Many children are afraid of dogs and it’s not uncommon to and we should say sensible for, children to be reasonably wary of dogs, especially if they do not know them. They may have this fear due to past experience or maybe they too are sensitive to dogs as dogs may indeed be afraid of them…
Kids Around Dogs (KAD) is a great charity who can also give some great tips on how best to handle kids and dogs.
The best way to try and help this situation is to talk about it and work through the fear with gentle understanding steps and solutions.
So we need to try and understand the best way for both children and dogs to be able to interact with each other in the best possible way for each other.
For a start it is important to recognize that this is actually a normal and one could say intelligent emotion for a small child to feel, as indeed many adults do. Hopefully though as a child grows their confidence, due to how this fear has been handled, will ease and the situation becomes manageable for both child and dog.
We’ve probably all seen it or experienced a child’s fear of dogs, they scream and run! Of course both are the worst reactions, the adult becomes stressed, the dog becomes stressed and everything goes a little crazy! The dog may become afraid or think this is some new exciting game so he will run, jump and bark to join in, which obviously doesn’t help the frightened child and by now panicking parent ! A dog owners’ reaction could be to tell the dog off, put him in another room or crate – which is not really fair on the dog who may be doing nothing wrong, just joining in the excitement. Many dog charities have tips on this and Yellow Dog is a dog charity that understands dogs fears and hesitations, so it can be good to see the problem from both sides.
Some tips that we hope may help would be….
- Try to Introduce your child to a dog you know and trust in a calm environment.
- Visit local parks and play areas where dogs are kept on a lead, walk past dogs calmly and teach your child that the dogs will mostly just ignore them.
- At Yellow Dog we let others know our dog is anxious by wearing a yellow ribbon or lead, if you and your child see a Yellow Dog, perhaps explain to your child how this dog is nervous too. Not all people are the same and not all dogs are the same.
- Try and find a friend with a calm dog that you can spend time with, playing, throwing the ball, rewarding the dog with treats so your child sees the fun the dog is having.
- Often a dog will follow children as they think this is a game, help your child to understand that standing still, arms folded and turning away from an excitable dog will calm the dog.
- Teach your child to never approach any dog without asking the owner if it is ok, there is nothing wrong with having reasonable hesitance, this is sensible and maybe the dog is afraid to say hello too!
- Read and role play with toy dogs so that a child can grow to see the gentle and loving side of dogs.
- Find family and friends children who are happy with dogs so that their example helps the child who is afraid.
- Talk to your child about their fears and reassure them that together you can overcome this.
- Be an example to your children, be sensibly cautious but overall not afraid.