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How can I help my DD get over her fear of dogs (MIL has a new dog)?

(13 Posts)
sarah706 Thu 21-Jul-11 16:01:35


My DD is 21 months old and we became aware a few months ago that she is scared of dogs when a dog visited her nursery and she reacted badly(we don't have a dog and neither do any of our close friends).

She is fine if she sees a dog when she is somewhere they can't get her (she shouts dog and woof and smiles) but if she is walking and one comes towards her she start to cry and motions to be picked up.

Both H & I like dogs and intend to get one in the future and we have been trying to show DD pictures of dogs and talk calmly to her when we see one when out walking. I didn't feel there was any need to rush things and was hoping she would get over it as she gets older.

However MIL has recently got a new Labrabor puppy and we are going to stay in a couple of weeks so does anyone have any advice for how to handle it (I'm sure it will be fine but MIL is really worried that DD will be miserable)


DooinMeCleanin Thu 21-Jul-11 16:03:49

Stop picking her when she asks to be picked up. You are re-inforcing that there is something to be afraid of.

You need to find a nice, small, quiet dog to meet your dd. A pupy probably won't help, they are far too bouncy. Contact your local PAT (pets as therapy), they should be happy to help you out.

LordOfTheFlies Thu 21-Jul-11 19:37:06

My DD is s-l-o-w-l-y getting to grips with dogs (she's 9)
I don't think she's ever going to embrace all things canine like her older brother does.
We refused to lift her because I feel it heightens the dogs' interest.

She loves puppies and eagerly goes to the petshop to coo over them grin(they are behind a perspex shield pen) . I don't tell her that puppies are more likely to be 'mouthy' than adult dogs.

Its been a struggle so far with her getting older but her brother tells her to ignore the dog and look beyond it which seems to work for her so far.

Tchootnika Thu 21-Jul-11 21:04:05

sarah706 - do you or DP set an example by calmly interacting with dogs, so that she's got time to watch and learn? Or (after owner says it's OK) calmly say hello to (calm) dogs out and about without trying to persuade DD to do the same.
I know you'll get very different responses from different owners, but my dog and I are generally happy for people to say hello like this (as long as they seem sane and not overly boisterous. I do strenuously avoid the lady who can't understand why I'm not happy for her little boy to pull my dogs ears confused ).

What Lord says about 'ignoring' new dogs is absolutely true, as well. As a rule dogs are far more relaxed if strangers don't make a huge fuss of them and they can connect in their own time. If your DD's quite sensitive, maybe she's got an inate sense of this already? smile

BertieBotts Thu 21-Jul-11 21:12:39

The big thing for DS was realising that people are higher than dogs in the hierachy and that you can get them to do things by saying certain words, specifically "bed" or "down" if it is getting too boisterous and/or he's feeling overwhelmed. Of course the dog doesn't always listen to his baby voice, so often adults have to say it for him, but that has helped a lot. Of course we only do this with family dogs etc who we know will be okay with this. He's wary of strange dogs and I'm quite happy for him to be. I'm quite wary of dogs I don't know and I'm not a massive dog person - I like them if they aren't trying to lick me or eating something disgusting! But DP's family are all dog-lovers and it was them really sitting with DS and just saying "Look, DS, BED! See, the doggy's gone now, that's all you have to do, just say Bed! and they toddle off to bed. You try it now, you say it!" etc etc.

Once the dog has got over its initial excitement and DS has got over his screaming and generally trying to climb the nearest person's legs, we ask him if he wants to stroke the dog, and usually once he has stroked them, he realises they're quite nice actually and isn't afraid any more, although he doesn't like it when they bark or if they are coming at him or generally being excitable, but at 2, they're about the same size as him, so I can't blame him for that really!

mdoodledoo Thu 21-Jul-11 21:44:17

I've been closely involved (over the years) with five children who were terrified of dogs and the end result with all of them has been kids who are happy to play and even snuggle up to my dogs and give them a big kiss on the head!

The trick has always been to get the kids to understand that they're 'in charge', and getting the dogs to respect that status. I'm definitely talking from the standpoint of the dogs involved understanding the pecking order too so not pushing the boundaries much so there have been little challenges to overcome with the dogs too.

I agree that a bouncy puppy isn't the best place to start as the excitable little bundle of cuteness may make the situation worse with their super sharp claws and teeth combined with a limited understanding of the 'rules'.

If you see a quiet looking dog with a friendly owner I would simply ask them if you could introduce your daughter to the dog and work on a bit by bit approach. Don't do anything too much, just chat to the owner rather than talk to the dog and slowly build up the attention to the dog over a few different situations. This doesn't really help too much with the imminent visit to MIL though, and you don't want to encourage the problem by keeping the puppy too separate on that visit either - tricky.

Elibean Thu 21-Jul-11 23:17:49

dd1 was scared of dogs at 21 months, and simply grew out of it. She has always known me to love dogs, and not be afraid of them, but she just went through her own phases - 12 months: loved dogs, wasn't afraid. 20 months: terrified, hated dogs. 6 years old: likes dogs, treats them respectfully.

dd2 was fine with dogs, but got nipped by an off the lead, out of control pup on the street when she was barely 2. She is still nervous at 4.5, fine at a distance but starts shaking and grabbing my arm if a dog walks past her sad

We're hoping to get a dog in September (adult rescue woofer, on basis that adult will be less mouthy than pup) and I have told her she can 'help' give her some feeling of being in control...she's also old enough to understand instructions about giving a new dog space, taking time, etc. But I'm still a bit worried about it.

Lab puppies can be pretty bouncy - I would treat your dd like a nervous dog: make sure she has an escape route!

sarah706 Fri 22-Jul-11 09:51:49

Thank you all very much.

H & I always act calmly and I try not to pick her up - I crouch down next to her and let her put her arm around my neck if necessary. We do interact with dogs (with the owner's permission of course) as my 4yo DS really likes dogs.

Yes the situation is not ideal but not much we can do in the short term - I definitely don't want the puppy to by shut away when we go down, I don't think it is fair to change his routine and as someone said that would also reinforce the idea that dogs are scary and need to be kept away - NOT what I want at all.

I guess we will have to muddle through as best we can when we go to visit MIL and then I might ask the local vet if he knows anyone with a calm older dog who would be happy for us to visit to help DD get used to being around dogs as we always go to see MIL.

I really appreciate you taking the time to reply - I grew up with dogs and so have never been afraid of them and it hasn't been an issue with DS.

Thanks again

BertieBotts Fri 22-Jul-11 13:43:48

If you grew up with them you probably already knew how to control them by seeing other members of the family doing so.

Speaking as somebody who didn't grow up with dogs and has been/can be nervous around them, the fear comes from the fact they are rather big, noisy and scratchy (unintentionally), and not afraid to come right up to you, usually, and it's the fact that if you don't know how to act around dogs you can't stop them from doing this and I suppose an irrational fear of if they're jumping on me they might BITE ME or something equally terrifying. And you can't just push them away because you're scared you might frighten them and make them bite you. So I think that's why what ndoodledo and I have found, that letting the child know that they are in charge and in fact they CAN tell the dog to leave them alone is the key thing.

Indaba Tue 09-Aug-11 21:24:15

Had same issue with my daughter who is 8.

It was really hard, we live overseas and "everyone" here has big scary dogs (we live in South Africa so lots of people have scary guard dogs). Got to stage when she wouldn't go on playdates/parties etc.

I started walking a friends good dog. Got her to come with me. Its taken 8 months but she is fine now. Worked best cause as we'd go to park with lots of other dogs off leads and she realised they would start to ignore her. We had to do it consistently. If we'd miss more than a couple of weeks she was back to square one. But eventually we've sorted it.

Good luck. If you can put some time into it it may come right.

minimu11 Tue 09-Aug-11 22:02:58

It is interesting hearing other peoples view on this but I again do completely the opposite to the other threads. I treat the anxious child the same way I would the anxious dog - ok dog behaviourist through and through!

I would want to make all associations with dogs positive and if this initially means picking up the child I would do so and the aim being to over time increase the childs interaction at their own pace with the dog.

If I have a nervous child that is unsure of dogs I will pick up the child - it gives the child comfort and lets them move on at their pace. Usually the child will not even look at the dog but once they have been picked up they feel more confident, the dog relaxes and greater interaction can take place. Maybe the child will be happy to put her hand out and if the dog just sniffs it you can move on at the childs pace.

Without doubt a lab puppy will be bouncy, very bouncy, and this will be very difiicult for a child that is scared. Keep the child safe and away from the dog will be much better than for her to be jumped on in eager lab anticipation, watching the puppy being silly and playing with a toy that makes your DC laugh will be much more positive than forcing her to stand her ground as the puppy jumps around her.

Go slowly and understand the fear - dogs must appear terrifying to little children when they are on eye level with them

LordOfTheFlies Tue 09-Aug-11 22:54:16

I used to look after a dog when I was a 'mothers help' in my gap year.
I chat to my DD about the dog who was a young yellow lab,very well behaved. Co-incidentally she has the same name as my DD.I didn't think of this TBH as l looked after the lab when I was 18 and had DD at 36.

She is very unhappy round dogs but loves to talk about this one and the dogs littermate sister who used to come and stay.
I'm trying to let her know that dogs are nice and her mum had fun looking after this one.

MotherJack Tue 09-Aug-11 23:32:30

I became terrified of dogs as a child. I saw my dad attacked by a guard dog and then had a dog set on me. I must have been a giant squeaky toy to to all subsequent dogs.. It got worse as I got older as I had never been taught confidence around dogs.

I now love dogs. When kids come round here, they are introduced at their ability level and kept separate if required (as much as anything else, I don't want to stress my dog!). Most of them, within 10 minutes to 2 hours want to give her a treat independently, which is fab. Those that don't learn that it's ok to be in the same space with an adult who will look after them when they are scared.

No need to rush things at all. My son is bull breed savvy but can be freaked out by any breed puppies... they can be relentless in their bounciness!

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