My Pedagogy Pupdate
By Hannah Severn, SPPA Trustee, Assistant Manager at a Residential Home, Pedagogue Practitioner & a proud puppy mum
“Totally out of my depth but totally in love” – Hannah & Charlie
If there was ever an experience that has pushed me out of my comfort zone it is the arrival of my bundle of joy…not in the form of my first born (although you would have been forgiven in thinking so with the number of baby blankets, toys and wet wipes that were bought in anticipation!) but my first puppy. This puppy was already very wanted and loved before he even arrived (by train from Preston!) and I was confident that all the research I had done (my head); all the essential puppy “bits” we had bought (my hands); and the love I had to give (my heart) was going to set me good stead for a future filled with long walks, cosy cuddles and wagging tails. It took exactly three and a half minutes of his arrival for my rose-tinted glasses to be knocked of as he has promptly vomited all over me before having a wee and colliding into my key bowl!
We are one week into things now and we are starting to find our rhythm – my days are punctured with hourly trips outside to the amusement/frustration of my neighbours hearing me call “toilet…there’s a good boy”; the scent of wet dog lingers round me and I can’t imagine how I ever got started each day without a reassuring lick to my ears.
It has dawned on me that despite working closely with children and young people daily I may very well deepen my understanding of what Social Pedagogy truly means while caring for this little being – I am required to draw on my creativity to communicate and understand my new pup’s needs; I am forced into working ‘alongside’ as opposed to ‘doing for’ to ensure that he grows up confident and gentle in his ways; and I am already witnessing the benefits he brings to the well-being of all of those he meets.
Everyday we are learning something new as we are both stepping out of the familiar and finding that we are both more confident and capable then first suspected – as a result I have realised that I can be responsible for the life of another…and today he has learnt how delicious shoe laces are!
“Bath time traumas” – Hannah & Charlie
This month I have been thinking about how Social Pedagogy in practice is about not what is being done but how and for what reason – it is essential that for this pup to thrive in our, and his, home he ought to be able to go about his day without being reliant on us as his “human adults” to meet ALL of his daily needs. It is this belief that keeps me going with ‘toilet training’ despite the rain, sleet and snow and gives me strength to challenge those puppy dog eyes (oh the lashes!!) when he is inevitably biting and chewing everything in the home apart, of course, from his specifically bought ‘teething’ toys…
However, one area that I am fairly sure Charlie will never quite master on his own is running a warm bath when he has had a fun filled day rolling in fox poo and muddy leaves. With this in mind I researched the best puppy shampoo (you would be amazed at the size of this market!), ran a shallow but warm bath and placed him in fully expecting him to be bounding about with delight, ever so grateful to me for providing him with a clean glossy coat – the reality, as I am beginning to learn in most areas, was not quite as rosy as I had hoped. After 5 long minutes of crying, bubbles in eyes and with my once clean bathroom now evenly splattered with mud we decided to call it a day!
However, we shall persevere and will see if we have more success next time with the shower…and for anyone that feels vaguely sorry for the pup after his bath time trauma you may feel satisfied to know Charlie has found a new game called “hide the bath mat” which seems to be fairly apt revenge and one he is perfectly capable of playing without my assistance.
“Princess pup”– Hannah & Charlie
This month’s lesson has very much been about managing expectations! Ever since pup had his final set of vaccinations I had been counting down the days until I could take him on his first walk. Prior to this date puppy had the luxury of being escorted around in the big wide world from the comfort of his ‘travel bag’ (my partner has insisted on calling it this to avoid teasing at work for having a ‘handbag dog’…). Despite LOVING the attention I got from carrying pup about I was very excited about our first walk as this is certainly a more natural form of travel for a being with 4 legs. On the morning of our trip out I proudly popped him in his harness, clipped on his lead and could not wait to see his excitement as he bounded out into the big wide world for the first time. What actually happened was one very terrified pup tentatively sniffing at the pavement from the safety of our door way – lots of encouragement and persuasion eventually saw us walk 5 steps to the first lamppost before he took cover under the nearest parked car as a loud wailing police van shot past us! I decided to call it a day and I found it pretty telling that the first thing he did was seek sanctuary in his aforementioned ‘travel bag’ as though to tell me that walking was not for him – this quickly confirmed his status as ‘princess pup’ for the remainder of the day.
This little episode reminded me how reliant we are on being able to communicate and be in tune with each other, especially when supporting each other with new adventures. We cannot see where one’s comfort zone ends and another’s panic zone begins…I (wrongly) assumed that being a dog Charlie would naturally love outside walks and would gladly move from the comfort of his home into the outside world full of new smells, tastes, sounds and sensations but instead he was quickly panicked by the overload of new information and unfamiliar terrain. This was a lesson I could easily relate to my work with young people as it is an easy mistake to assume the tasks you may undertake daily with ease are in fact a whole new area of learning for others. Unless we are ready to work with other’s past experiences and present day expectations and self belief we may find that we miss an opportunity for learning and instead create unnecessary trauma and difficulties…
Charlie has taught me that even if I do not get it right first time – reflection; acknowledging areas for improvement and trying again will pay off – I changed my expectations to meet Charlie’s needs by starting off with playtime in the garden and practiced walking on the lead in his home…as a result he now manages short trips out with me daily…conveniently just far enough for me to get to the local coffee shop and back