My two youngest girls are scared of dogs. They've never been attacked (I'm so pleased to say) but they have been frightened silly by some very inconsiderate owners letting large dogs, off leads, run up to them and bark. Of course as parents we often told the owners quite firmly to control their animals but it only takes one or two occasions like this and they are scared. The biggest scare for S came in Spain when she was only 2 and two dogs in a villa hurled themselves at the gates snarling and barking as we walked past. To be fair, hubby and I jumped so what this must have felt like to a tiny 2 year old is almost beyond comprehension. Hence the fear of dogs has set in - more for S - but for both girls to some degree or other.
Yesterday we popped down to see my niece, my sister and brother-in-law. I hadn't mentioned to the girls that my sister had her dogs with her at my nieces house. If I had, we've never have got there!
We rang the doorbell and in we went. The smallest dog came to greet us. That was it. The girls were in pieces. N was shaking like a leaf. S screamed and cried, shaking and wanting to go home. Hubby took N outside and sat with her on a chair, only to be confronted by a bigger dog, a very friendly labrador. I picked up S and carried her outside and sat with her two, all the time we were gently explaining that the dogs would not hurt them. Their tails were wagging, they were just excited to see some new friends. It was not an easy half our or so but do you know, my sister picked up her Biscon Frise and the girls both stroked it's woolly little head. They were still very scared but they did stroke the dog. This is a major achievement - trust me. They were still very frightened of the labrador as he kept bounding up to us until I showed them he had a ball and just wanted to play. Very gradually, they stood up and picked up his ball and threw it to him. As he bounced back with it, you could see them tense up but they soon relaxed when his owner said to tell him to 'drop' and he'd give them the ball. All the time this was going on there were two very young children under 2 running around totally ignoring the dogs so you can imagine how odd this must have been to people used to dogs and children about. Everyone was very kind.
By the end of our time there, the girls were playing in the garden and had forgotten about the dogs more or less and the dogs had just laid down out of the sunshine to relax.
Yesterday was a major step forward. I'm very, very proud of my two little girls for being so brave when confronted - head on - with one of their greatest fears.