Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Overcoming phobias in ASD - The Dog

Little Man has been developing a fear over recent months of dogs, which has now escalated into a full on phobia, to the extent he is trying to avoid going on walks incase we see any dogs and if we do, he is rooted to the ground, shaking and crying in fear and it can take up to an hour to calm him down. I am not even talking about the dog being anywhere near him, god forbid if it were to sniff him or approach him.

As we were unsure how to handle it and only seem to have friends with mad dogs, I spoke to both our GP (as we were there anyhow about continued tummy ache which he put down to anxiety), and rang the doctor at CAMHS. Both said the only way to sort it out and stop it developing into anything more major was to actually expose him to dogs and possibly get one, so the search began.

The other week we were told about a 15 month old Labrador apparently very calm, house trained, very good with children, he sounded perfect. The plan was I would go and visit the dog and see if I thought he was suitable, and then we would decide if we could have a trial. In reality it did not pan out like this, as I mentioned here, and basically I was handed the dog on a lead and told to get in touch with our decision.

Dog is lovely, he is very very sweet, I mean how can you not want to love this:

Little Man initially was crying hysterically when Dog came into the house, and then calmed down enough to stand on the table unless Dog was in the dog cage in the kitchen, then he would come down from the table if the lounge doors and the kitchen door were shut. As soon as he heard one open he was back stood on the table. 2 days in after school on Thursday I told him it wasn't really fair on Dog and earlier in the day I had discovered that Dog was fine off the lead and very good at coming back (thank god) and he loved playing fetch. Little Man is very fixated on a new club penguin toy and we are making him save his pocket money for it which will take ages considering it is £35.00 and he gets £2 a week. I decided to try a bit of good old fashioned bribery and told him if he could sit on a chair and not get on the table while Dog had a walk around he could earn £1.00. He began by sitting on the furthest chair he could with his feet under him, as soon as Dog appeared he was standing on it inches away from jumping back on the table, but a quick flash of the said gold coin soon had him stood stock still.

I left the doors open and Dog out of cage and gradually Little Man was relaxing. When Mini Man got the rope toy and began rolling on the floor playing tug with Dog, Little Man visibly relaxed and sat down, still on chair but sitting and next thing I know, Little Man is playing tug as well (from the safety of the chair) but Dog was pretty close for this to happen.

Since then Little Man has walked Dog and loves playing fetch with him and although still not wanting to walk by him unless Dog is being held or on the lead, he is happy for Dog to wonder round the house and not be in his cage. We are amazed and thought it would take much longer. It has been much faster progress than we ever imagined.

However I am now the one having doubts over whether we should keep Dog. For one I wonder if he is healthy, he is apparently pedigree and up to date in his inoculations but we have no paperwork and the way I was handed Dog, I don't think he will be going back there if we decide to keep him. I find it odd his owner who is apparently devastated about geting rid of him has not cotacted me once, it has corssed my mind we may never get in contact with her again.

He is also wormed and flea'd but seems very thin, smelly, and keeps scratching himself in the same place. I have bathed him and he does smell better but before we make a final decision will take him to the vets.

He has clearly never been walked on a lead and needs alot of work on that. He goes on long walks and doesn't do anything and as soon as we get home, asks to go in the garden and goes immediately. More over, I think it has just hit me what having a Dog means, it is like another child, and do we want that? I like the idea of having a Dog but the reality, I am not so sure. I can no longer sit on the beanbag on the floor and watch TV, he is on me. He disturbs us watching TV, we obviously need to walk him which is going to fall on me, do I really have time? I struggle to do anything I want to do in the time I have let alone walk a dog 2 or 3 times aday.

Argggh decisions. I know if we don't keep Dog Mini Man will be heartbroken and we would probably lose all the good work that Dog has done with Little Man. I am being selfish knowing it will all fall on me. I am also worried about when I am away with work - who will walk Dog, without his inoculation papers no dog walker will take him and I go away on Friday until Tuesday night.

I think I need to catch up with some sleep and then I might see a little more clearly.

1 comment:

Deb at Aspieinthefamily said...

Great to hear that Little Man is making progress with his dog phobia. Dont envy the decision about keeping the dog though. Just a thought - how would your son feel if you replaced the dog with another pet?