Giving Retriever’s strategies and desensitization techniques to help someone who is fearful, remain functional in the presence of a dog.
To begin the process of managing and eventually overcoming the fear, a few things are essential:
- All interactions with dogs must be on the terms of the fearful child rather than the dog.
- Do your best to manage situations where a dog is present to ensure that the dog is not able to approach or initiate contact.
- Outside or in public, walk behind a dog at a distance your child feels is safe or walk parallel with a dog (on the opposite side of the street) instead of walking toward an oncoming dog.
When your child is ready to address the fear by engaging, implement these strategies:
- Allow your child to be a passive observer to a quiet, sleeping dog. Facilitating a situation in which a fearful child can observe of a dog from a distance (or initially only in visualization or picture exercises) may allow him to draw the conclusion that he is safe in the proximity of a dog.
- Start all interactions with the hind end of the dog and allow your child to gradually pet moving closer to the head. This is opposite of how children are traditionally taught to approach dogs and should only be used with dogs whose temperament is appropriate for this interaction and do not have any tactile sensitivity.
Most importantly, making progress toward addressing the fear becomes effective only when it is on your child’s terms.
To learn more, contact Heidi@GivingRetriever.com
Heidi Bonorato is the Founder-Owner of Giving Retriever LLC, an organization that provides Canine-Integrated Therapy programs and Dogs for Special Needs Families. She received her education from Bergin University of Canine Studies, the only accredited academic institution in the world solely dedicated to advanced canine education and research. Heidi has trained numerous Therapy and Assistance Dogs for families of disabled children, young-adults, seniors and Veterans. Giving Retriever, LLC currently provides therapeutic programming in both the clinical and classroom environment, as well as services selecting, matching and training the “right” dog for a family with special needs.