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Scared of dogs after multiple bad experiences

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My 11 yr old Aspergers and ADHD daughter has started having a meltdown at the sight of a dog, even when on lead on the other side of the street. Walking home through the park a dog bothered her and her sister one day and she was so traumatised it's had a lasting effect. I don't know what to do bout it next, it's like she needs hypnosis to get past it, I've tried all sorts! Dog owners appear to be unsympathetic and just say dog won't hurt you which isn't much help. After another meltdown over the weeke on a dog encounter I actually said ' she's autistic' which actually made the lady move the dog away without further attempts to get her to pat it! 

i am autistic. i also had several bad experiences as a child with dogs; on one occasion i was savaged by a dog. i can now pet dogs and have no fear of them.

i strongly suspect that your daughter's severe and increasing reactions to dogs in general is as a result of ptsd. the trauma of the event(s) surrounding dogs have left her now with an almost instantaneous flight/fight response. 

i would recommend doing two things: 

a. speak to your gp about how to manage or help your daughter's trauma - i suspect at this stage it is just to do with dogs but if this goes unchecked then it could start to transfer to other things eg. going out in general (although that is extreme example but one i feel must be addressed) 

b. grab the bull by the horns /gently/ - it is important to get proper support but personally what got me over my fear of dogs was understanding them. dogs' energy is very different, it is very energetic and seems to make no sense whatsoever, it is also very overloading. to get past this i educated myself about dog behaviour (obviously i was a lot older but could not live in fear of an animal as i believe all animals are wonderful - exception spiders, still haven't conquered that one yet, but would never kill one). i think it would help your daughter greatly if she were able to /understand/ dogs, their language etc. and also understand that it is not the dog's fault for bad behaviour, it is the owner's, and their ignorance generally (your case in point, which was just someone not knowing what to do in the face of being told your daughter had autism we'll put down to a different kind of ignorance). 

so, perhaps an idea to build your daughter's fractured confidence is to put it in plaster and a splint. perhaps pointing out when out and about in a shop if there are dog teddy-bears, that 'oh that's a nice teddy dog', and see if she takes to the idea. feeling she has control over a substitute dog would give her indirect confidence and also give positive reinforcement to the idea that not all dogs are frightening. 

also, there are programmes such as The Dog Whisperer which are excellent, if she is old enough. perhaps having this on in the background one day and saying things like 'oh come and look at this, it's interesting' just to see if she takes to the idea of 'watching something with dogs in it' in a controlled safe environment like her home, with you, will help possibly. 

the more she understands that not all dogs are going to attack her, she will be able to conquer her flight/fight response and also her overload because she will then be able to /understand/ the code of the dogs ie their language. as an autistic person, i can honestly say, its all about the code.

as for the ptsd, that will subside as she begins to conquer and understand. 

that's all i can offer you as a jumping off point for now. you know your daughter best. use positive reinforcement, never push her or force her to do something until she is ready. she'll get there i'm sure. 

After the initial stages Ferret suggests (dog teddies, TV) could your daughter gradually befriend, under your supervision, one particular dog that is known to be good with children?  Perhaps a puppy or small dog belonging to a friend, neighbour or relative?  Size is of course no guarantee - even tiny terriers can be nippy - but she'd probably feel more comfortable with a smaller dog.

While your daughter's negative reactions are perfectly understandable, they will of course be quickly picked up by any dogs who may come near her and this is likely to put the animals into a defensive or even aggressive mode, worsening the situation.

I grew up on a 1960s council estate, where it was normal for many dogs (though not ours) to wander alone through streets, gardens and children's play areas!  Although that wasn't a nice situation - not least for the dogs - it did mean that I quickly gained an intuitive sense of how to behave with dogs and which ones to trust.  Nowadays, when I go for walks in fields where dogs are unleashed, unfamiliar ones will often rush up to me (despite the protestations of worried owners!) and I just greet them as if they are old friends - which some of them have actually become.

I admit I've not so far had a really nasty experience with a dog and - as someone who suffers from almost every common phobia - I can empathise with the trauma.  But, having had closer canine and feline friendships than human ones as a boy, I now usually feel more comfortable with dogs and cats than people.

Thank you so much for your helpful replIes! I think I might approach the GP with this as it is not a totally new thing, it's got a lot worse lately and I think it's going to stop us going out due to her anxiety. 

we did try the befriending thing once before, but she quickly forgets it. We live in a rural area so encounter dogs on leads most mornings, not one of those dogs has ever come within touching distance, but still she gets in a state when we see them. 

I recently read that there is a new treatment for phobias on the NHS, using virtual reality to introduce situations, as her world is electronics it might be a way to get her on board. I'll see how I get on with the GP.