Camp is coming to an end, but this last week was one of the most rewarding weeks for me. A few days ago one of the campers attending our two-day camp burst into tears and started to panic when the counselors brought a Yorkshire Terrier puppy into the room. It turns out that several years ago she was attacked by a dog and has a severe phobia to dogs.
We decided that anytime we had a dog out the camper would be given the option to leave the room and go with a group that was visiting with a different animal. And that worked really well the first day of camp.
The second day of camp as the kids were arriving I let the kids train my dog Quinn as I described in the blog post from a few weeks ago. The girl with the phobia hadn't yet arrived, and when she approached the door to the room where we hold camp, one of the counselors reminded me about her fears. I told her that we could have one of the counselors take her to another room with a guinea pig until the kids were done working with Quinn. To my surprise she decided to come into the room, and took a spot as a human tunnel.
After a time she started to visibly relax, and I was amazed when it was time for the kids to take turns becoming the "trainer" when her hand shot up. She actually wanted to work with Quinn, and she got that chance. While she wasn't 100% relaxed, she had a smile on her face as she led Quinn through the room and clicked and treated him for stepping over the kids laying on the floor as "logs" and through the legs of the kids acting as "tunnels". We think that she felt comfortable with Quinn because he is a very low-key mellow dog.
While I wouldn't recommend that parents use HAWS Kids 'N Critters Day Camp as a way for their children to work through animal phobias, it was nice to see a girl who is afraid of dogs enjoying herself with Quinn -- a dog who has a few fears of his own.