Doodles, our school dog has been in school since he was 11 weeks old. I wanted him to be in with the children right from his early puppy days. This was so that they would see him grow and mature into a sensible, dependable working school dog. He’s not quite reached that stage yet even though he’s now 17 months old. He’s still very set in his puppy ways and is incredibly playful and exceptionally cheeky. As a result of this early in June the headteacher and I decided it was time to enrol Doodles into some accredited school dog training to see how that would affect his behaviour. He is wonderful with the children and knows exactly what to do where they are concerned but he still has a rather mischievous streak to his character. For example, he thinks nothing of going to sleep on my desk in my office, or removing the decorative scarves from around the necks of lady visitors. It was time to see what some real training might do. The chosen training was @ArchieTherapy and you can read more about the training here.
I won’t give too much away about the training Doodles received while he was at Archie Therapy as that wouldn’t be fair to Meg Blore, the lady who runs the course. I can tell you that we picked up lots of tips and tricks that will help Doodles in his career in school.
Quite possibly the best thing we learned was how to teach Doodles to listen to children read. I had tried this previously with Doodles and discovered that he was far more interested in eating the book than listening to the children read. After my second session with Meg, Doodles and I are now armed with the knowledge of how to make him sit and still and listen attentively.
Doodles also tried out an assault course assembled by myself and another dog handler who was on the course. The reason for this is to teach him discipline and also to help him to problem solve. My pup, who had previously seemed fearless flatly refused to go through a mesh tunnel. We tried all kinds of persuasion techniques to entice him through all to no avail. Eventually, after much bribery involving dog treats Doodles overcame his fears and ran through the tunnel.
Throughout the two sessions of the course there was lots of informative discussion between Meg, the other delegate and myself. Doodles learned many new tricks which would be put to good use in school and I myself learned a great deal about controlling my pet. One such tip was how to ensure re call. Doodles would respond to his name and would return when asked to do so. However, I could not entirely rely on this one hundred percent. If he was having a fantastic time with the children and playing ball with them I couldn’t be certain he would return at the first time of calling. Meg showed me a tip for this and I can now report that Doodles will return on first command.
There was much discussion on how to use our dogs in lessons. Meg is very knowledgable about this and gave us many different scenarios for the best use of our dogs. This ranged from PSHE lessons on sharing, maths lessons, literacy lessons, reading dogs, PE lessons and much more. We also learned the value of Doodles having his own mat. I had seen this used once in a cafe and had thought to myself that the dog sitting on the mat must be very spoilt if the floor wasn’t good enough for him. Now I know better and I know the reason for the mat’s use.
When I tell people that I have a school dog on the premises with me all the time they generally ask me how do I show the impact he is having? How do I justify his presence? I am pleased to say that Meg enlightened us on that one too. I now have evidence and paperwork to show all his good work with the children if anyone asks me.
Doodles was well behaved for the duration of the two sessions. I am proud and pleased to say that you could tell the difference in is behaviour after we had attended Meg’s sessions. Doodles worked hard and he received his certificate to show that he had passed his training. Well done Doodles!
If you are in any doubt about attending ArchieTherapy I can definitely recommend it.
Thanks for reading.
PS. ‘Introducing a School Therapy Dog’ is to be published February 2019 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Do have a read.