One of our most important coping mechanisms is “go see.” “Go see” is so useful, and works so well, that most of Silas’s fears in the house have completely dissipated. The ones that remain are more about noise than sight.
“Go see” in action:
Five minutes ago, during the insane spin cycle of our front-loading washing machine, a plastic box fell off the top of the washer. It landed, loudly, in the recycling bin. The noise startled both of us, but it happens often enough that I knew exactly what it was.
I looked at Silas and said, brightly, “You wanna go see?” Then I stood up and started walking.
He hopped off the couch, we went to the laundry room, he sniffed of the box, and we went back to the sofa and sat down.
I love this, because it works, although it isn’t always so perfect in one shot. Also, it acknowledges Silas’s fears and gives him a tool to work through them.
Some important points: We never, ever “go see” anything that is legitimately scary. We don’t use it on dogs or environmental triggers, and I very rarely use it with people. It works excellently for harmless things that have fallen over or made other noises, and almost as well for things that are scary just because they’re new–big cardboard boxes, furniture being rearranged, my mother’s ceramic cat statue. I will sometimes move the object once we get there, but only if I’m absolutely sure that will help (like last week’s terrifying bathrobe).
The other absolutely critical thing with this cue is that seeing does not equal lingering. This is not a reality show about phobias. We go right away. This is especially important to remember if your dog is on a leash. Give them a chance to get away. In fact, turn and walk away yourself as soon as the dog has braved a good sniff. Not only does this keep the situation from escalating, if going to see did not help, it keeps it all very off-hand and casual. If you walk away and the dog still seems curious, you can always go back.