Because they can be big, fast and sometimes bark very loudly, a lot of children are afraid of dogs. If you notice that your child refuses to get close to a dog, or sometimes cries when they see one, read on for some helpful tips to help you both cope.
Helping a child overcome their fear of dogs
First, don’t underestimate or ignore a child’s fear. It may seem irrational but it is real. Don’t make fun of them or tell them off.
If you had your own fears when you were little, you can share this with your child and explain that you overcame them. This way, they will understand that their fear will dissipate over time.
With your child, watch a dog from far away. Describe everything the dog is doing out loud: “Look, the dog is drinking from their bowl and now they're scratching themselves with their paw!"
Never make your child pet a dog if they don’t want to. It is better to pet the animal yourself to show them that most dogs are friendly and harmless. You may have to do this very often to increase your child’s confidence.
Tell your child stories or show them videos starring brave, heroic dogs. This way, they will associate dogs with a positive image.
To start off, choose small and quiet older dogs, rather than young dogs that are more likely to play and jump around.
Teach your child good behaviour
It is important to teach children (even if they are not afraid) good behaviour with dogs. Always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog, never run away from a dog ... all of these good habits help prevent incidents that may cause irreversible phobias.
Become aware of your own fears
When your child approaches an animal, perhaps it is your own worried and anxious behaviour that causes them fear? If you are afraid of dogs, try to control yourself around your child and ask another trusted adult to help them overcome their fear.
Did you used to be afraid of dogs?