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)