Is one of your family members afraid of dogs? It is widespread that a kid is scared of dogs for several reasons. A dog phobia for a kid can be a very traumatic experience, even causing the kid not to leave the house anymore. It could be just a temporary development in a kid, but make no mistake to leave it as is. You might never know if this initial reaction can develop into more severe issues. But how to overcome the fear of dogs?
As an experienced dog owner of over 25 years, I can tell you how to overcome fear of dogs very quickly. Although, it needs some patience on your side as the fear cannot go away all of a sudden.
Some reasons of why it is very helpful to overcome fear of dogs:
- You like to add a dog as a new family member for the kids to play.
- Close friends or family have dogs, but you are always on edge when entering their homes
- Once you see a dog on the road, you freeze and take a big detour to avoid the dog
- Dogs are the most loyal companions you can have.
- Kids will develop a stronger immune system
- A dog will make the owner much happier
- It is fun to play and spend time with them in the yard or outdoors
- Teaching a kid to take responsibility when getting older
Dogs are such lovable and trusting animals on earth, and a very intimate connection develops very shortly.
What exactly are kids (also adults) afraid of in dogs?
- Dog shows aggressive behavior such as barking, fletching teeth, or an upright tail
- An unpredictable behavior such as biting or snapping towards a person
- A shocking reaction such as loud barking, jumping up a person, licking, and sniffing.
- When kids heard stories when somebody got bitten by a dog, it creates fear the next time a child sees a dog.
- The owner has trouble to get the dog under control. Just the sight of such a scene develops fear in a kid.
AVOID THESE COMMON MISTAKES
Not every dog is friendly, so it is essential to know when to approach a dog or when not. Many people and especially kids, react very incorrectly towards a dog giving false signals. Here are some mistakes that you should avoid at all cost:
Do not approach a dog before asking the owner!
It is way too often that people approach a cute dog without asking the owner. Even if the dog looks like the cutest thing in the world, you never know the background. I can tell you a personal story about this:
When I grew up, my parents had a South-Russian sheep-hound dog looking like a giant teddy bear in white. Everybody on the road fell in love with him and wrongly assumed that cuteness equals friendliness.
The assumption was so wrong; the dog was very aggressive and protective of us. If somebody came to near, the dog would be ready to attack. Always, we had to tell a person to stay in a safe distance and not come too close.
Never scream and run away!
Screaming and running away triggers the hunting instinct of a dog. It is a signal that you either are prey or ready to play with it. Therefore, the dog will run towards the kid to either attack, lick, or jump up to play.
In case a loose dog runs toward you or the kid, always stay sideways to the dog and never face your front or back towards it.
Never stare at a dog
Staring at a dog should mean an aggressive behavior signal from your side: I am ready to fight, bring it on! As of this reason, never look the dog straight into its eyes and try to leave the area quietly. Always keep the dog with one eye insight and approach a safer place for protection.
TIPS FOR A KID TO OVERCOME FEAR OF DOGS
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A dog owner’s response to a child’s hesitant behavior usually sounds like this:
- No worries, he is friendly and does not bite.
- He loves kids and enjoys playing
- Just pet him a little bit, he will not bite
These and many more are normal responses towards a kid, but these phrases hardly encourage a child to overcome the fear of approaching the dog further. Not too often, the kid will go behind the parent seeking safely, and all encouragement is to no avail.
There is no universal approach to overcome fear of dogs in a child. You cannot force the kid against their will to open up all of a sudden and play with a dog. However, there are some smart ways to establish trust between a kid and a dog. I will show you some constructive and proven methods:
1st Step: Watch & Learn from a safe distance
I highly recommend to get out to a dog park or place where people walk or play with the dogs. It is much easier to watch, explain, and show to your kid the behavior of a dog from a safe distance. If being in a confined space, the kid will be nervous as there is no easy way to escape anywhere.
At first, watch with your child from a longer distance, but slowly approach closer and closer until the point the kid might fell unconformable. Take a step back and continue watching the dogs playing with your child.
2nd Step: Be very sensitive towards your child’s fear of dogs
The kid should not get overwhelmed with the topic “dog.” Try not to always talk about it and never force anything on the child. Continually reaffirm that a dog is not harmful and can be a nice play buddy.
3rd Step: Visit a puppy & let the kid play with it
I would suggest to go to someplace (friend, shelter) and let the kid be around a puppy first. A puppy is tiny, playful, and super cute looking, making it easier for the kid to overcome the fear of dogs. Beforehand, get some snacks and let the kid feed the dog to develop a bond. Slowly, let the kid pet the puppy on the back, so the kid becomes more comfortable.
4th Step: Visit an adult dog
If the first phase of fear breaks down and the kid is a little bit more open to dogs, it is time to visit a friend or family member who has an adult dog. Keep the dog in a safe distance, but not too far away to where the kid still can watch it. Try to ask your kid if he/she is ready to pet the dog. If not, do not force the child and take a closer approach for the next time when the child is prepared.
5th Step: Give the child small tasks with the dog
Give the kid a minor task, like holding the leash when taking a walk. Another right way is to let the child fill up the dog’s food or fresh-water. While allowing the kid doing these small tasks, tell some exciting stories about the dog, like: Never give chocolate as it is dangerous for a dog or if you like you can give the dog this special dog snack.
6th Step: Be patient, patient
It would help to have a lot of patience for the kid to overcome fear of dogs to build a solid relationship. Unquestionably, one visit to see a dog will not be enough for a child to be not scared of dogs anymore.
Over time, a kid will get used to the presence of a dog. While the kid is at home, watch with them some cute puppy videos on YouTube or funny-looking dog photos. This way, the kid can identify that a dog feels like a real friend to them.
7th Step: Do not convey fear to the kid
As kids learn from you, as a parent, talk only positive about dogs. Never tell or show your child any negativity towards dogs. Even if you are afraid, back off and hold yourself back.
Read more: Positive Habits and words happy people use
8th Step: Explain how dogs communicate to the kid
Explain in detail the body language of dogs. First, if the dog wags its tail and the mouth is slightly open, you have a green light to approach it. The signal means that it is amicable and will not harm you in any way.
On the other side, if the dog is aggressive or scared, the tail will be either upright or tucked between the legs. Besides, an aggressive growl and showing its teeth show not to come any closer. If you see these signs, do not approach the dog as you might get bitten.
9th Step: Explain the respectful treatment to the kid
Explain to your kid that pulling at the dog’s ear or tail is naughty a behavior. Also, petting roughly the dog is not acceptable. The dog will not be delighted and might snap toward the child. Further, tell the kid that he/she also would not be pleased if another child would pull the hair or the ear.
If enough trust toward the dog is there, reach at first the flat hand so that the dog can sniff. After that, the kid can gently pet the dog’s fur.
The best family-friendly dog breeds
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collie
- Golden Retriever
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
It takes some effort and a lot of patience for a kid to overcome fear of dogs. I hope this guide helps with your journey. It is worth the time to say goodbye, fearing dogs as the benefits are just so so great. You will never look back and regret the decision you have made.