Does your child have a phobia of dogs?

In my line of work I am outside walking dogs ALL day long and every now and then will come across a child who is distinctly uncomfortable (at best) in the company of dogs, at worst they are screaming like banshees with an uncontrollable fear rising from inside.

It is in my opinion far better to challenge the problem rather than allow the child to continue behaving with an irrational fear of dogs.  I can understand a child that has been bitten will have a reasonable fear.  Whether the fear is irrational or a reasoned response then I feel it still needs to be looked at.

Problems crop up in daily life and should never be run away from but tackled head on.

My advice to anyone who has a child that varies from the mild scaredy cat behaviour of hiding behind mummy to distraught, screaming and shaking with terror – that they must try and empower their child to do something for themselves.  Dont soothe the child and say its ok.  Because quite fankly it isnt ok.  Telling the child its ok, is as good as saying you have every right to be scared and it confirms to that child they SHOULD be feeling scared.

To empower your child here is some basic guidance to follow – I hope it is of help.

Tell your child NOT to make lots of noise.  This is perceived by the dog as lots of barking and the dog may well bark back!

Tell your child not to jump around or wave their arms in the air.  This can be perceived by the dog that the child is inviting them for a game and *may* jump around directly in front of the child.  The dog will be oblivious to the fact the child is scared BUT will think he is playing with the child.

Encourage your child to be firm with the dog.  If the dog has jumped up at the child, this is considered unaccpetable by the vast majority of GOOD dog owners, so it is perfectly ok to firmly tell the dog off.  I usually suggest it is ok (in my book) for the child to say “Naughty Doggy”  followed by a “No”.

Make sure your child gets to meet lots of dogs as avoiding them will mean the time you bump into a dog you are not at all prepared for the outburst your child is likely to have.

If you know someone who has dog which is child friendly, ask them if they wouldnt mind having a few sessions meeting up with the dog.  Asking if they could give the dog a biscuit.  The safest way to give a dog a biscuit is to have the treat enclosed in your hand, offer the hand to the dog to sniff and they will lick the treat out of your hand!  The confidence will soon grow if a child can teach a dog to sit nicely for a biscuit.  Before you know it, hopefully, you will have a child who thinks they can teach a dog anything and they will not have any fears of dogs but will see them as something which can be enjoyed and shared.  Encouraging a child to behave positively around dogs will enable their confidence to grow.

As a parent I get frustrated when I see children being scared.  If my child (very unlikely given the house full of creatures we have) was scared then I would have to do something about it.  You have to ask yourself DO YOU WANT TO SEE YOUR CHILD HAVING A LIFETIME OF FEAR that could potentially carry on through to their children too.  No good can come from pretending it is ok.  As these sorts of fears rarely go away without a little bit of positive help.

I admit to having a mild fear of birds, I dont like the idea of their wings flapping in my face.  But this has not stopped me from saving a parrot that was laying injured in the road or has it stopped me from handling a bird of prey which was the most wonderful experience.  I have reared many birds in my time so despite feeling a sense of trepidation I still take on the challenge as I will not be defeated.  Im not keen on spiders but have held a fair few tarantulas in my time!  Life is for enjoying not to be spent in fear of what is around the corner.  So please if your child is scared of dogs, do something about it rather than ignore it.  This sort of problem will not go away without a couple of happy sessions with nice dogs!

It has to be noted that although dog attacks do get reported in the newspaper they are actually few and far between and usually something would have occured to have triggered a dog to react in this way.  Dogs do not suddenly go out to attack people,children or other dogs.  If you learn the signals in doggy behaviour and know how to behave around dogs then life will be much simpler for everyone.

If you would like to get in touch with me about meeting up with your child I would be more than happy to introduce your child to Charlie who is a therapy dog.

Here are a few video clips to help demonstrate how a child should be around dogs and an example of what NOT to do.

This is Katherine enjoying a cuddle with Stanley.  As you can see she is totally relaxed and calm.  She is very close to Stanley – but if your child is too scared to be so close, then it is perfectly fine to have a distance that WORKS for your child and over a period of time reduce the distance.

It is important to have an idea of what your “firm voice” should be.  This will help give your child a sense of being in control.  (remember dont flap your hands or point at a dog though!)

It also helps if you know what NOT to do.  By flapping your arms about in blind panic – can only encourage the dog to jump up at you – as the dog may well think you are inviting him to play.

When your child has become nice and calm around a dog you could then start building a relationship with a dog by giving a biscuit.  This will help give a sense of achievement.  It can also be the start of teaching a dog a trick!  (but obviously one step at a time!!)  this video clip teaches you how to give a biscuit to a dog SAFELY.

Keep as calm as possible and use a low voice.  Any over excitement can entice naughty behaviour from a dog.

Please be aware that any “ADVICE” contained within this article must be taken with plenty of patience too.  They are just suggestions of what to try and may not necessarily suit all problems.

IF your problems are so significant then you may need intervention from medical professionals.

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