Monday, September 20, 2010

Fear of Dogs

Both of my girls express a nervousness at first around dogs. Part of the problem seems to be that people we know don't just have one dog, they often have a pack and the packs bark and jump and freak out with any random excuse. Teena's fear is mostly of the yapping and jumping. Once the beasts settle down, she is fine and will run and play with them. Genea's fear is more pervasive and she will shriek in fear and jump away, trying to crawl up the nearest human leg to get away. Of course many dogs seem to find that to be a challenge- how much louder can we bark, how much higher can we jump, we gotta' get this little girl and make her like us!

Everywhere we go, the kind dog owners make an effort to keep the dogs in another part of the house or outside. But dogs are smart and tricky and above all, determined. They frequently manage to escape whatever barricade was between them and Genea and they go straight for her. This causes a fear reaction in her that I have never seen in any other situation. She shakes, she literally shakes. It is not tremors, it is a full body reaction and she clenches her arms to her chest while shrieking without words.

One thing that pisses me off is dog owners we don't know. Quite often a person might be walking their dog past our house and the girls of course go running up to see it. Genea will stop shy by about 6 feet, but Teena will run right up without fear so long as the dog isn't barking at her. I will be shrieking at her to STOP we DON'T run up to strange DOGS! Big or small, she doesn't care.. Without fail, the owner will insist over and over that their dog is a safe one, loves people, loves kids, super dooper friendly! Well that's just fabulous but the dog has never met MY kids and we seem to be the exception to a lot of rules. Sometimes, the owner will even start to walk their dog up my driveway to show my girls how gentle their pet is. They try to coax Genea out of her shell of fear, encouraging her to inch closer. But it doesn't make a difference, her nerves take over and she keeps her distance all the while visibly shaking. I'm stuck insisting to the dog owner not to let their dog come any closer (ie, get that damn thing off my property!).

I was taught as a kid that no one should ever approach an unfamiliar dog. I think it is a good rule of common sense. The Husband thinks we should be teaching our kids to not fear dogs but I think there is a middle ground where you can keep your distance safely until you know the dog is approachable. And even then, approach with caution and in your mind know that this is above all else an animal and one with big teeth. Oh, and go ahead and try to teach our impulse impaired kids the rationale behind the caution Mr Husband, good luck with that.

So yes, if you are wondering, I have a fear of big dogs. I like little dogs but I have an aversion to things that make a lot of noise and jump on me. When I was a kid my grandmother had this enormous killer dog whose name was Blue. He was kept in the laundry room behind a gate that had to be five feet high otherwise that Cujo-thing would jump it. This was the meanest, nastiest dog and he was loud. I had to pass that laundry room to get into the kitchen and Blue always jumped up to his full height, bashing himself into the metal of that gate so that it clanked into the wall while he roared 2 inches from my ear. They would let him out into the house all the time and say things to me like, don't let him know you are afraid. HUH! Yeah, okay, I'll get right on that once I'm released from the hospital after Blue takes off my face. 

Anyway, we were all at the lovely Sarah's house recently and she of course was considerate about her dogs once she saw Genea shaking in fear. That happened to be a day Corey was here. Poor Sarah was so upset when she saw how terrified Genea was, clutching onto me for dear life and shaking like a leaf. I had to tell her, it's an act. Genea saw someone on TV react to a fear this way and now that's what she does when she is presented with something she thinks she should be afraid of. Genea heard me say that, stopped the shaking and walked away.

Oh, and by the way she is not afraid of dogs either. I used to tell people and they looked at me like I just flipped upside down and turned into a bat. So, I quit telling people. But this day she was busted. Ah glory me. Genea went outside to play in Sarah's yard and outside is where the dogs had been banished. She didn't realize we could see her from inside the house and we all watched my little RAD-lite girl spend 15 minutes playing catch with the dogs, petting the dogs, chasing the dogs etc. For once (and it happened again this weekend which is what reminded me) someone else got a glimpse of The Crazy, and oh my lucky day it was people who are intimately involved with their own special  RAD crazy! (Reactive Attachment Disorder = RAD)


  1. Isn't it lovely when someone else gets a glimpse of the crazy??? It is so vindicating. I wanna jump up and down and say "see!, see! see! I told ya so!!!" Which isn't very mature of me. But I still really want to do it. Unfortunately the crazy is reserved mostly for us and everyone else sees just sweetness and light.

  2. Wow. I've noticed the dog fear thing when I walk my standard poodle around the neighborhood. Kids are either thrilled to see her (they must think all poodles wear little tutus and walk on their hind legs like in the circus) or they act like I have a live Siberian tiger at the end of the leash and run screaming for their mothers.
    This annoys me because all I am doing is walking on a public street with a sedate, mannerly dog who is much quieter than the screaming children.
    Of course I would never walk up to any child with my dog. I don't particularly like children (except for my own) and I don't think it's my place to share the joys of the animal kingdom with them. I try to give kids a wide berth when we're out walking and I don't really understand what the screaming is about. Do the children who fear dogs see me and the Big Poodle of Doom and think we're going to pursue them?
    Anyway, this fear of dog thing seems to be pretty common. I think it stems from not having a dog in their own home. Good luck with the dog terror.

  3. So, let me get this right...she is NOT afraid of dogs after all? Wow..thats quite an act. I always appreciate it when a kid asks permission to pet one of my dogs before just walking up to them. I hate it when kids run up to my dogs and the parents say NOTHING. I am one of those people who have my own "pack" and they are noisy bark just because they can will bite however, and I dont let kids that he doesnt know or know him get anywhere near him

  4. I have brought my three to see the therapy dogs, many, many times. Especially after WG was bit last spring. And of course, we have/had two large docile dogs (RIP Hope who passed away last Friday).

    The kids have learned to NEVER approach an animal, period. They also know all the things to do and say around strange animals.

    it's just a suggestion. Our library has the therapy dogs once a year at least.

  5. I don't walk my dog up to kids but I will let kids pet my dog if they approach and Duke loves to meet new people.

    But I had a bad experience last summer. We pasted by a neighbor's house and 2 loud kids ran up to us to see the dog. They just started roughly petting him without asking! My usually curious, gentle dog GROWLED at them. We had to actually ask these kids to back off. At the very least, please people, teach your kids to recognize the signs that an animal is getting ticked off.

  6. my mom's dog sounds a lot like Blue.


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