The drop step away (stay) has to be one of the most important exercises we teach our Education Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs. It means that children can come up to them in their own time and the dog is not intimidating because it is lying down happily waiting for the next instruction.
Our students read to the dogs, listen to lessons, do mindfulness exercises, and discuss complex ideas while sitting still for longer and focussing easier all because they have a dog by their side.
We would love to see our students, and other students doing this at home with their dog. Studying with a dog means you are not alone with your books, you have a canine coach to cheer you along the way.
So how is it done?
The easiest was to teach a drop step away would be to attend our Saturday dog class, however if that is not available to you here are some simple guidelines.
1.Firstly, you need to have a dog that knows both sit and drop. If you to lure your dog with food to drop, we suggest weaning him off the food bribes as soon as possible
2.Start in a quiet room with your dog on lead or halter. Ask you dog to drop and stand by their side. Every time they get up put them back in the same position and say ‘drop’ in a gruff voice.
Keep doing this until they stay in a drop without you needing to reinforce it. When they are improving give them a positive ‘good boy’ with your voice but don’t pat them as it will only encourage them to get up.
Release after a minute by saying ‘free’ in a happy voice, encouraging them to get up and celebrating with a pat and cuddle
3.Continue to practice the drop with your dog beside you over the next week. You should aim to get up to 2-3 minutes
4.Next you need to work on moving away from your dog. Again, this should be taught in a quiet room, just you and the dog. Make sure your dog is on a leash or halter. Have your dog in a drop and step a large step away. If your dog gets up say ‘no’ walk your dog back to the spot it should have been dropping in and say ‘drop’ in a forceful tone and step away again
Continue step one until your dog can manage this. Then increase the time and distance your dog drops for. Always go back to its side to release with ‘free’, a pat and a cuddle.
5.Once your dog can hold a drop 10 minutes at a distance it is time to start working the exercise with your child. Have your child sit on the floor with their favourite book. Walk the dog into the room on lead and get it to drop next to your child. Ask your child not to touch your dog t this point as it will be too much of a distraction
Every time your dog gets up while the child is reading, say ‘no’ to the dog, walk it back to where it was and ask it to drop in a gruff tone. When you are first practicing this only work you dog for 5-10minute sessions. Once finished put your dog out for a break and give it lots of pats and kind words.
You should gradually be able to work the dog to a point that they will stay in a drop while your child reads, studies, sits with their laptop etc. It just takes some training from the adult and a dog willing to listen.
As a side note if you own an over excited dog who jumps on your kids you may wish to call us to help you get your dog to focus on the exercise. We have taught many dogs this exercise and it has really assisted in students approach to sitting still, concentrating and learning at home.
About the Author
Contact us here.