It started with an innocent journey to the library. The day was wet, cold and…
They’re everywhere we go. Some are on a leash, some are not. Some children aren’t bothered by dogs and some have a fear of dogs—rightfully so. They’re a four legged animal at eye level that bark loudly and can be unpredictable. Regardless of if they’re fearless or fearful of dogs, we teach children when we see a dog is to stop, stand still and put our arms by our sides until the dog passes. If they’re very scared then we tell them to stand with us until the dog goes past.
In an effort to get all of our children at Muddy Boot Prints more comfortable with dogs, we invited Tara Tower aka Spook, who is a professional dog trainer, to join both of our programs for a day. She brought her wonderful 5 year old dog Chevy with her to help guide the children in proper ways to greet new dogs, learn about body language of dogs and to spend time playing with Chevy. Spook has raised Chevy from a pup and has spent innumerable hours training him to be comfortable with all humans big and small. Oh what fun we had!
Our Flicker class was very excited for Spook’s arrival. As we had snack many questions arose from them so Miss Pat wrote them down.
After what felt like an eternity to the children Chevy and Spook arrived. Most of our wee ones were very excited to greet them both but we had a few who were hesitant. We offered our hesitant children the space to simply observe from the sidelines until they were ready to interact with Chevy.
The excitement was high to meet and interact with both Spook and Chevy so we began by offering him a few treats from the palm of our hand. One by one the children who were curious lined up, held out their hand as Spook put a treat in it. Upon Spook’s command, Chevy would then gently take the treat from their palm leaving behind some slobber :)
Now that we’ve worked out some energy we’re better able to focus. Spook took time to talk to everyone about body language of dogs and what they look like when they’re happy and when they’re sad. There were many questions from everyone and Spook listened intently and answered each one with the utmost sincerity. Thank goodness we wrote them down!
Next up learned how to greet a dog in a safe manner. Step one: ask the dog owner if you can pet their dog. Step two: put out hand for the dog to smell. If the dog shows signs of being happy then you can pet them on their back.
Each child had a turn to go through the steps and pet Chevy. Not every child took part in this as they simply chose to observe which was fine by us. We finished off our time in both the Flicker and Goldenears program by playing more with Chevy and practicing our new found greeting skills.
The golden moment came at pick up in our Flicker class. Our wee one who had been very timid with Chevy all morning saw her mom arriving. As soon as mom walked up, our little one exclaimed, ‘Mommy! Look at Chevy!’. She then went right up to Spook, asked her if she could pet Chevy. When Spook replied yes, she fearlessly patted Chevy’s back with a large grin on her face. Later her mom told me that she spoke about Chevy and Spook a lot over the weekend and that the class made an impact on her.
Conquering fears is a huge thing regardless of how tall you are. Fears can be better tackled when in a supportive environment and surrounded by those you trust.