How to Raise Children to Not Be Afraid of Dogs

A fear of dogs can begin at any age, but it often starts out in early childhood following an unpleasant encounter with a pet or someone else’s dog. Unfortunately, once you have been bitten or chased by a dog, the fear can follow you throughout your life and prevent you from developing a meaningful relationship with dogs. If you are a parent, how can you raise your children to not be afraid of dogs?

Read Positive Stories About Dogs

Despite advances to modern technology, young children still enjoy cuddling up to their parents at bedtime to listen to a story before it is time for the lights to go out. Use this opportunity to introduce fun stories about dogs, to let them see dogs in a positive light. If your children see dogs as friends or as heroes in their storybooks, they are far less likely to view them as a threat when they are eventually introduced to them.

Gradually Introduce Your Children to Other People’s Dogs

A good way to raise your children to not be afraid of dogs is to gradually introduce them to other people’s dogs, whether it is your best friend’s Poodle or your cousin’s German Shepherd. But it is important to not force your children to stroke or interact with the dogs against their will.

Forced interaction can backfire, which is when children get bitten or a dog will sense danger and start barking. Arrange more than one introduction in a relaxed setting, such as a play date with another child, so that the dogs can get used to your children and vice versa.

Always Supervise Dogs Around Young Children

Many dogs are caring and nurturing around young children and will protect them if they sense danger. However, you should not expect your dog to automatically accept your newborn baby. Some dogs will react jealously around newborn babies and toddlers, so be very watchful and supervise your dogs around all your children until you can be sure that the dogs do not view them as a threat.

If your children’s earliest memory is of being bitten by Sally the dog, they are not likely to have a positive view of dogs as they grow older. But by providing plenty of supervision and protection, you can help remove the threat and even the reality of a dog attack.

Parents can do much to prevent a fear of dogs developing in their children. A good place to begin is by reading them stories about dogs that are friendly role models or heroes. When it is time to introduce your children to dogs, do so gradually over a period of time so that they can all get used to one another. It is important to always supervise young children around dogs however docile the animals are, to prevent an attack.

More from this contributor:

Dog Walking Etiquette.

Safety Tips for Dog Walkers.

The Benefits of Dog Ownership.

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