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Fear of dogs

(13 Posts)
BillWagglestaff Mon 23-Oct-17 15:10:00

Desperately looking for some advice about my DS’s fear of dogs.

He is nearly five and has always been nervy around them - for example, when we’re out in the street he will move to the other side of me if a dog passes us. Occasionally he’ll become a bit teary, too, and he definitely does not like to be approached by them.

The problem is that in January my sister got a Bolonoodle puppy. DS is very close to his cousins (her children) and usually visits them once a week at least. However, since the arrival of the puppy this has become increasingly difficult to manage - he won’t be in the same room as the puppy, screams if she goes near him and literally shakes with fear. He is hysterical if asked to try stroking her or just be in the same room while she is on her lead.

I looked at the Dogs Trust website for advice and we have been trying their steps to make things easier. We read books with friendly dogs, watch films and TV programmes with them in, have talked through his fears with him, have gone for walks with the puppy on a lead, and tried to introduce him to her slowly. But still, as soon as he is in a room with her he is absolutely terrified. His fear of other dogs has diminished a bit, though.

I think the problem is compounded a bit by the fact that she is obviously very bouncy and will jump up at newcomers to the house. As he is little, this obviously means that she is close to his face. He has said he is scared she will bite or scratch him.

So as not to drip feed: we think there are a couple of reasons for his nerves around dogs:
1) Neither DH and I are really dog people so we probably haven’t helped the situation by being distant with dogs in the past - we don’t run away from them but we are not openly affectionate with them. However with the puppy I have tried to fuss and pet her as much as possible to show DS how harmless she is - and she is very, very sweet which makes it hard to resist cuddling her.
2) Our neighbour has two very aggressive jack russells who bark at us continuously. Whenever we go through our front door (we’re a terrace) they bark, and if they are in the back garden at the same time as us they go beserk and throw themselves at the fence, barking and snarling. We try to ignore them but obviously it can be quite intimidating for DS. Usually the neighbours hear them and fetch them in after a couple of minutes, but it’s not a great situation.

Sorry - this is really long. Basically, we just don’t know what to do next to make this easier for DS. We desperately want him to be ok around the puppy, partly so he can maintain his great friendship with his cousins, and partly because we don’t want this to become a big issue for him as he gets older. But we don’t know how to help him. Has anyone got any advice, please?

CornflakeHomunculus Mon 23-Oct-17 15:15:11

Whereabouts are you? There are some dog training clubs that run special cynophobia classes, often aimed specifically at children. The ones I know of though are all in southern England; Kent, Essex, Sussex, Surrey.

monkeywithacowface Mon 23-Oct-17 15:18:27

I think puppies are the worst thing for him to be around if he is scared. They are jumpy, bitey and yappy and will do nothing help his fears. So on that basis I wouldn't force him to be around your sisters dog.

DS2 used to be like this and to be honest it just went away and I now find myself staring down at a 5 month old puppy at my feet hmm

Elphame Mon 23-Oct-17 15:21:11

My DS was cured of his fear of dogs by my DB meeting a girlfriend who had a large calm cuddly but much older and quieter dog. We had screaming hysterics the first time they met but by the end of the afternoon he was in love.

Puppy exuberance won't be helping here if he's scared. Do you know anyone with a friendly quiet older dog who won't bounce all over him?

ButFirstTea Mon 23-Oct-17 15:32:19

Agree that a calm and sleepy older dog would be good to get to know. If there is a breed he is maybe less bothered by (maybe eg a retriever if he isn't as bothered by larger dogs) then I would hunt around for the breed club and make contact there. Breed clubs often have reps who will offer to meet people to introduce them to the breed, so they might know of a calmer older dog who could help you out.

I'm like a broken record about wheaten terriers but they are a lovely gentle breed and an older one could really help your son with his issues. We have a puppy and he's a bouncy nightmare at times but I could give you the details of our breed club if you wanted to try and speak to someone with an older dog.

Jack russells are very territorial so it's probably not snarling in an aggressive way, more that they can hear you and they think are trying to alert their owner! (Or, like a couple of Jack Russells I know, they are desperate to get to you to play).

BillWagglestaff Mon 23-Oct-17 16:40:17

Thanks everyone. We could find a bigger dog - I know someone who has a Labrador so that might work. Would it be the case that if he got used to a bigger dog, he would then be ok with the puppy? It’s the puppy which is the major issue for us and I am just worried that if we have to wait until she is not a puppy any more then the friendship with his cousins will have taken a real knock as they just want him to go and play with them and he is terrified. I’m also a bit concerned that, as a smaller dog, she will always have a bounciness to her, so she may not ever stop jumping up at him.

The phobia classes sound fab - we live in the midlands so I’ll have a google for that specific thing and see what it brings up.

I do get that the dogs next door are probably just being territorial, but it is quite difficult to deal with, to be honest. They bark constantly every single time we go in or out of our house - we had hoped after six years that they would be used to us, but they are just as bad as when we first moved in! Obviously I want to maintain a good relationship with our neighbours but I feel a bit annoyed that we cannot go out of our house without being barked at. I suspect it has affected DS a bit as it’s quite intimidating. But I don’t really know what we can do about it - we just try to tune it out as much as we can.

Thanks for all the advice so far - it’s very much appreciated.

BillWagglestaff Mon 23-Oct-17 16:42:46

Ooh and the Wheaten Terrier thing sounds like a good idea, too - thank you. Just googled them and it says they are hypoallergenic, which is even better as I am allergic to animal fur! Should I just google for a club round here who may be able to help?

ButFirstTea Mon 23-Oct-17 16:59:50

There's a national club ( - if you have a look on the 'Club Contacts' page there is an email address for puppy and area rep enquiries. If you email and explain your situation they may be able to help or at least offer some advice!

Has the puppy actually bitten or scratched him, or has he seen it do that to someone else? You probably need to work out where the fear is coming from. When you go round does the puppy have a crate or a baby gate it can be behind? Maybe if your son can be in the house and see the dog but the dog is behind a gate in the kitchen, he'll be able to see it being calm, sleeping etc and it might help to desensitise him.

Also - is your sister training the puppy? All puppies are excitable of course but it's pretty easy to train them to sit for a treat. If the puppy knows that, can you sister give your son a few treats and he can tell the puppy to sit when he goes round? He might feel more in control of the situation then and it would help to build a bond between him and the dog.

Oops4 Mon 23-Oct-17 17:26:58

Have you tried to meet the neighbours dogs? I think it's a bit like a postman. You approach, they bark, you leave/go into your house, therefore to them their barking has worked at scaring you off so is repeated. Every day they're being really successful at keeping you away from their house. Maybe throw in a dog biscuit when you pass so they start to associate you with good things. Our old JRT used to want to kill every postman that came to the extent that if she was out they wouldn't deliver the mail. Until one opened his van door for her (she looked very confused) and she hopped in and finished his round with him! She ended up looking forward to him coming and did the post round most days!

As for the pup, I agree with the stair gate. Our dog gets very excited when people arrive so whenever anyone arrives he's behind the stair gate and isn't allowed until he is fully calm. He is never allowed to rush the door. When we do then let him out he's much calmer when he greets everyone. Is also really helpful at separating kids and pup when you need to. Might help your day to see he is contained and he can meet him through the gate. Speak to your sister and see if it's an option. Even of the travel ones that can go up when your son is visiting then he taken down (although I would now always have a stair gate)

BillWagglestaff Mon 23-Oct-17 18:29:12

More fab tips - thank you. Will ask about the stair gate as a possible option, although my sister’s DS has some mobility and motor skills issues which might make a stair gate a real pain for him, and I don’t want to cause her any more problems - I already feel very bad that we are finding the puppy problematic.

She has gone to dog training with the puppy and she will now sit for a treat - but as soon as it is given she leaps up again, so it’s a fairly short-term fix! But I guess even a short pause in bouncing might help DS to feel in control.

We haven’t tried meeting the neighbours’ dogs - I think I am worried that they seem out of control, so I’m a bit nervous myself! Neighbour also swears at them v loudly when they bark, which I find a bit off putting. I think I probably need to man-up a bit myself.

BertieBotts Mon 23-Oct-17 18:36:13

I used to be afraid of dogs, and it's the unpredictability in my experience which is the issue, so I don't know whether meeting a calmer larger dog would necessarily help if your DS is the same. My DS used to be nervous and what helped him the most was being allowed/encouraged to tell PIL's dogs "Bed!" and off they'd go. Poor dogs got sent to bed a lot and were quite confused by this insistence, but it helped DS to understand that the dogs weren't so unpredictable and he did have some control over the situation, and he quite quickly then became better at dealing with them, as long as they didn't jump up at him.

It might just be a matter of time until the dog is a bit better trained and more reliable.

mrsjoyfulprizeforraffiawork Tue 24-Oct-17 13:31:33

I'm quite glad if I meet childen who are scared of dogs because my dog is very scared of children and will snap at them if they come too near as she is sure she will be cruelly treated. We go to elaborate lengths , crossing the road, to keep our distance. A few days ago a young dad remonstrated with his partner for catching their tot's hand and preventing him from running up to my dog - I suppose he didn't want the child to be afraid of dogs but I was very relieved she hadn't let it run up to an unknown dog. I suppose, ideally, children need to learn that lots of dogs are safe and fine friends for them but they should not assume every dog is. I hope your DS can meet some softy dogs to make him feel more confident.

CMOTDibbler Tue 24-Oct-17 17:09:03

If you are the Worcs end of the Midlands, I'd invite you to come and hang out with ddog1 - he's a lurcher so big, but we are very often approached by people with children who are apparently normally scared of dogs but would like to talk to him. He just stands there while they stroke him - no jumping, slobber etc and is super calm round children (and people in wheelchairs and those with dementia - he's amazing with my mum)
Puppies are bouncy, unpredictable, nipping beggars (my 11th foster this year arrives Thursday so this is a large sample!), and I think it will be a long wait till your son can cope with them. In the meantime, can pup not go in their crate/in another room with a babygate on so he can visit?

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