instead of snuffling around. Something that I could buy two of, so one could be a mat that goes to work/appointments etc would be good. At first I wasn't by myself at the desk so couldn't work on shaping longer non restless periods, but after a while when the first rush of people was over I was left to be sole 'meet-and-greeter' (a job I quite enjoy), and I was able to do some training in the quiet moments. It did help, but we need to work on it some more. I think he also finds his vest somewhat uncomfortable to lie in, so when trying my hand at making one for him I will be trying very hard to make it comfortable.

Actually, I did have one more issue, which would become more pressing if I did get permission to take him to work when he is fully trained. It was pretty easy to not have the public pat Knightley, they more or less obeyed the patches on his vest that say "NO TOUCH"... but when it came to other staff and volunteers at the Arts Centre, I eventually made the rule that they were allowed to touch as they were 'family', so long as Knightley wasn't actually doing anything. Does anyone reading this take their assistance/service dogs to work, and how do they handle it? It would make getting Knightley's focus harder if it meant he was trying to solicit attention when I wanted him to do something. Maybe it should stay a 'no touch' rule, I don't know. Sigh. Maybe only touching allowed when Knightley is resting in a down? Will have to think about it.

About to have some fun with my old exercise ball (to the left).
I guess this photo shows how big Knightley has got recently
as he's definitely had a little growth spurt. I found when I
switched him over to raw that his growth really slowed down,
but it still continues it seems!
Eventually Knightley got back some energy this evening, and had a nice dindins of beef heart. After digesting for a bit, we played with one of his favourite makeshift toys, an old exercise ball of mine - which is really quite good exercise!! One day he is going to pop it, as he does go at it with his teeth a bit, but it's proving to be quite resilient so far! It makes a good plaything for him, getting his whole body and mind involved as he paws it, nudges it with his nose, even pushes it against a surface so that he can jump up on it. We spend a lot of time playing together and I do try to make it as interesting as possible while getting some exercise too. Obviously as I am not particularly physically capable I can't walk very fast with Knightley, so I have to be a little creative with tiring him out! I really would like to get a power wheelchair or a scooter to allow for taking him for faster/longer walks, but I may be looking into the funding options soon.

Trying to get the pesky ball! He really gets into it and it gets
him panting with effort so it's a good way to get exercise on
a wet day. I wouldn't probably risk a brand new ball that I
wanted though lol! Look at that canine tooth!
So, it was a good day but I've done way more hours at the Arts Centre in the last week than usual. I also played meet-and-greet person last night for a monthly music event which usually I enjoy quite a lot... but we had quite a poor showing last night, about half our usual number. It just didn't take off like usual. I'm just completely exhausted. I am very bad at saying 'no' when asked to do something, when my health should be really coming first. Maybe I should take this next week off, and concentrate on doing some training with Knightley which hasn't happened much in this last crazy week what with volunteering so much and buying cars and the like. I've been sick for nearly four years and I'm still really terrible at the required balancing act. It's just very difficult.