So it looks like you’ve got a two part problem here, I suppose as far as the cancelling of plans goes, it would depend on what exactly those plans were AND how often he actually gets to catch up with those friends. It sucks that you might have to rearrange some things, but if you can be flexible and give him the time to spend with his friends at the holidays, I find that is a very generous gesture indeed….however it’s totally at your discretion.
The dog issue is another problem entirely. I understand the trauma a negative canine experience can cause to a person, I have many friends that have grappled with a paralysing fear of dogs which stems from a terrifying interaction with an unsupervised or ill trained animal….I apologize for that, any dog owner worth their salt knows better than to leave children alone with their dogs, that’s for everyone’s benefit, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
But you have got to do something about it, this is a problem you CAN deal with successfully with the right support and a little initative.
First, tell your FI he’s being an asshole, and that riling up a dog JUST because he knows it frightens you is on par with those lousy jerks that steal parking spaces, talk in movie theaters and eat fruit in the grocery store but don’t pay for it…it makes him look like a shit-heel and he needs to stop it if you are ever going to get past this fear.
Second, your anxiety response is something that can be controlled and essentially reprogrammed, if you can start by looking at pictures of dogs and be calm, move onto watching movies with dogs, then watching people walk their dogs from a car or a home, gradually getting closer all the while maintaining a calm sense of well-being, because you are not a child any longer, you have power and control over what happens to you, and not every dog, is like that dog….if you have friends with well behaved dogs that you can comfortably interact with, that’s a HUGE step, but a good one to take as well. Our home has served as a survivor of dog attacks rehab center in its own way, our current pack is a very empathetic and theraputic group, it works well for people on a lot of levels.
Give yourself time, allow yourself to have set backs, just don’t let those setbacks dictate your progress, because it is all progress, as long as you are trying.
I have enormous dogs, they are terribly well behaved and that is no accident, the larger the dog is, the greater the responsibility on the owner to ensure that the people around the dog and the dog itself are safe at all times…I would expect if your FIL’s have such a large dog that they are responsible owners and are working to teach their new family member the proper manners when entertaining guests, maybe you can talk to one of them, let them know your situation is, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be invested in helping you and the dog have positive experiences together, that can only benefit the family as a whole.
Either way, I sincerely hope it works out!