Words: Paul Chapman
Images: Sally Bawden
The fear of dogs is real and many children and adults are scared of dogs. Local dog trainer Sally Bawden, who specialises in working with families and schools to help children and dogs to live happily together, has overcome her own fear of dogs and is now helping others to do the same.
“It’s crazy that I now work with dogs! I remember vividly how stressful visiting a friend with a dog could be. I can still remember the feeling of fear with a lively Labrador running around freely when I was at a friend’s party. Luckily my fear subsided as I grew older, but this is not always the case.”
Sally has turned her fear of dogs into her passion and a career when she qualified as a Dog Trainer and set up her business Feel Good Dog Training in Holymoorside.
However, Sally wanted to specifically help families with children, so she joined Kids Around Dogs (KAD). “When I found out about the international organisation Kids Around Dogs, I knew this was the area of dog training I wanted to specialise in” Sally says, “I love working with families with the practical aspects they should be thinking about and the management tools to put in place with babies, young children and teenagers.” Skills such as how to play safely with dogs and how to read the subtle signs a dog can give when they need some space, such as turning their head away or yawning when not tired.
Sally explains that she has also seen first-hand the trauma caused when a family friend was bitten when visiting a friend’s house for a sleepover and saw the distressing fallout for all involved. The scars the girl was left with will always be there, physically and mentally.
One of the certifications Sally obtained by joining KAD was learning the successful protocol to overcome the fear of dogs in children. The fun 10-week program helps kids to understand dogs and see them as individuals with emotions; likes, dislikes, opinions and ideas, rather than a scary animal who will bite or jump up at them. What helps a lot by using the KAD protocol is the confidence the child will gain around dogs because of their new education on canine body language. Giving the child the knowledge and skills to know what to do if a dog should approach and changing their negative thoughts into positive ones. The protocol is child-led with emphasis on parents or carers being present and involved too so that the whole family learns new things about dogs. It uses positive reinforcement and rewards for completing tasks each week.
Sally has recently worked with a five year old girl whose mother saw the difference in her daughter from the start to the end of the protocol. 'My daughter was so scared of dogs it was becoming dangerous and stressful where she was hypervigilant. She would notice a dog in the distance, get sweaty palms and she would even run into the road. It was getting so stressful to even walk to school or the local park. After the protocol with Sally my daughter is now able to show interest in dogs, wave at dogs and even stroke dogs. It was pitched to my daughter’s age and Sally was very friendly.'
Another parent commented that, 'It is nice not to have to worry, try to second guess what he will do when a dog is around and it has made life so much easier.'
Sally confirms, “This is what makes this work so rewarding and positive for me.”
For more information or an informal chat please contact Sally or visit her website and the Kids Around Dogs website.
Look out for dog and children related tips coming up from Sally in future issues of S40 Local.