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!

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.


  1. The best test for hip stability is the PennHip. It is measures hip laxity which is the thing that has to do with hip instability."Hip joint laxity is the most important risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis. In other words, the amount of laxity or looseness in a hip joint is related to the chance that a hip will develop OA: the looser the hip, the greater the risk" It is reliable even for puppies as young as 16 weeks. It is more expensive, and lots of clinics don't offer it. OFA is less expensive, but after reading a lot about both tests--we chose the PennHip for Shai. I am a physical therapist, so the information on PennHip website made sense to use this type of a test for my best tool with Shai.


    1. OFA and PennHip are both US tests, although PennHip is offered in a few scattered clinics internationally. By a wild stroke of luck my own vet offers it, so it is an option for me. Australia uses the hip score system as developed by the British Veterinary Association, so you usually see the system called the BVA system. It rates 9 parts of the hip, giving the hip a score from 0 to 53, giving a total of 106. You'll see a score of like 0:2 in an excellent dog. Knightley's parents were both under 5, which I believe is OFA E, loosely translated. In fact, most of his grandparents, and great-grandparents were as low as that too. I was very picky in my choice. BVA is normally considered superior to the OFA system.

      I wasn't thinking of going ahead with x-rays until he was a year old as that is when BVA x-rays are usually done, unless the vet encourages it. I do like the PennHip system a lot but was going to only fork over the money for PennHip (even more expensive here as so very rare) if his results were middling, around the 10:8 (18) range, which is very slightly worse than average here in Aus for a GR.

      I just really hope there is nothing wrong. I just don't know what I would do if he was dysplastic. Sigh!