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!

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.


  1. Hi I take my girl to work and I also had this problem with people that sometimes try to pat her.

    But at work it's a different ball game. Flyers were made up and passed around so people are aware of the correct etiquette when around my girl.

    I know it is hard for people to resist her though as she is very cute. Usually at lunch I might take her "off duty" for a little while so it gives her a break and so a few people can pat her which she loves. When I put her back "on duty" people have been respectful in not patting her.

    Education is the key. You might need to educate your workplace.

  2. Although being off duty never means that she won't come back if i need her. she's very good at checking in with me even when she gets a few pats.

    1. What breed is she? Yes, being cute is much harder I think because Knightley is always 'smiling' and wagging if people even look at him, which makes him quite irresistible to pat.

      I guess if I were to bring him to work in the future I could put up a few signs in the office and send around a mass email to all the staff and volunteers. It's a fairly small office physically so they couldn't help but see a couple of signs. Do you do anything to show her that she is off duty? Take off a harness or whatever? Or just a release word? She sounds like a very good girl.

      Are you northside or southside? I'd love for Knightley to have some good examples to follow! Today he was sooooo full of energy I am just too tired to train and I doubt he could have focused. At least the dog park zapped a good chunk of energy.

  3. She is a lab although she's a little lab so everyone has their own opinion about whether she's a cross. I don't care as she is perfect for me.

    I use a release word for her and then show her she can say hello to someone.I do warn them though that she may kiss them lol. which they all love. But that is usually at work at lunchtime or if im meeting a friend i will take her off to say hello as ppl can't resist then put her back on and she ignores them. however she's never really off duty. she always checks back in with me and then will go back to having pats if i tell her its ok.

    She's generally pretty good but I wonder how she would react seeing other dogs in the shops as its so uncommon. In case there are more assistance dogs here in the future I've been practicing look at that game. she's not aggressive but i think other dogs in a shopping mall would be strange for her and I would like her just to ignore them instead of deciding its playtime. But you have to remember that at the end of the day they are dogs and like people they make mistakes. I think sometimes Im too tough on my girl in terms of expectations whereas everyone else tells me that she is good. i just have to remember it.

    The signs for me really helped and the factsheets too. Hr also put them near the lifts so people knew when they walked in the building and I've had minimal dramas with people patting her when they shouldn't.

    Im on the southside but work in the city and sometimes go out to belco.

    1. I guess you could see I am from Belco!

      I absolutely agree that dogs can only be dogs. A person on a forum I'm on asked about autism service dogs and basically whether they were like a nanny for a child. I replied that even if the dog has 99% accuracy it isn't enough to trust your child's safety to.

      She sounds like a very good girl. I wonder how Knightley would go bumping into another dog in a shop. Ignoring dogs is something we are really going to struggle with. If you ever wanted to set up a 'role play' for your girl and meet somewhere in a shop (we have permission to train in belco mall and canb centre) it would be fantastic training for Knightley too. Look at that is a good idea. Knightley is just far too friendly. I know there is an assistance dog team that very occasionally goes to our local shops where Knightley does most of his training, and one day we may bump into it..... so that could be interesting! At the moment we have a hard enough time having him behave on walks if another dog comes up! Although his behaviour when vested is way way better. Funny how that happens.

      I still have things I am curious about and saved your email address (and deleted it from the comments so you don't get spam), so will get around to emailing you sometime. Things are just swinging between busybusy/exhausted at the moment!

  4. Yes my girl is far from perfect. she barked once at a guide dog but i think it was cause i. freaked out and she fed off me. it was a hi lets play bark which still mortified me. have you thought about taking knightly to pet barn? I still take my girl there and practice with other dogs around as it is inside but dogs are leashed. Other dogs are a huge distraction for dogs like ours I think as they think its playtime.

    I think using our dogs As a distraction may work as they don't know each other. We only know one other assistance dog here but my girl is friends with him so my training involves that when she sees him it doesnt always mean playtime as I think that's what she associates with him.

    also id like to desensitise my girl to the flat escalators in belco. With new escalators I need to practice first and we haven't used those escalators so i may need to do a trip out there as she is fine with the escalators this side of town but i think its cause she's use to them.

    No worries about the email. I don't know if Ill be able to help but I can try.