Fear of Dogs in Children
Many children have fears towards dogs, whether it’s their own pet or a stranger’s dog. Since dogs have a strong presence in most households and communities, here are some tips on how to encourage fearful children to be around and interact with our canine friends:
- Introduce your children to dogs by reading, researching the internet, and watching videos together that highlight or showcase friendly, well-behaved dogs in a positive way.
- Bring your child to a place where you both can observe dogs at a safe distance, such as a dog park or beach. This will allow your child to become familiar with the sights and sounds of dogs without coming into contact with them.
- Praise your child for any positive interactions he/she has with dogs.
- Have discussions with your child on how to be gentle and calm in the presence of dogs. Remind them not to poke the dog, pull his tail or scream and run in the presence of dogs, even if they feel scared.
- Have your child always ask for your permission before approaching any dog. It is up to you as the parent to assess the dog’s temperament and determine if your child should interact with the dog.
- Teach your child the correct way to pet dogs—on their chest or under their chin, not on top of the head—and to always keep their face out of a dog’s face.
- Don’t force your child to pet a dog if he or she is uncomfortable as this can intensify the fear.
- When introducing your child to a dog for the first time, start with a calm, adult dog that you have seen interact with children. The dog should be on leash and the owner should have complete control of the dog.
- Control your child’s interactions with dogs in the beginning in order to make sure your child has positive experiences. This may include asking the parents/guardians of your child’s friends to please keep their dog in another room or outside when your child is visiting their home.
- When visiting a friend’s home tell your child that if a dog comes into the room to slowly stand up, avert eye contact, sit on the couch or in a chair, and not to lie down in the presence of the dog.
By gradually introducing your child to more dogs under controlled circumstances, every child can learn the joy of knowing a dog!
Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.