Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.

#87 PET TALK TODAY with Certified Behavior Consultant, WILL BANGURA - Overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs with Stefanie Cohen, LCSW.

February 18, 2023 PET TALK TODAY: Dog Training with Will Bangura, Dog Behaviorist, Dog Training, Cat Training, Pet Health, and Wellbeing with Will Bangura Season 4 Episode 87
#87 PET TALK TODAY with Certified Behavior Consultant, WILL BANGURA - Overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs with Stefanie Cohen, LCSW.
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
More Info
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
#87 PET TALK TODAY with Certified Behavior Consultant, WILL BANGURA - Overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs with Stefanie Cohen, LCSW.
Feb 18, 2023 Season 4 Episode 87
PET TALK TODAY: Dog Training with Will Bangura, Dog Behaviorist, Dog Training, Cat Training, Pet Health, and Wellbeing with Will Bangura

PET TALK TODAY #87 Dog Training with Will Bangura. This Week I interview Author and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Stefanie M. Cohen about her Book, "Overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs."  Learn how parents can help children overcome their  fear of dogs.  Dog Training, Dog Trainer, Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Cat Trainer, Cat Training, Pet Trainer, Pet Training, Will Bangura.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Show Notes Transcript

PET TALK TODAY #87 Dog Training with Will Bangura. This Week I interview Author and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Stefanie M. Cohen about her Book, "Overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs."  Learn how parents can help children overcome their  fear of dogs.  Dog Training, Dog Trainer, Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Cat Trainer, Cat Training, Pet Trainer, Pet Training, Will Bangura.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Speaker 1:

Raised by Wolfs with canine DNA n in his blood, having trained more than 24,000 vets helping you and your fur babies thrive. Live in studio. It's Pet Talk today with Will Manura answering your pet behavior and training questions. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host and favorite pet behavior expert, will Manura.

Speaker 2:

Good Saturday morning, pet lovers. I'm Will Bandura and you are listening and watching to Pet Talk today. We're here each and every Saturday morning on Facebook Live. You can also catch our podcast, go to any podcasting platform, whether that's Google Podcast, apple Podcast, Spotify. Look for pet talk today, and you never have to miss an episode. We're normally here talking about your dogs. I'm answering your questions about your dog's training and behavior, but today we are gonna be interviewing Stephanie Cohen, licensed clinical social worker. She wrote the book, overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs, A Step by Step Guide for Parents. So in just a minute, we are going to be talking to Stephanie. We're excited to have her here. Have you had a good weekend? Have you been, uh, practicing with your dogs? Have you been doing the training and the behavior modification that we've been talking about for the last few weeks? Well, we've got some interesting things coming up in the week. Monday is National Love Your Dog Day. Isn't that nice? Monday? Now, I think everybody should take off work Monday so that they can, they can love their dog. Make sure you show this to your bosses. Okay. But you know what? Not everybody, not everybody loves dogs. There are some people out there, especially a lot of children that have a huge fear of dogs. And it is something that, um, can be heartbreaking. You know, we all love dogs and maybe, you know, somebody that has a child that's afraid of dogs. Um, if you do, you're gonna wanna share this video. You're gonna wanna share this show with them, because today's show is gonna be different because we're gonna be doing an interview today and we're gonna be talking all about how do you overcome your fear of dogs. I'm gonna be interviewing Stephanie Cohen. I've talked to you about it. I've got her book here, overcoming The Fear of Dogs. The last few weeks we've been kind of promoting that we are gonna have this show. Um, Stephanie's a licensed clinical social worker. She specializes in parent coaching and child development. Uh, she developed the overcoming fear of Dogs' Protocol as a result of seeing, um, her own daughter suffer from fear of dogs. Uh, Stephanie's been helping children, uh, feel safe around dogs for more than 30 years. So we're really glad to have Stephanie here. Stephanie, welcome to Pet Talk today. We're so glad that you're here today. Thank

Speaker 3:

You, will. It's a pleasure to be

Speaker 2:

Here. So, you know, I I deal with all kinds of, my specialty is dealing with dogs that have fears and phobias and anxiety, um, and, and helping the pet parents to alleviate the fears that their dogs have. So this is gonna be an interesting interview. I'm gonna be curious to see how much overlap, uh, there might be in terms of coming over these fears. But, um, the first thing I wanna know is, can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became interested in writing about helping children overcome the fear of dogs?

Speaker 3:

Yes. So many years ago, my own daughter, who was about four or five at the time outta the blue, announced that she was afraid of dogs. And it was very hard for me to see her so scared, because I'm an animal and dog lover myself, and I didn't understand it. It seemed irrational to me, and it affected our, our whole family life. She wouldn't go on play dates, she wouldn't visit my mother who had a dog. And it really impacted us. And then we ended up taking a trip out to California to see my sister, Kathy, Kathy Malkin, who actually, uh, contributed two chapters to the book about how dogs communicate. And she had a wonderful dog named Casey. And Becky was very scared of the dog, but my sister had Becky cue the dog to sit to lay down. Casey knew some tricks so intuitively we were doing exposure therapy with her, teaching her about dogs because we're afraid of things we don't understand. So there's a big educational component and also helping her feel more in control around a dog. Cause anxiety and fear is a fear of feeling outta control. So we wanna help kids feel more in control. And so over the week that we were out in California, this little protocol, uh, sort of came to be. And then over the years, using my own dogs who were registered therapy dogs, they assisted me in working with children. And at some point I said, you know what? I have something here. I need to put it in a book. So other people can help their children learn not to be scared of dogs.

Speaker 2:

Well, and I think some people are gonna say, you know, why is it important for parents to, to help their children overcome the fear of dogs?

Speaker 3:

Well, you know, we live in a world where there are lots of dogs, and I don't know if you're seeing this, but after the pandemic, it seems like they're more and more dogs. And if you wanna leave your house and walk to the store or go to a park or walk to the school bus, there's a very good chance that you may come in contact with a dog. So my, my mission is, while I would love every child and every person to love dogs and learn how to interact safely with them, I really, my main goal is just to have children be able to be in proximity of a dog and not freak out.

Speaker 2:

Gotcha. Now, what are some of the common reasons why children develop these fears and and how do parents identify, uh, the reasons with their own kids?

Speaker 3:

Well, that's a really good question. And as I started to do my research, it became, it was a little surprising to me, um, the different ways and which one is actually the most common in my experience. So there are four ways. The first one is kinda like the obvious one, you might think of the child got or something negative happened to the child with a dog. The second way is they see something negative to someone else. The third way is they may hear about it. Um, like someone may say, oh, when I was four years old, that poodle across the street bit me. Um, also it's important to realize adults often give very subtle cues about their own discomfort. Near dogs. They may cross the street if they're seeing a dog and their child is with them, they may pick their child up if a dog is coming. And that, that telegraph to children. I think there are a lot of similarities between kids and dogs that telegraph to their children, oh, I'm not, I'm not safe here. There's a dog coming. But the fourth way, which to me is really I think the most interesting one, and this is how it was for my daughter, there's a certain personality, um, which is kinda cautious, very observant. They tend to be bright kids and dogs are unpredictable and they see dogs, but they don't understand them. And that is what, uh, causes the fear.

Speaker 2:

So,

Speaker 3:

And in my, go

Speaker 2:

Ahead. No, no. I, well, I was just gonna say, can you walk us through some of of the steps that, you know, parents can take to help their child feel more comfortable around dogs?

Speaker 3:

Yes. So the first thing is to accept that their child's fear and discomfort is real. There's a wide variety of how scared kids feel around dogs. Some are just a little uncomfortable and some go into full panic mode, fight or flight, and they, they can't be reached. They're so hysterical. Um, so the first thing is to, uh, accept that the fear is real. Be supportive. Learn, learn as much as you can and teach your child about dog safety and dog body language. When I work with kids, I show them pictures of different dogs in different, uh, I show them a scared dog, a friendly, relaxed dog. And we talk about what they're seeing. And of course during this, I, I increase, hopefully increase their self-confidence and their self-esteem and let them know they're really doing a good job identifying what the dogs are feeling and saying with their body so that when they see a dog, they'll be able to look and say, oh, that dog has a relaxed body. Their mouth is open, their ears are, are not too alert, or their tail is whatever it is. And they can say, that dog is feeling this way. And that's, that's where we start, is with the education. And then after that, to do some controlled exposure, which all that means is looking at dogs, you can look at videos or pictures or if grandma has a dog, can send videos of cute things. Most important thing I always warn parents is you must vet those videos first because you don't want them inadvertently to see something that might scare them. And after that, then you move up to, uh, being in proximity with a real dog. A dog that's been vetted, that is safe, dependable, has some, um, reliable cues. Can sit, can down, will not jump, won't bite. And if it's a liquor knows not to lick. Cause those are some of the common fears that kids have. They don't wanna be jumped on. They don't wanna be licked. Um, lot of kids don't want the dog to bark, but if the dog barks, I usually just go with that and say, what do you think the dog is saying? Cause that's also how dogs talk as you know. Um, and these little exposures are, they're safe for the dog and they're safe for the child. Dog is unleashed the entire time and the child is encouraged but not forced to, um, to go as far as they can. We usually start with observing the dog. What do you see? Um, we talk about the color of their eyes or what color color they have. Um, if the dog does some tricks that breaks the ice a little bit. And then we work up to touching the dog with one finger. And then we do a whole hand and we count to 10. And in the midst of all this, because very often the kids are experiencing anxiety, I have them identify how scared they feel on a scale of one to 10. Most kids will start out somewhere between an eight and a 10 when they first see the dog. And little by little, if we're lucky, we get it down to about a five. Um, and we also do some mindfulness exercises, some deep breathing, and we also talk about things not related to the dog. Whatever the child's interested in the favorite baseball, basketball team, that kinda a thing to sort of distract and take away from it. So I think that that sums it up. It can be one session, it can be five.

Speaker 2:

And I think it's important, you know, one of the things that you said was, there are things that you can do. There are things that you need to do, um, with your child before you even attempt to expose them to a real dog. And can you just say what that is again? Cuz I think that's really important that people don't just jump into, you know, here here's a dog.

Speaker 3:

Yes, yes. Um, when I was looking over some of the, the questions that you thought we might discuss, I was concerned that people might think exposure therapy is, okay, we're gonna go to a dog park and stand here while all these dogs run around us. That's not what we do. Um, so again, it's the education so that a kid knows when a dog does a play that's a play. That doesn't mean they're going to jump on you. Um, it, it comes down to education. It's also, this is a really important piece of what I do with children is I give them a plan. So what can you do if a dog is coming towards you? You never, ever run. Because I try to, and believe me, I've worked with kids and parents have told me their kids will run into traffic to avoid a dog. Wow. So yeah. So that is one good reason to help kids feel more comfortable with dogs. Cause it's, it's a safety issue really. Um, is if a dog is approaching on a leash, I try to empower them to say, please keep your dog away. They should be allowed to say that some parents feel that's being rude. I said, no, you're, you're keeping your child safe and and showing that, um, you have their back. So if you don't wanna interact, it's perfectly okay to say no thank you. Also, I teach them, um, are you familiar with, um, the term be tree?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

Okay. Yeah. So I teach them that how to stand still cross your arms. I actually have them turn sideways. Mm-hmm.<affirmative>. Um, because that feels safer to very boring and borings

Speaker 2:

Whatever. It's safer to the dog too. No, it's safer to the dog too. We call that, you know, if we're approaching the dog and we're facing head on, we call that plowing. And if we, uh, face the dog sideways, which is what we do always, if we've got a dog that might be a little nervous, we call that blading. Um, and definitely very Oh, interesting. Very familiar with freeze like a tree because we get dogs that, uh, might be, uh, fearful or excitable, rin. And that's one of the things that people have to do to help the dogs. So, um, now there, and again, there's a lot of things here that are going to be very, very similar, uh, to mm-hmm.<affirmative> to what we're doing with dogs. Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

That's right. Now, so if a child knows ok, if I feel scared, you call it when you turn sideways. Exactly. Um, yeah, you can bla and you be a tree do not run because dogs are hardwired to chase things that move be as still as you can. We tell them to count to 10, do some deep breaths, and with, with a little luck, the dog will not be interested and go find someone who wants to interact with them now. So we actually practice that.

Speaker 2:

Are there certain, one of the things that I, and and I'm hoping you had time to think about it, but are there certain breeds or types of dogs that might be easier or more difficult, uh, for children to overcome their fear of? And if so, why?

Speaker 3:

Well, it's interesting because I did think about it, and in my experience, some kids, it's, it's very subjective. Some kids like smaller, smaller dogs and are afraid of bigger dogs. Some children find the small dogs a little jumpy and y so they prefer the bigger dog. It really, I think, comes down to the temperament of the dog and the dog. Like calm, sort of calm dogs are the least scary to children regardless of breed. Now I'll share a little thing about my own. Um, I'm not afraid of dogs. Um, I'm cautious around them as I think we all should be. But I see German shepherds, uh, I've body say I'm, that's what we wanna teach kids

Speaker 2:

That, you know, that's fantastic as far as body language. I know in looking through, reading through your book, you talk a lot about body language and, and we're gonna have you talk more about that in the interview. Um, but that also key critical thing. I deal with dogs that have fears, anxieties, phobias, aggression. And you know, one of the things that I tell, uh, the pet parents, like, your dog can't speak to you, but they do through their body language. Mm. And it's critical if they wanna know what's going on with their dog, they need to understand body language. And because a lot of'em are fearful and aggressive and fear and aggressive aggression, they're, they're tied together. Um, it's important to know. And you can read like, I'm sure what, what you are teaching them for them to read. Hey, is this a dog that you know is safe to approach? Is this a dog that's showing stress signals? Um, can you talk a little bit more about some of the things that, um, you teach and how you teach, um, them to look for things in, in the canine body language?

Speaker 3:

Yes. So, um, we, so the Dog safe com website has some great information about this. Um, so I have do some homework. I will be that assist in exposure therapy are like 95% of the time, relaxed, friendly, happy to be doing this. Um, but we do watch, we do watch for stress, you know, the licking of the lips, the tail between the legs, the panting, that kind of a thing. Um, so I guess to answer your question, it's hard to demonstrate with the dogs. I use dogs that are uncomfortable. Does that make sense?

Speaker 2:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Um, yeah, because they don't necessarily see that you're bringing in, you know, stable, calm dogs. Um, what's the resource that you use to have them study and help learn, uh, the canine body language?

Speaker 3:

Um, dog safe com

Speaker 2:

Dog. Like can you spell that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. D G g N e safe s a e.com. They, they have a very comprehensive book out.

Speaker 2:

I'll have to check that out. And then, yeah, I, with my clients, I, I advise them to get a booked by Brenda Aloft, uh, canine Body Language and Illustrated Guides. So I'll be interested to look at that website and see what they have.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And, and I'm, I'm happy to share any resources you have as well. I'm always careful with children though, that I don't inadvertently scare them more than they another great

Speaker 2:

Resource be part of it, you know.

Speaker 3:

That's right. That's right. And another great resource for kids, probably eight and under is May I Pet Your Dog by Stephanie Cowon?

Speaker 2:

Say that again. How, what's it called?

Speaker 3:

May I, may I pet your dog with a question mark? And it's by Stephanie. Her name is spelled differently than mine

Speaker 2:

Though. Okay.

Speaker 3:

It's sse, p h ae and her last name Ison with a c c a l m e n s o n.

Speaker 2:

And then throughout the interview, we've got your graphic up with your name mm-hmm.<affirmative>. And we've got your website there, which is overcome fear of dogs.com. And a little bit later we'll have you also talk, uh, more about the website and, and what resources, um, are there now. Okay. Um, how can parents and children stay safe when approaching or interacting with an unfamiliar dog or unfamiliar dogs especially, um, if the child is still a little fearful?

Speaker 3:

Well, I think if the child is still fearful and with any unfamiliar dog, we, we wanna be cautious. Um, we cheat. Something else I do is, um, I also go into preschools and elementary schools to, with a dog to teach about kindness to animals and staying safe around dogs. And we demonstrate the, the best way to approach a dog, which I think has changed a little bit. I'd love to get your opinion on this. Um, you always ask permission, you wanna check out and see for yourself, does this look like a friendly, relaxed dog that likes children? Lot of people think their dog is very friendly and sweet and mm-hmm.<affirmative>, it's, it's not always. So you kind of have to use your own judgment, and that's where parents come in handy. Um, and I always suggest having the dog in the sit. Um, although my question for you was mm-hmm.<affirmative>, I believe the trend now is more let the dog come to you. Am I correct about that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Because if we're reaching out towards the dog, first of all, we're invading their space. Okay. Yep. Um, that might be a scary thing for the dog. Um, so, okay. You know, the rule of thumb now is, you know, let the dog approach you. Um, and you know, you probably know this and and you probably tell this to parents and kids, you know, let the dog approach you, let them sniff you. If you do go to pet them, don't reach over the top of the dog, okay? Mm-hmm.<affirmative>, uh, because that can be scary. That's a threatening gesture for dogs. And dogs, a lot of times they don't want something moving towards their face. They don't want you to hug them, they don't want you to kiss them. You know, a lot of dogs will tolerate their own people, so to speak, doing those things. But when we start, if we were to take videos of people, you know, whether it be adults or children, you know, putting their hands in their dog's face, hugging their dog, kissing their dog, the vast majority of those dogs are gonna be displaying quite a bit of, uh, stress signals.

Speaker 3:

Mm-hmm.<affirmative>, I agree with that. Right.

Speaker 2:

All right. We are back live. Don't know what happened. We lost our feed for a second. That never happens in the middle of a, of a live feed. So, um, always when you're interviewing somebody, right? Always. Of

Speaker 3:

Course, of course.

Speaker 2:

Um,

Speaker 3:

Technology. But

Speaker 2:

You were asking some questions. We were talking about, um, you know, children and we were talking about, you know, do you have things change as far as introductions? And I was talking about, yeah. The new rule of thumb is that, um, you don't reach out and let'em sniff your hand. That was what we were told forever. Okay. Because that might scare a dog, you know, reaching and getting in their space that might scare a dog. And I was talking about when we take a look at dogs in their body language, um, a lot of times when even their own owners will reach towards their head or try to hug or kiss them, they tolerate it, but they're showing a lot of stress signals. And so if you take a stranger and have them reaching right for the head, and, you know, unfortunately, you know, we get these dogs, they kind of look cute, they look like little teddy bears and some young kids, they just want to grab'em by the ears and give'em a hug, like a teddy bear. Um, yeah. And, and so we also tell them not to reach over the top of the dog, that if they're gonna pet, just give a a little light pet maybe under the chin or on the chest there, and for it to be very light very quick, and then leave it alone. Leave the dog alone.

Speaker 3:

Yep. I think that's very good advice. And I know from my animal assisted therapy, dog therapy training that I've done with my dog, it's very important for the handler to support the dog during some of the interactions. So when we're doing the exposure therapy, either I or the handler will get down with the dog and pet the dog at the same time that the child is

Speaker 2:

Gotcha.

Speaker 3:

Um, which, which, which can reduce the stress. So I think what, for your original question, how can parents help kids with dogs is that parents should be aware of the dog body language themselves should, um, model asking the owner, where does your dog like to be pet? Can you please ask your dog to sit? What's the best way to approach? And, and just sort of, um, model an, an interaction like that. And of course, stop any interaction that doesn't look or feel right either on the dog's part or the child.

Speaker 2:

Now let me also ask you this, um, because when you're doing the work, just like when I'm doing the work with my clients, we are controlling the variables. Okay. And you mentioned, you know, hey, we're using dogs that are calm, um, you know, pretty, pretty stable dogs, but unexpected encounters happen. How can parents prepare their child if there is an unexpected encounter with a dog in public, such as, you know, let's say they're walking down the street or they're visiting a friend's house.

Speaker 3:

Mm-hmm.<affirmative>. Well, um, I have kinda two, two answers. The first one is what I've now started suggesting when somebody's going to a friend's house and there is a dog in residence mm-hmm.<affirmative>, I always suggest when you're getting used to the dog, don't ring the bell or knock text that you're here and have the person come out with the dog unleash. Um, cause in my experience, I do this with my own dog who's still young and gets very excited. Um, in my experience, dogs are a little bit happy or a little more under control when they're outside of their own house. When, so when they're greeting someone, you can tell me if I'm right or wrong in a minute, and they come out with the dog unleashed, the child gets a few minutes to observe the dog, see that they're safe, and if, you know, if petting or whatever seems appropriate, um, that that's fine. But that again helps the child feel like they have some control. So many parents tell me that when they walk in the house, the dog comes bounding and is allowed to jump on them. And I say, you know what? We teach kids manners. We need to teach dogs manners. And that that is rude behavior. And I don't wanna be jumped on when I go into a house. Um, so that's one thing I suggest for dogs or people that you know, but if you're out on the street, I think we go back to, you know, being a tree or turning sideways if the dog is, is approaching and you're, and you're feeling uncomfortable, or even if you're not, you don't know the dog. So it's really better to be safe than, sorry, I do this myself now, and I caught myself doing it. We we're very fortunate here. We have a beach that is off leash to dogs off season and occasionally a group of dogs will start running up to me and I cross my arms and turn sideways and they keep going. So I like to say that it works.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Um, you know, we talked a little bit about the canine body language, but maybe we can get into some more specifics. You know, how can parents help their children to differentiate between a friendly dog, you know, and and one that might be more aggressive or fearful themselves?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and I think also there are times we need to tell children, no matter what, you do not interact.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

The dog is eating or sleeping or has puppies or is hurt, you stay away. And if the dog is hurt, you get a grown. Um, but I think it's like anything, it's learning, um, and practicing and watching and experiencing. And I, I think there are probably lots and lots of opportunities. I'm actually just thinking of them now. If you're watching a TV show and there's a dog, that's a good opportunity to say, what is the dog telling us with his body? And just, um, like anything else over and over and over again

Speaker 2:

Now, are there any kind of warning signs or say red flags that parents should look out for when their child's interacting with a dog that maybe they're indicating that they might not be ready or they're not necessarily comfortable

Speaker 3:

The child?

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Um, I think,

Speaker 2:

Um, because we're talking about, you know, looking at the dog, right? And, and what's going on with the dog and, you know, I'm just guessing, you know, when kids start getting nervous and fearful, they kind of shut down just like dogs do and, and might not be verbalizing what's going on. So, you know, what are some of the things that, um, you know, the warning signs or what, what things can parents look for, you know, with their child when they are interacting with the dog that the child without saying anything, might be indicating that they might not be that comfortable or really ready for

Speaker 3:

That. Right? Yeah, that's, yeah, that, yep. That's a, that's a very good question. Um, kids either they do shut down, they might back away, they might start refusing to go places and parents may not make the connection that, oh, it's just got a dog. Or, oh, I know that park is where she saw dog knock over another talk with words. We do have the advantage of trying to help kids explain how they feel and if they feel supported and, and comfortable sharing. Lots of times when the kid says, you know, I'm afraid to go to Suzy's house because they just got a dog. Some parents are tempted to say, oh, that's such a nice dog. You don't have to be afraid. That's the worst thing to do. Um, so instead you would, I'm really glad you're telling me. Let's think about how we can help you feel more comfortable going over to Susie. Um, so some kids will shut down, some may actually experience problems in other areas they may have. Um, it, it depends. It depends really how, how, how significant their fear is. They, they may start having crying outbursts. They may have toileting accidents or their appetite changes. Um, I mean, that, that's fairly severe. I don't usually see things at quite at that level mm-hmm.<affirmative>, but a parent might.

Speaker 2:

Got it. Got it. Um, now that brings me to my next question. How can parents help their child cope with a setback or moments of anxiety or fear when they're interacting with the dog, without them becoming discouraged?

Speaker 3:

Yep. So I talk a little bit about having an mindset, growth mindset, which is kinda like, I can do this, or I haven't learned how to do it yet, but it puts it out there that you have the confidence that I will be able to do it. So you kinda, you wanna focus on the effort of how hard they tried, and next time we'll get even further. Um, and I always like to end on a high note. So if, um, so when we're doing a session, you know, dogs are alive and they move. So if a child tosses the dog a treat and it bounces and gets near the child and the dog leaps up to get it, that can be terrifying for some children. And that, I would say might be a step back. So then we never end on that. We always go back to something they feel comfortable doing, even if it's, um, you know, touching with one finger or standing three feet away for two minutes. We, you always wanna end on positive and just keep supporting and encouraging. And with most hard things, we always have a couple of setbacks that's kinda what makes it worthwhile and we learn from our mistakes, whatever those might be.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Now, you know, we've been talking a lot about exposing the children, you know, to the dog, but are there any non dog related techniques or therapies that, you know, can help children to overcome their fear of dogs? Like play therapy or art therapy?

Speaker 3:

Yes, all of that. Um, anything that increases the child's confidence in themselves and also helps them with some coping skills for, for sitting with uncomfortable feelings, um, taking deep breaths, um, labeling their feelings. All of that is very helpful. You can do some play therapy with little dog figurines and maybe some children who are afraid, but then they're not. Um, there really are all kinds of things you can do, but quite honestly, there is no substitute for being in proximity to a real dog.

Speaker 2:

I've got a question for you, and, and maybe you, you mentioned this, do you ever use puppet dogs?

Speaker 3:

I actually have, um, I have a couple of stuff. Dogs.

Speaker 2:

That's what I mean. That's, I mean, that's what I mean by puppet dogs. Yeah. Stuff. Dogs look real.

Speaker 3:

Yes, yes. Especially with young children. Yeah. Um, and they, they start interacting that way. The other thing I do, which I'm gonna credit my sister Kathy with, is I have a little sort of like lunchbox and in it, I have a, a stethoscope and the bowl and the bone and ay and some medications and I, I show the kids this and I, I hold up like the toothbrush, do you brush your teeth? They say yes. Well, dogs have to have their teeth brushed too. So they see that there are a lot of similarities between themselves and dogs. And it helps with empathy, but it also can bring down the fear.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Okay. Got it. Now do us all a favor, cuz we've been talking about this, you've had some fantastic success with what you're doing. Um, can you share a success story from a parent or a child who did use your method to overcome the fear of dogs and how that impacted their life?

Speaker 3:

Yes, but I also wanna say I've had a lot of success, but occasionally there there is, um, there is someone who is just, just too, too scared. Um, real quickly, um, around, around here, I, I was able to go to someone's house and was a 17 year old football player, high school football player. And he was so terrified that he locked himself in his room and nothing his parents did would get him out. And I share that for people who have trouble believing or understanding that this, this fear can be debilitating and is very real. Well, that, that boy young Yeah,

Speaker 2:

Go ahead. No, no. Finish up for

Speaker 3:

No, I was just gonna say that that young man ended up working with the psychologist for some additional therapy mm-hmm.<affirmative> to work out some other issues and hopefully he readdressed the fear of dogs. Yeah. But, um, uh, uh, family reached out to me, I think maybe last spring and said that they had been successful using the method outlined in the book because their eight year old son had been, was signed up for, um, for summer camp. And somehow he found out that the directors had a dog that roamed the campground. And he said there was no way he was going to that camp. So they, they didn't wanna lose their money and whatnot. And they, they reached out to the director and the director had his dog was, was suitable and friendly and dependable in all of that. And they actually did a couple of exposure sessions outlined in the book, um, would this dog on a leash? And the child was able to get comfortable with the dog and he ended up gonna camp and having a great time. And I think he's going back this year.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Now, that story that you told about the 17 year old brings me to a question. You know, some experts argue that exposure therapy can be traumatic for children and should only be used as a last resort. So what's your view on that and how do you justify using the approach in your book?

Speaker 3:

Well, if it's done right and goes up the child's pace, it should not be traumatic. So just to clarify, with the football player, it wasn't the exposure therapy that was traumatic, it was his fear of dogs, which was at that moment was insurmountable.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Yeah, that's an important uh, definitely an important thing to, you know,

Speaker 3:

It's too traumatic. Yes. And if it's too traumatic, we don't do it. Or we, we try to break it down into bite size pieces so that it feels manageable and doable. I have had children who sit in a locked car and look at the dog through the window and that's how we start. The child needs to relax enough and come outta their fight or flight physical feeling and panic to realize or to participate actually, and to realize that, that they're safe. So sometimes we start with a barrier or we might look through a, and that's how we start

Speaker 2:

Now and answer

Speaker 3:

Your

Speaker 2:

Question. Yeah, absolutely. Sure. Moving along with the, you know, because you have had a lot of successes and as parents and as the children, you know, go through this process, how do parents help their children to maintain that progress in overcoming their fear of dogs even Yeah. You know, after they have successfully interacted with a dog.

Speaker 3:

Well, I think it's important to continue having safe, predictable experiences with dogs. Um, it's interesting cause um, not, you know, this not everyone who's been even been bitten or, or knocked over, they don't necessarily develop a fear of dogs a lot of the time because they have such a protective layer of so many positive experiences that one negative one doesn't, doesn't cause this fear. I mean, again, and it does, but it's not a guarantee. So the more positive experiences kids can have, the less afraid they will feel.

Speaker 2:

Gotcha. Gotcha. And how do parents involve their child in the process of finding a dog to interact with, you know, what should they look for in that dog? You talked about it a little bit. Um, that, and and are the, does the child have input in that process as well?

Speaker 3:

Um, I think the child should have input into the overall process. Um, they should, they should be able to say, do you wanna, do you want the dog on the back or do you wanna touch it on the him on the chin? Um, I don't think a child is, uh, capable or has enough experience to know what a what, um, what a dog, a safe dog might be. Um, they might say, I wanna start with a, a small dog or a large dog, which is OK if you, again, if you, if you can find the right fit. But for most kids, they want a calm dog. They want a calm, predictable dog. Um, and I, I think that that is fine to go with. I have a couple of other little, I dunno if they're tricks, but they're motivators. I use the certificate and a lot of children, um, are excited to check off, like they check the first one they get automatically, which is just being near a dog. And then the next one is brushing, petting a dog or brushing a dog. And so they get very excited to check off the boxes and then they take home the certificate. And I've worked out with most parents that there's some kind of a reward that their child has earned for doing their best, whatever that is. And it may just be standing next to a dog or near a dog for 30 minutes. They get some kind of a high, high value treat after, and that often can help push them through their discomfort.

Speaker 2:

How can parents help their child to develop healthy and positive relationships with dogs even after they've overcome their initial fear as well? That's similar to my other question.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Um, well the first thing is I hope they're comfortable with dogs. Um, and, you know, some of it's really, I wanna just say it's very important, and I know you know this, to supervise all interactions with children, probably under the age of five or six with a dog, every single interaction. Um, but there are games you can play, there are tricks you can try to teach. Just, um, I actually, sometimes I'll give kids like, uh, like homework where they're detectives or scavenger hunt, how many, how many white dogs can you find today? Can you find a dog with sparkles on their color, on their collar? And that way they're continuing to look at dogs and maybe interact with dogs if it's appropriate. Um, and it, it's, it feels fun for them.

Speaker 2:

Ok. Another question I have is, you know, not, not every dog is a great dog out there, right. And Yep. We need to educate our children about the dangers of dogs, but Yep. How can, how can the parents, you know, help the child? Okay. In terms of explaining to them the importance, you know, of treating dogs with respect and kindness and in a particular way and what to look for to keep them safe while mm-hmm.<affirmative> still helping them to overcome their fears because, you know, we start talking about, you gotta worry about that, you gotta look at that. How do you deal with that?

Speaker 3:

Well, I think you model it as much as you can. And if you approach it like parents do with other safety things like, you know, we teach, we teach kids how to cross the street. We teach them not to touch a hot stove. We don't tell them you're never gonna be able to boil an egg because it's too dangerous, but this is how you do it. So we teach them to respect the dog, watch for, you know, signals of stress. Um, an important thing, I always remind parents with children, and I have four grandchildren and I try to do this, uh, very, very consistently. Always make sure the dog has an exit room. The dog should never feel even the nicest. Right. Absolutely. These are just, these are just things that I think a lot of parents, even when they have their own dogs, they don't think about this stuff and it's really important to do that. Um, so I think we sort of take the tack like we do with a lot of other things that, you know, many, many dogs are safe and fun to be with, but there are some we need to stay away from. And let's talk about how we know, again, it comes down to education and teaching.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. How instrumental, not just initially, but maybe even ongoing and maybe even today as you've been developing this program, how instrumental has your daughter been? And again, not just when, you know cuz she had the fear of dogs and obviously I'm, I'm guessing she had it when she was younger, but does she, and have you talked to her about her experience now that she's older?

Speaker 3:

Yes. I mean, she's a mother herself and, um, I think it's very, she got over her fear fairly quickly and uh, when she was 12 we actually got a dog. So she had a lot of positive experiences along the way, but now as a mom, it's very important for her to have her children interact and learn about my dog. Um, and again, I'm supervising everything cause I have a two-year-old and, you know, so we, we watch and we're careful and sometimes the dog goes in the crate cause it's too much, and that's okay. I don't feel bad about that. Um, so she's trying to expose and teach her girls so that they stay safe, but also enjoy them. And with a little luck, the fear will not develop.

Speaker 2:

Got it. Now, another question I have for you. As the parents are going through this process, as the children are going through this process, as you're coaching them through that process, I'm sure there's always some snags, there's always what I call troubleshooting issues. Okay. Yes. What are some of the common things, if there are common things that tend to come up along that process, and then how do you, how do you troubleshoot that, that one list of questions?

Speaker 3:

<laugh>? Yeah, that's okay. It's, it's a very good one. Um, I, I really can only speak a little bit from my experience and, um, a lot of times it's the parent getting in the way.

Speaker 2:

Mm. Okay.

Speaker 3:

So kinda pushing the kid too much or, um, not pushing enough. It's hard for me to describe. It's, it's really more what I experienced, but when other people wanna help children who are afraid of dogs, ideally if you, you know, if you have a dependable, safe dog with a handler and then a helpful adult with the child to facilitate the interaction, sometimes it can be the parent and sometimes and the relationship between the parent and the child gets in the way. And then you may wanna ask Aunt Betty or your neighbor down the street to come in and help a little bit. Sometimes that relationship could be the snag.

Speaker 2:

Got it. Got it. Now, there are some critics that will say, well, let me just say this. There are some people that might say, why don't you just leave the dogs alone? Why, why do you need to go through that process? If you've got a child that's afraid of dogs, well then just avoid them.

Speaker 3:

Well, that's an option, but it's not, um, it's what is, it's teaching your child that they don't have what it takes to overcome, overcome their fear. And it's actually, I think it's, it's a bad message for their child. Um, it's kids have so much, they gain so much when they face their fear, whatever that is. So in the age group, I work mostly with, most of these kids resisted and were afraid to put their head under the water when they were learning to swim. But once they did, they felt, they felt proud, and now they could go swimming and, and feel safe. Kinda the same thing about dogs. It really impacts daily life, family life. I know this personally. Um, when you have a child who's afraid of dogs, every question wherever they're going, will there be a dog there?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. My whole thing to that, that argument is that good luck trying to avoid dogs in, in the United States. There you go. It's not gonna happen in the United States. Maybe in another country, maybe in another country. It's different. Um, I've been, you know, around the world and, and I've seen how different cultures interact with different dogs. So, uh, I've got another question for you that, that also wasn't on the list, but in the work that you've done, either working directly with, uh, parents and children or in maybe researching and, and studying the topic, uh, for yourself and putting together your program, have you or do you know, are there any cultural differences? And if so, how do they impact this and how do you address that if there are cultural, uh, challenges or any cultural differences, um, as that goes?

Speaker 3:

Well, I mean, I think that's, there's a long answer to that, but yes, there are cultural differences, but a lot of it has to do with how the parents grew up. And a lot of, uh, you know, sometimes parents might grow up in a city where dogs are, you know, maybe used more for, for guarding or they're a little scarier. So that's a different kinda fear. Um, I worked with a little boy whose grandmother can't, I can't remember what country, but dogs roamed wild and that grandma actually had been bitten. So the little boy was afraid. The approach is the same, honestly, is to expose to safe, dependable dogs and learn about dogs so you can feel safe.

Speaker 2:

Got it. Got it. Can you do us a favor? You've got this wonderful book, overcoming Your Child's Fear of Dogs, a Step-by-Step Guide for Parents. How can people get a copy of that book?

Speaker 3:

Well, um, you can go to overcome fear of dogs.com. It's a landing page for the book, and it has, um, it has a bunch of links to where you can buy it. Um, of course you could get it on Amazon, there's a plug for them mm-hmm.<affirmative>. Um, but that, that is the best way.

Speaker 2:

Got it. Got it. Now, how can people get in touch with you if they want you to perhaps help them and help coach them with their child?

Speaker 3:

Sure. So they can also find me, uh, via that website, or I'm happy to, uh, give you my email if people wanna contact me directly.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, why don't you do, do that? Can you give us your email? That way if anybody knows of anybody that has a fear of dogs or maybe their own children have a fear of dogs, um, can you please give out that email so they can reach

Speaker 3:

You? Yes, definitely. So it's my, it's my name, which is a little differently. It's Stephanie, s t e f a n i c o h e n l CSW gmail.com.

Speaker 2:

All right, well, hey, we've got the spelling of your first name and the last name on your graphic. We've got the L C S W. So take Stephanie, take Cohen, take l cssw, put'em all together with no spaces@gmail.com and you'll be able to, uh, get some help. We are running out of time. I am so, so thankful that you came on today and that, uh, you did the show with us. Um, definitely something, if you're interested, we'd like to have you back again so that we can share this information with more people. Um, we've got about 30 seconds. What, what can you tell if, if, if there's one thing that you can tell parents one thing and you could only say one thing to parents about how to help their children, if they have a fear of dog, what would that be?

Speaker 3:

I would say don't wait and you can do this.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. That's two things. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, listen, Stephanie, thank you so much again. We really appreciate you being on the show. Hey, everybody, get out there, get a copy of Stephanie's book Again, here's the picture. This is what you're gonna be looking for, overcoming your Fear of Dogs, a step-by-step guide for parents helping children. And uh, Stephanie, you have a wonderful day. We really appreciate you being here. Thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much, will.

Speaker 2:

Well, that was Stephanie Cohen, everybody. Um, join me next Saturday where we go back to our regular format where I'll be taking your questions about your dog's training and behavior issues and answering those questions for you. So I'll be back here again next Saturday. And the time is 11 o'clock Eastern Time. I believe that's seven o'clock, uh, Pacific. And I'm here in Mountain Time. And so it's nine o'clock when we start here. But, uh, appreciate everybody. Have a wonderful weekend. Don't forget, what was that holiday that we got coming? Okay, so tomorrow, international Tug of War Day, Monday National Love Your Pet Day, and also later in the week, February 22nd Wednesday, national Walk Your Dog Day. Thank you everybody. Have a wonderful weekend. Appreciate you. We'll see you next week.

Speaker 4:

Know how to do it. I tell heck, come. Come on. Come on.