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children and dogs!?

(13 Posts)
ladypop Wed 29-Jun-11 16:38:25

How do you stop your child (our DS is 17 months old) becoming scared of dogs and other potentialy 'dangerous' animals as they grow up whilst still keeping them safe? I say this because I let him stroke a dog at the weekend (the owners were present) and I felt it was fine. My other half was really unhappy with me and said he wish I hadn't let him go near the thing.

I do understand his reasons, and that it can be fatal if the dog suddenly turns (they are anilmals after all) but how to strike a happy medium? all dogs are not dangerous and I am an animal lover and want to encourage my son to be too, but without putting him in danger.

TheAtomicBum Wed 29-Jun-11 16:49:38

A fear of dogs isn't something that just spontaneously happens. It happens because of either a traumatic event with a dog, or, more likely, because dogs have been villainised by the parents.

Seeing a dog and saying, "hello doggy," and showing your DC makes the seem nice. Seeing a dog and screaming and running away will make your DC afraid of them. Sheilding them or picking them up every time you see a dog is also going to give them a fear of dogs.

It's just like spiders. No one is born afraid of spiders. Everyone constantly screaming whenever a spider walks by makes other afraid. Same with dogs. Make the dog a villain, or a bloodthirsty animal that could kill you at any moment makes them a frightening bloodthirsty animal that could kill you at any moment to the child. Make the dog a harmless thing, or just make them seem less threateneing.

Instead of, "don't pull his tail he'll bite you," why not use, "don't pull his tail, you will really hurt him." Which one sounds better?

ladypop Wed 29-Jun-11 16:53:04

I understand what you are saying, but is it ever really safe to let a child stroke a dog that you do not know well?

simbo Wed 29-Jun-11 16:54:13

I have been really surprised at how many children are afraid of dogs since we have had one. I would never let a child of mine pet a dog that I didn't know, as all dogs are different. If a parent wants their child to pet mine they can do so if he is on a lead and sitting/lying down with me at his side. I can then tell them where and how to stroke him. It sounds as though your dh is being a bit over-sensitive.

ladypop Wed 29-Jun-11 16:59:46

Thanks very much for that - I think there is def a happy medium to be struck, rather than banning him from all dogs! maybe only ones that we know. Cheers!

DilysPrice Wed 29-Jun-11 17:03:32

My DCs adore dogs. The family rule, which I have drummed into their heads ruthlessly, is DO NOT APPROACH A DOG UNLESS YOU HAVE ASKED THE OWNER AND THEY HAVE SAID IT IS OK TO TOUCH.

You can model this behaviour for very small children and explain to slightly older children that some dogs are grumpy/shy/nervous so you must always ask the owner and never ever approach a dog otherwise. Works for us.

TheAtomicBum Wed 29-Jun-11 17:04:12

It can be, but if you don't know dogs very well it's probably best not to.

Perhaps asking the owner? I sometimes get asked if my dog bites, and I know him well enough to know that he won't. The owner should know if their dog is harmless. Well, I suppose a responsible owner would. But I have seen some who just don't realise or even care.

My point is that if you don't want them to be afraid of dogs, then don't make a huge fuss about dogs being dangerous. You don't have to go right up to them and stroke them to not make a dog look scary.

p99gmb Wed 29-Jun-11 19:58:18

I am a foster carer, have 4 dogs, 2 kids in placement with me and although I love my dogs to bits, I don't allow the kids to touch MY DOGS without me being present and in control... even dogs have bad days..

We tell them to be gentle, to touch them carefully and not to hurt them..

I try and set a good example by carefully stroking the dogs so that the kids can see how and where to stroke them.

As for other dogs, I tell them that not all doggies are soft like ours and so we have to be very careful and ask the nice man/lady if we can stroke the doggy.

Treat with respect and be prepared is my motto..

alice15 Wed 29-Jun-11 21:16:23

I have several dogs, 2 children, and I'm a vet. Completely agree with DilysPrice - the golden rule is "always ask the owner first" - and that means not touching until after the owner has said it's ok! - and also, making sure the child approaches the dog from the front, slowly, and with a hand out underneath the dog's head, not above it. Most children who aren't used to dogs either
a) grab at the dog from behind - even a placid dog is likely to spin round to see what's happening, which will scare the child, and a snappy one is likely to resent being grabbed without warning - understandably!
b) dab at the dog's head from above, snatching their hands away as the dog inevitably looks up or reaches up towards them.

Neither a) or b) is good - a calm slow touch from below the nose is much better!

If the dog looks calm and friendly, is on a lead, and the owner says it's ok to touch it, then you would be very unlucky to have a problem. If the owner says it's not ok to touch it, it doesn't necessarily mean the dog is nasty - it could be that the dog is wary of children, or the owner is wary of children, or busy, or lots of reasons - as TheAtomicBum said, you can stop the child touching the dog without making a big deal about the dog being scary - a dog can not enjoy stroking without necessarily being savage!

cory Thu 30-Jun-11 08:23:37

Atomic, imo a fear of dogs can happen spontaneously at a certain stage of a child's development. Dd was afraid of dogs at exactly the same age as my brother was terrified of tunnels and ceramic stoves- the ceramic stoves had never done him any harm nor had he ever heard of anyone coming to harm from them (they were merely ornamental in our village and no longer in use, so no horror stories there). My mother at the same age was terrified of hoovers. I am pretty sure she had not seen anyone else scream hysterically at the sight of a hoover.
Dd was also terrified of anyone dressed up in animal or clown costumes.

We all got over it in the end, through the calm but understanding attitude of our respective parents. But I don't think any of us should be held responsible for having instilled these fears in our children. And I did find it very annoying, when dd was screaming hysterically at the sight of a dog and I was trying to make light of her fears, that the dog owners invariably thought I was responsible for those fears and therefore must be a dog hater myself. I like dogs and a dog was one of the greatest positive features of my own childhood.

Funnily enough, people dressed up in dolphin or clown costumes never assume that it must be the parent who is a clown hater.

TheAtomicBum Thu 30-Jun-11 08:43:11

Yes, and my DD screams at any small furry things, like hamsters. I don't know where, but it must come from somewhere.

The hoover is a loud noise, a barking dog is also a loud noise (loud noises are a fear we are born with), so those two could easily have instilled a fear. Why aren't all children afraid of hoovers, then? Because they crawl up to it and poke it and it turns on, and scares them. People in costumes are hiding their face, which can be frightening to a child who is still developing they're facial recognition.

As I said earlier, it's one of two. Either somerthing has happened (a barking dog could do it, doesn't have to be a mawling), or the parents. And as you said, it takes patience for them to get over these silly fears. If you pander to it, and pick her up, shoe away the nasty dog or keep her from going anywhere near a dog, she will remain afraid and it will be your fault. Help her to realise that they are not necessarily monsters and she will believe this.

RudeEnglishLady Thu 30-Jun-11 11:51:07

The first time my DS met my mum's dog he was 10 mo. She wasn't so interested but she ran past him and I think her size and speed made him feel threatened. He was shaking with fear, screaming and he even pooed, he was not himself for about 2 days. When he realised he could 'control' the dog from his high chair by throwing food for her or screeching he became very interested in her. I allowed him to stroke her in non-controversial areas and discussed what she was, how she felt etc. but otherwise kept them apart. I don't really trust her - she's a good dog, but she's big and strong. Now he has a big interest in dogs but we stick to talking about the dog, how nice it is and looking at it. He has also met SIL's dog but that dog was raised with babies and toddlers so I also let him touch it. For me, I just aim to be positive about animals and insects without taking any risks.

Gemtubbs Thu 30-Jun-11 20:03:45

I would agree with the advice on here. Children should learn to treat animals with respect by being calm and gentle, and by always asking the owner if it's ok to touch the animal first. My friend trains guide dogs for the blind, she gave me a good tip I think; If your child is playing in the park and a dog comes running towards them, it can be frightening for the child and they might naturally scream and try to run away. This can make the dog more excited and they might bark and chase all the more. From very young I've taught my DS to "be a tree" if this happens. If a dog is jumping up at him or running towards him he should stand still and quiet with his hands infront of his face. The dog should then lose interest and be calm as well. I've found that this works really well. DS is not afraid of dogs, but he is wary of excitable dogs. Which I don't think is a bad thing.

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