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Daughter has a dog phobia, can anyone help?

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Daughter has a dog phobia, can anyone help?

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Pets & Pet Care
38 replies 20.3K views
Sweet_Pea_2Sweet_Pea_2 Forumite
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edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Pets & Pet Care
My daughter who is seven has always been scared around dogs but recently it has got a lot worse. When she was three, we were walking along on our way to nursery and a dog ran out of a garden straight up to her. It didn't jump up or bark or anything, just stopped dead in front of her. She screamed and ran into the road before I could grab her, (luckily a cul de sac and no cars about) where she fell over and cut her knee. Ever since this incident she has been scared of dogs, but would just hold my hand if she saw one.

For some reason, I cant find out why really, it has got a lot worse in the last few weeks. If she sees a dog on the way to school she has a blue fit and tries to run away. This afternoon, some bright spark decided to take a dog into school to collect their child, despite us having letters from school asking parents not to do this. We were right outside the school gates waiting to cross over with the lollipop lady when dd spots the dog, (which was on a lead, but this made no difference) she immediately pulled her hand from mine and tried to run out into the busy road to avoid it. Luckily I grabbed hold of her and had to literally drag her away from the road, but we were both really shaken by this. (The dog just walked straight past with its owner and didnt even glance in our direction!)

Can anyone recommend anything that may help? My mum suggested we get her a puppy of her own, but for numerous reasons this is not really an option.
The walk to school is getting more and more stressful for both of us, even collecting her from brownies the other day, someone collecting another child took a dog into church and the same thing happened, dd was off out the door and almost in the road before I grabbed her, I feel if another dog owner says to us "but the dog wont hurt her" I will really have to scream!
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Replies

  • BossybootsBossyboots Forumite
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    Do you know anyone with a friendly dog?

    My daughter had a bad experience with a demented dog when she was little and we had similar problems with her. She was alright with small dogs (my brother had one) but anything medium to large frightened her. My friend had a German Shepherd and she spent some time over a period of weeks with my daughter introducing her to the dog. She started off just holding her hand and talking to the dog through the closed window, then the open window, then with the door open but a safety gate in between and so on, until my daughter came to accept the dog. Since then we have had no problems.
  • SharraSharra Forumite
    751 posts
    I agree with the above post but also I saw them treat a little girl with an animal phobia on the house of tiny tearaways.
    A couple of things stuck in my mind - one was to watch your own body language around her, don't follow your instincts and be protective as that assures her there is something to be scared about. Make sure you are very relaxed and not tensing up waiting for her to freak out.
    They encouraged this little girl to say how scared she was feeling with red (for most), orange and green. If she felt red, the told her she had to blow imaginary candles out on a birthday cake one at a time to reduce her stress levels to orange.
    The main thing tho would be repeated exposure to dogs, gradual desensitisation.
  • BeclesBecles Forumite
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    There are local dog shows about for agility and obedience competitions. Small country towns around here have the annual town show, which includes a dog section. These will all be very well behaved dogs. Keep a watch in the free paper, local library notice board etc for details of such events.

    Would she be ok watching dogs from a distance as they perform in the ring? Agility is also great fun to watch anyway so she should find it enjoyable.

    Once she is happy watching from a distance, you could go nearer and perhaps ask the owners if she could pat the dogs. Most will be fine with this, as mine have patted loads of dogs in the past.

    If you contact PAT (Pets as Therapy) http://www.petsastherapy.org/ they might be able to put you in contact with a local person with a PAT dog. These are mainly family pets who have a good temperment and go out visiting people such as old people in homes. The dog is trained to sit by the patient and be petted, so it wouldn't jump up or be agressive. Bob (in my avatar) is training to be a one. It's a shame you don't live local as you could have borrowed him!
    Here I go again on my own....
  • My in-laws puppy walk for guide dogs for the blind. The dogs there are the calmest and friendliest you'll come across. Get in touch with the association and ask them if they could put you in touch with a local puppy walker in your area. I'm sure they'd be pleased to help as exposure to children is part of their necessary socialization!!
    'My father told me to go for it.
    So I went for it. But it had gone.'
  • barjam_2barjam_2 Forumite
    1.7K posts
    i agree with bossyboots

    one of my boys who is now 11yrs had a fear of dogs when he was small i dont know why cos when he was born we already had a doberman he was terrified of her as got to the age of 1-2yrs i couldnt understand why she was a big softie (the dog) and his fear carried on til one of my friends slowly introduced him to her jack russell once he got used to her that was it he slowly got used to other dogs,now he couldnt care less
  • andycarmiandycarmi Forumite
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    Hi.
    The good news is a phobia is a learnt behaviour and can be overcome!!!

    You seem to be starting on the right track doing something about it! Talk about how she feels when she sees a dog, talk her through it rationally. (before she sees a dog)

    National Phobics Society
    0870 7700 456
    http://www.phobics-society.org.uk

    Triumph Over Phobia
    01225 330353
    http://www.triumphoverphobia.com Is a charity.

    Good luck. :D
  • Some really good suggestions here, I'd like to suggest you don't try and deal with this yourself as I'm sure you are already trying to and clearly the behaviour is escalating.
    I would agree with Becles (well done Becs and Bob). The PAT dogs handlers are trained in how to cope with people who are initally slightly nervous around dogs. Your local hospital will be able to give you the contact details of a local PAT group/handlers.
    If you want to try something helpful yourself, keep hold of your child's hand all the time you're anywhere near a road and ignore their behaviour completely, it's extremely easy to reinforce the behaviour by doing/saying the wrong thing.
    I've tried to be pragmatic and hope this helps.
  • All excellent suggestions and I have one other.

    You could try hypnotherapy as this will completely desensitise the phobia.

    Due to children having great imaginations there is a lot of success with curing all types of phobias.

    Debs
  • Debt_Free_ChickDebt_Free_Chick Forumite
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    Another suggestion. Find out who runs the local Kennel Club puppy training course. This will be a qualified trainer and he/she may also have experience of working with children & dogs. Talk to the trainer and see if they can help.

    It's definitely worth working on this one. Dogs react differently to those who are frightened of them - essentially as the frightened person cannot assert themselves "above" the dog. The dog then knows that it's higher in the pack than the frightened person and will effectively be "a bully". Not necessarily aggressive, but the dog is likely to assert some dominance over the frightened person. This will only make them feel more nervous.

    So ... ask the local Kennel Club puppy trainer if they can help.

    Good luck - will be interested to hear how you get on with any of these suggestions.
    Warning ..... I'm a peri-menopausal axe-wielding maniac ;)
  • Sweet_Pea_2Sweet_Pea_2 Forumite
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    Some really great ideas here, thanks so much.
    I had thought of hypnotherapy as mentioned here, because when I was young my cousin had a dog phobia and had hypnotherapy.
    With regards to the gradual exposure to them, I don't know many people that have dogs! My best friend has a lovely old labrador, but unfortunately she lives too far away from us for it to work. DD's friend who lives a few doors away has recently had a dog, (this seems to be the turning point that escalated her dog fear I think) although she is a lovely friendly dog who loves having her ears stroked, she also jumps around a lot, so is not ideal.
    I think I will have a subtle chat with DD about how she feels around dogs, and also I will start off by contacting the PAT people to see if I can link us up with a dog near to us. My older daughter (10) is also nervous around dogs, but she isn't too bad, (its not cool to be scared!) however I think some exposure to a nice calm friendly dog would be good for her as well.
    Thanks very much to everyone for the great ideas, I really need to do something about this before it ends with an accident, so I will keep you all posted.
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