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Can you advise me on spending a weekend with a combo of bouncy dog and terrified child?

(21 Posts)
AWombWithoutAFoof Mon 08-Dec-14 12:49:18

We'll be going to visit my sister soon for a weekend, who has a young dog (about 6 months, I think). She has told me it is bouncy and barky, and quite nervy.

DD is 4.5 and terrified of dogs. She can just about cope to be near very old slow paced ones (but still won't touch one), but is scared witless of smaller dogs who run round quickly and bark. She says she's frightened they will lick her, but I'm not sure it's as reasoned as that, it's a visceral terror.

What's the best way to handle this? DD probably doesn't remember that they have a dog, as she hasn't met it yet. Should we warn her, or is that giving her time to get stressed about it? She can be quite a nervy child in general, in some ways warning about a new situation can be helpful, but it will be incredibly stressful if she freaks out and decides she doesn't want to go, flights are booked etc.

Any tips for while we're there? DSis has stair gates and a puppy crate. Should we try to keep them separate the whole time? Could this actually be a good opportunity for helping DD with her fear, and if so, how?

Purplehonesty Mon 08-Dec-14 12:59:46

Could you encourage dd to look after the dog while she is there? So she gets to feed him and let him in and out of the house? She could take a present for the dog like a biscuit /chew and watch him eat it.
She might grow in confidence if you make it exciting - she could 'adopt' the dog for the weekend maybe?

AWombWithoutAFoof Mon 08-Dec-14 13:13:11

Ooh, taking a present could be a good idea, she does like to look at the dog toys in the pet shop. I wouldn't have thought of that.

We could try the 'looking after' thing, but if the dog is bustly and barky I think things like putting its food down and opening the door for it to go out might mean she's closer to it than she'd like. If we're out walking and see a dog she actually tries to climb up us. sad

Stubbed Mon 08-Dec-14 13:18:27

These situations are a nightmare for me too. My son is terrified of animals and my dd now starting to copy him.

I have loads of problems with my dad and friends who have dogs. My ds will straight away say he doesn't want to go, as it will be ingrained in his mind whether there is a dog or not.

He's best when introduced slowly to an old, gentle, quiet and slow dog. Any others it would be a nightmare. I would have to carry him the whole time.

Watching for advice :-)

Queenofknickers Mon 08-Dec-14 13:29:30

My son was like this - desperately terrified of all dogs - he once ran out into the road confused. We tried all sorts of CBT etc but what has worked was getting a dog of our own. We would never have believed it. So letting your DD do some of the looking after of your sisters dog might help

AWombWithoutAFoof Mon 08-Dec-14 13:54:30

Thanks for more tips. I don't think we'll be going quite so far as getting our own dog. grin

Sympathies to other posters with dog-phobic children, it's so wearing, isn't it? We're trying so hard not to make a big deal of it but it can be really stressful.

MothershipG Mon 08-Dec-14 13:56:44

To be honest if it's just for a weekend and your sister will cooperate I'd just keep them apart. A young over excitable pup is probably not going to be much use in helping your daughter overcome her fears.

My DC were like your DD, when small they both attempt to scale me in an attempt to escape from a Bichon puppy! A tiny, white, fluffy puppy for god's sake! grin Then they went to a new childminder who had a lovely calm staffy that she introduced very slowly and now we have 3 dogs of our own, who they refer to as siblings, in fact they both like their dog siblings better than the human ones. wink

LetThereBeCupcakes Mon 08-Dec-14 14:02:49

Make sure your DD knows how to beave around dogs - if she screams / flaps / runs away the pup will think it's a great game and bark / bounce / run after her.

Do you know if the puppy has stopped mouthing yet? If not he may nip which will obviously upset her.

I have lots of experience of dogs / children but am struggling to type on my phone! Will try and come back when I can get on the pc. Feel free to pm me!

AWombWithoutAFoof Mon 08-Dec-14 15:54:04

I wondered about the keeping apart thing, but I have visions of the dog leaping up at the stair gates barking constantly and all of us having a shit time.

I've been working with DD on trying to remain calm, and not make noise, just hold my hand and walk past dogs as calmly as she can. All of that goes out of the window in an uncontrolled situation though, eg if one is loose on the beach or in the street and it runs up to her. I imagine a dog in its own house will do a lot of running up to her. This is where we need a 'dreading it' emoticon.

I don't know about the mouthing thing, will ask.

Purplehonesty Mon 08-Dec-14 19:16:51

Have you ever shown her some of the funny dog videos on YouTube? My son loves watching them - that might ease her into the thought that dogs are funny and cute and not so scary?
Perhaps when they are introduced it could be in the garden so the pup won't jump up at her so much. She could throw the new toy she has bought for it and play fetch with your sister's help?

basildonbond Mon 08-Dec-14 20:05:16

Can you try to get her involved with the dog - I think the present idea is great but also things like showing her how to stroke the dog on its side rather than trying to put her hand on its head

She's still very young so I can understand how rationality goes out of the window when faced with the object of her terror but just keep on banging home the message of 'stand still, don't flap, don't squeal' and eventually it will get through

I do feel sorry for you both as a real fear of dogs is so debilitating - dogs are nearly everywhere (rightly so imo!) so if you can help her quell her fears that would be the best thing in the long run

btw I was like your dd when small - the only thing that worked for me was when we got our own dog grin

LetThereBeCupcakes Tue 09-Dec-14 07:30:09

Hi OP - sorry for the delay, didn't get chance to post again last night.

Right, this is what I'd do:

1. Steal Purples idea of funny dog videos on You Tube.
2. Show your DD all of the things that dogs can do - Guide Dogs, Sniffer Dogs, Sheep Dogs, Agility Competitions, Flyball, and healwork to music (Ashley & Pudsey). All ways of demonstrating how well dogs can be trained.
3. Agree with getting a gift for the dog but might be better to get the dog a chew / kong to stuff so pup has something to keep him quiet for a bit whilst you settle your DD. Don't let DD approach the pup whilst he's got his food though!
4. See if you can find somebody near you with a very steady dog you could go out for walks with in preparation. A dog trainer would be ideal as they should have pretty steady dogs.
5. Ask your Sister if your DD can do some training with the pup - maybe teach a trick or something.
6. Keep practicing the "don't flap, stay still thing". Honestly, if she runs and squeals that puppy is going to be straight after her.

I don't think separating them for the weekend is the best idea - purely because it would be utter chaos if pup escaped unexpectedly!

Out of interest, where are you OP? I know a few good dog trainers around the country who may be willing to help if they're nearby.

Best of luck OP. Must be so stressful for you and your DD.

LetThereBeCupcakes Tue 09-Dec-14 07:30:56

Oh, and I also think you should come back and share puppy pics! grin

AWombWithoutAFoof Tue 09-Dec-14 17:56:30

Thanks so much for the tips. We're in NI.

I'm afraid to say I'm being a bit grumpy about it now, to be honest. I do trust my sister to be doing her best, they went into dog ownership with huge amounts of research etc, but I'm now really not looking forward to going. I just wanted to see her and her family and have a nice relaxing time. <wails in a spoilt fashion>

Anyway, grumble over, I'll get cracking on dog chew purchasing.

<packs sedative filled pork chop, just in case>

basildonbond Tue 09-Dec-14 20:43:18

yes .. but the dog is part of her family ....

Ineedanewone Tue 09-Dec-14 20:58:26

Google 'make like a tree' for advice on how children should act around jumpy dogs, it really does work as the dog finds the child uninteresting and goes off to do something else.

AWombWithoutAFoof Wed 10-Dec-14 08:29:16

Yes, basildon, I'm afraid it is now. It's just a pain in the arse because it's a long way to go and it doesn't sound like anyone will actually enjoy themselves. If it's shut in another room apparently it bounces up and barks at the gates constantly, and if it's in the room with us it sounds like it'll be horrendous.

Why don't people just get nice quiet old dogs instead?

Right, off to google making like a tree! Thanks again for everyone's input.

IrenetheQuaint Wed 10-Dec-14 08:37:38

Good luck. Can you arrange the visit so that you have regular quiet time with your DD scheduled, either upstairs where the dog can't reach or away from your sister's house? Even if your daughter tries really hard to be brave/sensible around the dog she will probably get quite tired and stressed and need regular breaks (from my recent experience of a similar situation).

Also, does your sister really get the issue or does she think your daughter is silly to be scared? Her attitude will make a big difference to the success or not of the visit.

d0ttyne11 Wed 10-Dec-14 08:53:42

I'm no expert but have found a tired out young dog tends to be gentler. Can your sister meet you somewhere half way and start the weekend with taking the dog for a v v long walk on it's lead? I know this may seem optimistic and naive but a good walk for up to an hour or so may let your child and the dog co-exist (?!) together for a while and let them get used to each other. It also sounds like you may need some alternative distractions for your wee one - like taking them somewhere dog free or being prepared to pack up and come home early if necessary but parting on good terms with both your sister and the pooch smile

AWombWithoutAFoof Wed 10-Dec-14 09:29:29

Yes, my sister does get it, thankfully because her eldest DD was scared of dogs throughout her childhood.

I agree, it's going to be tough on DD. We're still finalising what we're going to do, I think there'll be visiting of extended family on the cards, so the dog won't be coming along to that, so she'll have some respite.

Good idea about beginning the trip with a long walk, but it's going to be the evening when we get there. Coming home early isn't a goer, I haven't seen Dsis and her family for ages and also we have flights booked.

shadowfax07 Wed 10-Dec-14 13:36:35

If the puppy's only six months old, an hour's walk is too much at that age. There are other ways to wear a dog out though, there's a saying about 10 mins of training is worth an hour's exercise.

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