Its every child's idea of fun to play in the park with their friends but unfortunately for one little girl this idea was all too much.
Recently I had the pleasure of helping a 6 year old little girl called Amy, who wanted to go to the park and play football without the feeling of dread for seeing a dog.
I set up a series of sessions called ‘Building Confidence Around Dogs’. The first few sessions were to be held at the local library with Amy after school. On the first session we talked about our likes and dislikes and it was clear that Amy was a keen fan of Marvel Superhero’s. I knew from this session forward I was going to incorporate superheroes into our work.
We also discussed how certain days we may feel happy, sad, scared or grumpy and Amy could demonstrate how she felt at Christmas time, home time, after school, her Birthday, scoring a goal! We then looked out of the window and watched the dogs walking by and discussed how they may be feeling, going for a walk etc.
The sessions went really well each week. One week I designed a book which actually involved Amy playing a role and Batman coming to save the day. This really helped Amy to understand the safety messages I was teaching her. Amy's mum wanted Amy to be in control of her actions whilst they were out, which would enable them to do more things as a family in the holidays.
No real dog was to be used in the sessions, unless we all felt Amy was ready to meet my education dog and had agreed to this. As the sessions went by Amy was slowly growing in confidence. On one of the sessions I set out a treasure hunt down by the canal close to Amy's house. Myself, Amy, her mum and little sister all set off to the canal to start the treasure hunt.
On the bridge Amy was given some Marvel Superhero bubbles, and her task was to blow the biggest bubble she could by using the techniques, we had previously practised in the garden to achieve calm breathing. We continued and Amy was enjoying finding the clues which led to prizes.
Amy was able to demonstrate what she should do if a dog was walking by. She made an X over her over her chest with her arms and looked away. By doing this she felt safe and secure. She felt a bit like the Marvel super hero 'Invisible Women'.
Amy could discuss why it was important to stand with her arms making an X, instead of running away.
By the 7 week we asked Amy if she would be happy to see Winnie through a window. Amy agreed to this and watched Winnie through her bedroom window. Amy's confidence was getting better and better and by the last session she agreed to let Winnie sit on my knee in the living room and Amy be close by.
Amy was very calm around Winnie as she knew if she was loud it may upset Winnie. We read the story of how Batman saved the day whilst Winnie listened on the sofa. Amy drew a lovely picture for us and decided she wanted to come close to Winnie. Amy's mum captured this great picture and Amy's smile says it all.
A few weeks later I delivered a Responsible Dog Ownership lesson to Amy's class at school. We learnt that 3 is the magic number if we want to stroke a dog.
- Always ask the dog’s owner if it’s ok if you can stroke their dog. Remembering to ask YOUR parents first if it’s ok to speak to the owner.
- Stand calmly and allow the dog to smell you
- Ask where the dog prefers to be stroked.
All the class wanted to put this into practise so made a lovely quiet line, including Amy.
Amy remembered what to do and demonstrated twice in front of her friends!
It was a successful outcome for Amy, and she and her mum continue to practice what we did throughout the sessions.
Well done Amy and keep up the hard work!