The first workshop with PAWS sets out some ideas of what dogs can do for children with autism and enables parents who don't yet have a dog to consider what breed and age could be best for them and those with a dog to think about what they would like their dog to do for their child. I've been thinking about that a lot and am already a way down the process but there is always something new to learn from hearing a session again and with new people asking new questions. Last time, we didn't have Oliver home with us so didn't have the context of knowing him and how he and Wills behave together as a foundation for plans and aspirations formed during the session. In the end, it was some very simple things that I learned that have already made the biggest difference in our training.
Oliver and William are very close, almost too close now as they play incessantly like a pair of puppies and poor William is covered in nicks and bruises from Oliver's mouthing. He is beginning to get fed up but, at the same time, will encourage Oliver to start again if he leaves him alone for any length of time. It's exhausting for me and the girls as we always have to be around to pull them apart when they're getting too excited. One suggestion was that Oliver could be getting a bit anxious and confused as to whether he is scared or excited when William runs and throws his arms around. Having watched them over the last week, that certainly isn't the case now but it may have been when they started behaving this way together. I think now it's a habit. It's what Oliver does whenever he sees William and what William has come to expect from Oliver. There was a very calm and well trained assist dog at the workshop. He was a young adult so didn't have Oliver's puppy excitement but his calm is what we're aiming for. This dog chewed on bones to keep him occupied when his trainer wanted him still for any length of time. Oliver didn't have any bones...until now. Wow, they are fantastic! I buy him safe 'smoked bones' from the pet shop and, whenever I need him to calm down, I put one under his nose and get him to lie down. It may only last for five minutes before he's off back to pull William around but it's the beginning of a new habit (I hope) and Oliver is beginning to go to his bones when he wants to relax. I'm also putting one of his toys in his mouth when he's mouthing which seems to be slowly working. He gets praise and we join in the game if he has a toy in his mouth instead of our sleeves and arms!
The other big tip was a treat bag. I didn't use one and just took treats from the packet but a treat bag shows Oliver it's training time. We've been working on getting him to rest his head on my knee. Once he's mastered that, I have to start imitating William's melt down and over excitement to train Oliver to put his head on my knee to distract me. That will be fun!