APDT Conference: Day 5.1

Almost there folks. Just got back from some excellent pasta now lazing around  thinking about packing, watching the football, about to eat a bear claw, writing this post, and thinking about packing.

Day 5 of the conference started with a session from Mary McNeight titled “Service Dog Training for the Pet Dog Trainer – Basic Program Structure to Ensure Success”. I met Mary at one of the previous conferences and knew her passion for training in the service dog industry and her business and expertise has grown over those years.

There are so many service dog training agencies in the USA but there is still a huge demand for more. Mary’s talk was about dog trainers working towards training people to train their own service-dog and the benefits this has to the people in need and also the dog trainer business.

She spoke about a lot of the things I cover in my workshop for the NDTF but I still found the session interesting. One of the things that she raised, that I found good, was to put yourself in the position of the person who is to get the dog. For example, she had us tape our hands then try and get some skittles (like M&Ms) out of a cup, which replicates how someone with limited hand mobility has to deal with life on a daily basis. And then use that with the knowledge that that person also has to handle a dog.

A lot of the things she also apoke about are so true – such as a commitment to training is 1-2 years, not overnight; and socialisation is so important. One of the things she also does in her training is to train all dogs to fetch a telephone as that is such an important skill for anyone who has a disability.

Dog selection is important and so is the person who is to train the dog – are they suitable now and will they still be suitable in the future. She said it’s like having a child with you 24-7.

I have many other notes but these are some of the key points. If interested in other things Mary mentioned, let me know. Because now I might pack, or maybe I’ll eat the bear claw, then I might pack.

APDT Conference: Day 4.2

Nearly finished, only a few more sessions to go. Next on the schedule was a session with Dr Aubrey Fine who works with children and uses dogs in therapy. His session, which I found quite interesting to learn about attention disorders in children, was “Understanding and Working with Child Learning and Attention Disorders”.

I think we all know of the benefits of dogs and with my work with assistance dogs I have seen it first hand. ADA has been using dogs helping kids with reading difficulties for a few years now and it has been with great success. Some of the things Aubrey touched on form the basis for the reading program. Primarily, all children are children first and if children can’t learn the way we teach, perhaps we should teach the way they learn. Dogs are great at this because they do not judge and are more accepting of individual idiosyncrasies. Labels are for jars, not people.

Aubrey then went on to explain ADHD and Autistic Spectrum Disorders, which is an order of self-regulation – I don’t stop and think. Here are a few slides on ADHD:

A few more facts – not every child with ADHD is the same; ADHD remains throughout adult life in about 75% of cases; children with ADHD are often socially and emotionally younger than their age (about three years).

Aubrey has the child working with the dog, teaching obedience and learning the social skills as shown in the slides. It is important to watch for over-stimulation and manage excitement and impulsivity.

Here are further slides related to autism – autism spectrum disorder

ASD is a lifelong disorder but people can learn to overcome. Dog training provides a second leash on life. Regarding the leashing of the dog to the child, Aubrey mentioned that in many cases running away was reduced greatly in about three months.

Summing up, Aubrey’s final thoughts were that it is all about companionship.


Saturday 1 October was the start of an exciting month ahead for many of our four-legged friends – and I’m not talking about the Geelong Cats winning the AFL Premiership but the Super Pups who have dog-napped Dogtober for the fundraising and awareness month for Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA).

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved as a volunteer trainer with ADA for about the last five years – thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying but the real highlight is when I get to see a working dog with their new owner. And it was this feeling that I wanted to impart to my previous workmates at Victoria Police’s Legal and Policy area.

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