I woke up about 30 min ago from a really good dream, and I had to share my dream and thoughts about my dream, which were of me teaching a service dog class!
I dream fairly often of volunteering in a strange sort of library or community center that offers lending and sale of books, used clothing, household items, and so on, and offers low cost portraits and social services. In my dreams, I have several service dog friends (both from real life and imagined) who visit me at this library. In the latest iteration of my dream, a few of my library service dog friends happened to be there at the same time, and we discussed me teaching a service dog training course.
I woke up and thought, wow, what a good idea! So here are my 4AM thoughts about me teaching a service dog course, I welcome any and all ideas! You can post them in the comments or email them to me or post them on the listserv if you are getting this message through the listserv.
I would teach the class using a group teaching model. This means I would guide the class and offer some instruction, but much of the class would be the students themselves getting involved and suggesting training ideas, asking questions, and generally having a group thinking class. This would be especially important as I would want a variety of service dog users in the class (with many different types of disabilities), and I really only have experience with training psychiatric service dogs.
I would have two types of slots in the class. One type of slot for people with service dogs or service dogs in training who actually want to work with their dogs. I was thinking I could have 4-6 students of this type in the class. I would also offer a like “audit” slot, for people who either don’t have service dogs or service dogs in training yet, or who are not disabled but just are interested in learning about service dog training. I was thinking I could have 4 audit spots in the class. Thoughts on numbers of people in the class and taking the different types of courses would be welcome!
The class would have a prerequisite of the PSDP service dog in training manners evaluation: https://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/public-access/manners-evaluation Not that you actually have to have me proctor it, but that your dog can pass a manners evaluation. Or maybe it would be best if I proctor a manners evaluation for everyone who will be in the class? So every pup in the class should be at least a service dog in training if not a full service dog.
We would work towards the PSDP public access test (PAT): https://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/public-access/public-access-test . In addition to training for the PAT, we would also have discussions about laws, how to handle public access challenges, how to handle the general public, etiquette, etc. Role play, videotaping (if Brad is available!), and other interactive and creative learning ideas would be incorporated. All training would have to be positive only.
This would not be a traditional 6-week course, as I want to have some in-classroom experience and some public access experience. But I’m not sure I want it to be a 12 week class, either. I’m thinking 4-6 weeks of classroom instruction (in Laurie’s building!), and another 4-6 weeks of outings to public places in the Rock Hill area. Please share your thoughts on how long each portion of the class should be! Then at the end of the class, for those who are ready (and I don’t think all the pups would be ready) I would give a PAT.
I think I would charge a bare minimum for the class. Just enough to cover the building fees. This way handlers without a lot of money could take the class. Also, since the class is being taught using the whole group’s knowledge and experience, I don’t think I should claim a big share of profits or anything. I am more the director of the class and organizer, and experienced guide.
What do you all think about this? Is this a good idea? Should I pursue it? Would this take too much time and energy? Do you have suggestions on how I might run the class, what to teach, the composition of the class, my teaching style, prerequisites, numbers of people in the class, or anything else? Would anyone be interested in taking this class, either as a service dog or service dog in training team, or as an audit spot?
Right now at 5AM I am feeling like this is something I should try to do this fall or winter. It is seeming like a really good idea. I’ve always had a passion for teaching, and I have a passion for service dogs and dog training, too. This seems like a great way to combine them! I’m not sure there will be a lot of people who actually want to take my class, actually. So it may be a moot point anyway. Though even if the class had just two students, I think it could be a lot of fun! Please share your thoughts!
ETA: I am now thinking of making it a once or twice monthly meeting out in public. Like a service dogs on the town class (or suggest a better name!). We would meet out in public at stores and work on public access behaviors and focus on the PAT training. We would also sometimes meet or visit cafes or restaurants where we can talk about service dog related educational things like public access challenges, etiquette, interacting with the public, and so on. Thoughts are welcome!
I think Eowyn could pass those tests with flying colors, with of course modifications to meet my needs. She was better at alerting to people too close behind me before all her seizures/strokes, but considering the brain damage left by the strokes she still does amazingly well.
Is there a way to include online training for the PAT? I don’t know where you live but I’m in SoCal.
I’m sure I’ll videotape some of the sessions and post them online. I live in Rock Hill, South Carolina. That is where these classes will be held.
Ooh! I’m jealous! I wish we had something like that in San Diego…