On one of our last rides of the year in November of 2010, before his three month break, John and I were chased by a couple of dogs. We had run into dogs before, but never had a problem.
We were riding through some hay fields at the dairy farm (that John wasn't particularly fond of before this ride) when a small dog at a neighboring house started barking at us. The dog was tied, so I did not think much of it, I just used the situation as a training experience for John. We circled and circled until he calmed down and were just about to head for home, when the lady at the next house over let her two dogs out. Two Boxers came barreling across their lawn and ran straight for us (while their owner yelled for them to come - they completely ignored her). One got stuck in some pricker bushes (thankfully) but the other one made it through and came into the field after us. I halted John and he stood still. I think he was too scared to try his usual "sit, spin and run" tactic. I yelled at the dog and after a few minutes it finally ran back. Once the dog was gone, I had a lot of horse on my hands for the rest of the ride home. I did not try to school him to "get over it", I focused on keeping him at a walk and getting him out of the field calmly.
I have not been back in that field this spring. Its been too wet to go in the hay fields, but when I do, I will ask my brother to ride up there with us. I think John will feel braver and overcome his fear if he has another horse with him.
We have run into several dogs on our early spring rides though and I think it is helping John's confidence. One day I was riding down the road past my cousin's house, and Daisy and Bear were out in the yard with Brian (my cousin's husband). At a word from Brian, the dogs stayed right by his side and watched us walk by. John eyed them warily, but calmly walked past.
Another day, my other cousins' children were out walking their Golden Retriever, Xena. They came right up to John and me to say hello and this was great because Xena is a very sweet dog. She sat right in front of John and wagged her tail while he stared at her dubiously and the kids and I chatted. Another postiive experience under our belts.
We have had two other positive dog experiences this spring too. John sees the dog(s) and they see him, but everyone stays in their own space. I am hoping that with a few more positive experiences and using the skills I learned at the ECTRA convention (conveying a "this is my space, who do you think you are" attitude to the dog) that we have overcome this little issue.
I will let you know how our return trip to the hayfield goes, although with more rain coming, its going to be awhile.