By Joanne Bardsley (Dog Trainer and Canine Comprehension Tutor)
1. Tell us about your therapy dog Chachka?
Chachka is a 3 year old mixed breed dog. She was found wandering the streets pregnant when she was one. I rescued Chachka from ‘Starting Over Dog Rescue’ in February 2016. She loves cuddles, scratches on her lower back, other dogs, fluffy toys, treats and the beach.
2. How did you get involved with tutoring at Canine Comprehension?
I saw an advertisement for tutors online and I couldn’t let this wonderful opportunity pass me by, so I applied. I remember the day Sarah called to tell me that she would like me to join her team, it was my birthday!
3. What is the best part of tutoring with Canine Comprehension?
I am able to help students learn new skills that will help them now and into the future (with the help of Chachka, of course), and that brings me a lot of joy. Also, being able to have my dog Chachka by my side as a work colleague is pretty special.
4. Are there any difficulties you face working as a tutor?
At times I am faced with challenges, especially working in groups or with students with additional needs. Sometimes I need to change the way I do things, and that’s okay, we are always learning.
5. What have you learnt about your therapy dog, Chachka throughout your tutoring?
I have learnt that Chachka has a lot of love to give and she loves to talk!
6. What has been your most memorable moment as a Canine Comprehension tutor?
Every time I see a student having fun learning! I am lucky enough to see that often and that is why I love what I do.
By Roz Rimes (Canine Comprehension Tutor)
Written By Roz Rimes - Canine Comprehension Tutor.
On Thursday 12th April Sarah Macdonald and Roz Rimes presented their workshop, ‘Savouring the Success of Dog Assisted Learning’ at the 2018 National Positive Education Schools Association (PESA) conference. 831 delegates, educators and researchers from around the world attended. PESA is Australia’s Positive Education national peak body. Its mission is to lead, promote and foster the implementation and development of Positive Education, enabling all students, schools and communities to flourish. Showcasing our work to this audience further underscored that our work is innovative and makes an important contribution to the Positive Education landscape.
1. Australia leads the world in Positive Education (PE). This message was repeated several times throughout the conference by Australian and International speakers. It’s exciting to know that Sarah and her team at Canine Comprehension are innovators in this field.
2. Increased wellbeing is directly correlated to enhanced academic achievement. Policy makers and decision makers need evidence-based information to direct funds appropriately, especially to wellbeing programs. It now exists via high quality academic research.
3. Wellbeing literacy is vital, PE would not be possible without it. Canine Comprehension teaches wellbeing literacy. This underpins PE pedagogy.
4. Educators need to have a mindfulness practice. Educators and Canine Comprehension tutors can role model calm in the classroom. Having a mindfulness practice can improve teachers’ wellbeing, help to de-escalate dysregulated students and create an effective learning environment. Teaching savouring to mindful students increases positive emotions and stamina for learning.
5. Compassion is happiness. Take a look at the following links for more information.
6.PE and the Berry Street Education Model (BSEM) based on Trauma Informed Positive Education (TIPE) are important allies. Our Canine Comprehension programs support these models.
7. Relationships are vital especially Student – Tutor. Our work with our highly trained dogs builds peoples’ skills through neurobiological benefits and neuroplasticity, enabling them to make High Quality Connections (HQCs) and build healthy relationships.
8. Parents play a key role in Positive Eduction. In the future we hope to reach more parents via our newsletters and school parent meetings. We’ll make sure that our friendly dogs are available for pats and interactions.
9. Resilient Grieving. Canine Comprehension provides a high quality Grief and Loss program which helps students to process grief and enhances their wellbeing.
10. Soothing and Strengthening. Positive Education is about soothing and strengthening whole schools and systems. Canine Comprehension not only soothes students and school staff, it effectively builds skills and strategies to navigate life and enable people to flourish.
The PESA conference was designed as a Positive Education Retreat, the event was be hosted at Geelong Grammar School to coincide with their celebration of a decade in Positive Education, and offered delegates an opportunity to practice the conference theme: Connect! This theme reflected the event’s aims of connecting theory with application, connecting Positive Education with curriculum and culture, connecting professionals to each other. Canine Comprehension feels very 'at home' with PESA and looks forward to being involved in future events that they host.
Written by Joanne Bardsley - Canine Comprehension Dog Trainer and Tutor.
Did you know that an estimated that 1 in 4 dogs suffer from motion or travel sickness? Just as children are more prone to motion sickness than adults, puppies and adolescent dogs are more likely to be affected than more senior dogs. It is thought that this is due to immaturity of the inner ear structures that control their balance.
If you notice your dog is hypersalivating (excessive drooling), anxious, whining, or vomiting during travel, chances are they are suffering from motion sickness.
If the first few car rides of a dog’s life result in nausea, the dog may associate travel with an unpleasant experience, even after his/her balance system matures. Therefore, a dog who suffers motion sickness should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Along with medication prescribed by your veterinarian, there are simple steps you can take to minimise the chances of motion sickness in your furry friend:
- Avoid feeding your dog less than an hour prior to traveling
- Allow fresh air into the car
- Ensure your dog is facing forward
- Lower car windows slightly to equalise the air pressure inside and outside the car
- Keep the vehicle cool
If your dog has had issues with motion sickness, your dog may become reluctant to travel in the car. To overcome this fear, you could try:
- Spending time in the car with the engine off
- Giving your dog his favourite toy when he gets in the car
- Cuddling and praising your dog when he is sitting calmly in the car
- Take short car rides to places the dog enjoys (e.g. parks)
Good luck. It is often something they grow out of. If you are concerned please speak to your Vet, as they are always the best point of call for any health related issues.
Written by Joanne Bardsley - Canine Comprehension Dog Trainer and Tutor.
Our advanced or “Great Dog” owners will have been asked by our trainers “Are you doing your one hour drop step-away?” The answer is often a resounding “No!”, and so in this blog, I will try to illuminate some of the reasons why this is a good idea.
This exercise incorporates the contrast between positive and negative reinforcement and gives the owner a practical opportunity to utilise their “vocal lead” (i.e. all the different tones of praise).
The one-hour duration is important because it is a significant amount of time for your dog to remain in the ‘drop’ position. Over this length of time, the dog will (hopefully) be exposed to numerous distractions or temptations, which give the perfect opportunity to utilise your warning tone and/or contrasting corrections if needed.
Obviously, when you are first working on this exercise, you should expect your dog to get distracted and get up several times. Don’t see this as a bad thing – these mistakes can be easily rectified using your contrasting reinforcement, circle correction, and of course – praise! (And no, the time does not re-set each time the dog gets up, it is a one-hour exercise in total.)
While the dog is in its drop over the hour, don’t forget it is still ‘working’ and should not get up until the final release command is given. It is perfectly acceptable for the dog to fall asleep in this exercise. If they wake and get up, give them a small circle and put them back in their drop.
When your dog can do a reliable one-hour drop step-away, you won’t remember how you ever did without it. There are so many useful applications for this exercise – for example, having lunch outside at a café, or even if you’re having visitors who are afraid of dogs.
Hopefully this blog has convinced you to have a go! If you are having trouble with this or any other exercise, please speak to one of our helpful training assistants.
Written by Joanne Bardsley - Canine Comprehension Dog Trainer and Tutor.
Reward and praise are vital for the learning process, We want happy dogs that are happy to listen to our commands. We also need to set parameters around what is and what is not acceptable behaviour - this is the only way to have dogs safely in our family environment. We sometimes use the “No” and circle correction (Developed by Greg Fontana - Alpha Canine Group) are tools we can use to mark the exact moment that the dog made the mistake and give a consequence for making the mistake – i.e. walking the dog in a circle. The reason the circle is a great ethical negative is because it doesn't hurt or intimidate the dog - it merely shows them that when they don't listen they are restricted. They earn more freedom, the more they listen to us. It has been shown that not only does the correction work, it establishes a clear leadership and bond between the handler and the dog.
We also encourage our puppy owners or owners with shy dogs to use the "No" and hold technique - where you don't walk to dogs around in an entire circle, you just gently hold them to your leg for a few moments. This restriction is often enough to show the dog that when they are not listening to commands, they will be restricted. Of course, if the Hold Technique doesn't work, there is always the circle.
The reason that the Hold and / or Circle correction is so effective is due to the pattern it is taught within. After each circle (a negative), a “good dog” (positive) will follow. This contrast allows the dog to start to understand what happens when they ignore the command (restriction) and what happens when they listen (praise and freedom) - thus moving the dog towards making better choices.
Written by Joanne Bardsley - Canine Comprehension Dog Trainer and Tutor.
Don’t get me wrong, obedience exercises (e.g. sit, drop, stand) are a critical factor in training your dog. Learning the pattern of the exercises, along with the appropriate reinforcement, is teaching your dog the ‘language’ which we will communicate with them in most, if not all, our interactions.
However, there are also several other equally important features that contribute to having a well-trained dog. Broadly speaking, these areas include ‘manners’ and ‘boundaries’. When I talk about manners, I’m talking about things like your dog jumping up on you uninvited, mouthing, or even displaying over-excitable silliness. To address these issues, you will employ the same language that you did in your obedience exercises. For example, if I open the front gate and my dog comes bounding towards me, ready to jump, I would warn him. If he decided to jump on me regardless, a ‘no’ and circle correction would follow. And then perhaps the most important part would occur next: reset and retry. Set up the situation again and observe if there is any change in the dog’s behaviour.
In addition to manners, probably the most important thing you will teach your dog is boundaries. What do I mean by boundaries? Boundaries are areas of your house that the dog is not allowed to go unless invited. That is not to say that the dog is not allowed in that part of the house, but they must be invited – we usually use the word ‘through’. If your dog is allowed free reign in and out of the house, he will presume that this is his kennel, with which he can do with what he likes.
By teaching our dog our tones of voice or ‘tonal conditioning’, we are developing a language with which to communicate with them, regardless of whether we are working on obedience, manners or boundaries.
Once you have established consistent rules around the house, you will often see dogs go through some ‘venting’ behaviour, which may be new challenges, such as barking when left outside, or jumping up and scratching at the door. Fortunately, you now have the language and tools to deal with these situations!
I have heard it so many times
“I don’t want people thinking badly about my dog”
That sentiment has stopped many owners practising safer dog handling techniques, all because they are worried about what strangers think.
For all these reasons and more a “give me space” coat is a useful item to own for those times when your dog needs it. I know there are days I wish I could wear one!
When we are out and about we often hope our dogs will behave without remembering that we have to teach them how to behave first. Warning tone goes a long way in helping your dog make the right choice when they are out and about.
This the final point I want to leave you on. Dogs are not good or bad natured. They are not evil or little angles. They do what they want, or what gives them a positive consequence until we intervene and teach them differently. They need to be taught what we want from them. We should help as much as possible by using out voice, actions and equipment. If we are always worried about what other think of our naughty dog, we never take the opportunity to teach them what it is to be well behaved.
Using dogs to lower anxiety around learning and assisting in maintaining a positive attitude to school work is a fairly new approach to education around the world. So why did I think it would work? I have experienced it myself.
When I was 13 years old my mother took me for a check-up. The doctor found a skin flap above my eye that he wanted to get checked out. That very day we were at the specialist being told that it was very rare for a 13-year-old to have skin cancer. But it was a skin cancer none the less.
At around the same time I managed to talk to my parents into getting Hamish, the friendliest, happiest Jack Russel in the world.
After the cancer was removed I think myself and my parents were still in shock for a while. It wasn’t very life threatening but it was a surprise. I found it very difficult to concentrate on school work and was anxious about slipping behind. I remember many hours of across my bed, my desk and my floor (I am a very messy person) trying to catch up on school work, and amongst all the chaos there was always a relaxed, fat Jack Russell sleeping among the books. The fact that the dog could snooze so easily made me feel better about my teenage challenges.
Fast forward to year 12 and my health was no better. I ended up being hospitalised by complications from glandular fever while all my school mates were sitting their final exams.
The stress, anxiety and fear for my future after missing those exams made my stress levels sky rocket and slowed my recovery. I spent a great deal of time in bed sleeping to get my strength back.
Through it all was Hamish. Ready to snooze when I needed to. Ready to listen when I needed to talk. Ready to snuggle when I worried and ready to do his best to remind me to be happy for the simple things.
Although I now hold a masters and I am now a teacher, studying never came easy to me and learning was made harder due to intermittent illness. Through it all I had Hamish. My happy little guardian. His ability to relax and his happy attitude to life helped me so much through my teens.
Now I run Canine Comprehension and I hope out Education Therapy Dogs provide our students the same ray of hope that Hamish provided me.
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.
I have been meaning to write on this issue for a while and now I have finally gotten around to doing it. A heavy guild makes me wishI had done it sooner.
The issue is children on the spectrum and dogs. Over recent years we have seen heart-warming stories of children with autism connecting to his/her dog in a way they had never done before. We all know the bond between man and dog and our heart swells when we hear of those who experience difficulties connecting, making that important relationship with their dog.
Now this blog is not to warn parents off the idea altogether. If your child is on the spectrum they may well indeed benefit from having a doggy addition to the family. But it comes with a very serious warning. These bonds cannot be made through luck. The relationship that comes with dog and child needs to be carefully introduced, shaped and nurtured. Otherwise the alternative may be a dig exiled to the garden and a child too afraid to step foot in the back yard.
Over the years we have spoken to many families who have bought a puppy for their child, hoping the two will grow together.
This is a mistake.
Number 1. Children on the spectrum require routine, they want to know when and where something is happening. Puppies do not come into the world with a routine. It has to be taught and then re-enforced. We have spoken to many hardworking, well-meaning parents who are trying to train their puppy, while at the same time maintain a constant routine for their child.
Another thing about puppies is that they bite, bark, jump, pull, pee, run and play. (Sometimes all at the same time) Parents with children on the spectrum often report that such behaviour in the dog heightens the behaviour in the child and vice a versa. It can be a nightmare trying to get a puppy and a child to settle down.
Will a puppy teach your child responsibility? I don’t know, I’m not sure. As a teacher it is a long and winding road teaching any child responsibility and consequences for their actions. To be done effectively it is done by both the household and the community. Passing that responsibility onto a puppy who is just learning about life himself may be a bit much. Training a dog is difficult for most adults I know. We cannot expect a child to train a dog! Yes, dog training for most kids provides a great and productive distraction but the onus of responsibility needs to be with the adult
So if you still want to introduce a dog into your family’s life, here are some tips on how to make the transition to life with a dog easier for everyone.
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