Helping a Child Overcome a Fear of Dogs

It seems inevitable that at one time or another a child will have an unpleasant run-in with a dog. When my twin boys were about 18 months old, their first encounter with a dog was not pleasant for them. The dog was fairly small, but very energetic and ran straight over to them and started jumping up on them. After that experience it was months before they could even look at another dog again.

If your children have grown up around dogs, then they will probably not be as easily scared by a new dog. If your children have not spent much time around dogs, then it is probably a good idea to plan the circumstances around their first experiences with a dog. It only takes one unfortunate situation to have your child scared half out of his wits.

My boys are now almost three years old, and they are slowly getting curious about dogs again. I have noticed that certain situations we have been in have facilitated this curiousity. One of the best dog training rules is rewarding your dog when it does great at anything at all. Could be picking up your baby’s toy. Or finding that jewelry that is taking years of scourging your home to get. But even more enjoyable is the training treat. After tiring hours of playing catch, shadow-walking and sniffing, every dog really wants to be patted on the head. Whatever it is, treats tend to make your dog grow an awesome fondness for you. Great bonds are the real key to any lively relationship. Four paw ideas are the most common dog treats available for dog trainers and owners. They are the best training treats recommended for dogs that are still on the initial training phase. These treats are handy and easy to pack due to their relatively small bite-size portions. Your dog will find these soft treats fast and easy to eat, ideal to be given in between small tricks or tasks that he has completed because your dog can easily chew and digest this in just a few seconds, without interrupting the training session for a long duration of time. Most bite-sized soft treats also doesn’t leave unsightly crumbs that you have to clean up afterwards.

First of all, you definitely want to start out with a small dog. Many big dogs may be larger than your child is! Another thing that will help is introducing them to dogs of people you know…dogs that you know are safe.

This is one reason you might wait to overcome your child’s fear until they are old enough to understand that some dogs are “nice”, and some dogs are not. At about 2 1/2 years of age, my boys started to understand this concept that they shouldn’t try to pet all dogs. They always look to me to let them know if a dog is nice or not.

Two members of our family have small dogs, and over time our boys have slowly started to warm up to them. They started by being in the same room with them, then gradually sat next to them.

Petting them gently was next, then even once in awhile they are brave enough for a kiss! The important thing is to not force your child to do anything he doesn’t want to. This will not alleviate his fear. The best thing to do is give him the opportunity, and he will eventually take the step when he is ready.

When you are out in public places, don’t be afraid to tell dog owners that your child is afraid of dogs if they let their dogs get too close to your child. It infuriates me when people disregard leash laws and let their dogs run around in a public park where children are playing.

Obviously they have never had a child that was afraid of dogs! One bad experience with a dog can undo months of work you have done with your child to overcome his fears. I have found for the most part, however, that people are generally respectful and understanding and if you let them know your child is afraid of dogs they will steer clear with a sympathetic smile.

I have to laugh, however, when they tell me their huge dog is nice and loves children. I know my boys will appreciate that when they are bigger than the dog!


2 Comments on "Helping a Child Overcome a Fear of Dogs"

  1. Thank you very much for this information- we have a 2 year old who is terrified of dogs now, obviously after a bad experience that none of us can recall. He happily played with dogs as a 9 month old, so it is a shame he’s become so fearful.
    We are doing the things you suggest, so it’s a relief to know we’re on the right track.
    Thanks again

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph! Every dog owner that sees the fear in my child’s face says, “Don’t worry. He’s really nice.”

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