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Fear of dogs: My child is frightened of animals – 7 tips to help

Fear of dogs in kids: 7 Tips to helpIf a child doesn’t have too much exposure to animals – it can mean that they get frightened of them early on in their lives. The fear of dogs, and even cats isn’t that uncommon.

They may even have had a bad experience when they were younger and its meant that they are really worried around a particular animal.

With both my children, dogs were a problem, but with friends its cats, and it could even be something innocuous to us, little a rabbit, that can upset a child.

My experience was particularly worrying; I had to be so careful near roads if my little boy saw a dog. There was clear danger that if I didn’t hold on to him, the fear of the dog would mean he would have run into the road. When this first happened, I had to grab hold of him hard to stop him from doing so, right in front of a car….

Owners who just let their dogs roam, and actually run towards children – the bain of my life! Sometimes people don’t understand that no matter how gentle they know their dog is, the child who is afraid of them doesn’t understand. Many a time I had to shout to owners to get their dogs away because Stuntboy was screaming blue murder…

“He won’t hurt him.”

You know that. I sort of know it, but he DOESN’T and all he sees is a dog running towards him…

Adults can be worried by things they don’t understand or haven’t had experiences of before so why not a child?

Here are some tips to help:

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. The animal is something they don’t understand, so that’s why they are worried. With larger animals, a toddler is pretty small compared to a big dog – so is there any wonder they are a little scared?
  2. Don’t use emotive language. Try to use word like “what a nice dog” and not “what a big dog.” When they are younger they may only understand some of the words so keeping them neutral means they won’t pick up the words that you don’t want them to associate with the animal, such as big, or scary. Fluffy and cuddly might be better!
  3. Keep your tones light. When you meet an animal, try to act natural, or be as relaxed as you can. Sometimes its hard to do so when your child is crying hard of course ;-)
  4. Show understanding. It’s important to empathise with your child. Explaining you understand how they feel. Again, try not to say that you understand why they are scared. Just how they feel. If they only have limited understanding the danger is they only hear the word scared and see the dog, for example, and the association may be re-inforced
  5. Give them time. My boy was scared from day one pretty much, of dogs. But now he is six, he wants one. He was frightened of cats too, and we have two beautiful ones of our own which he adores. It may take a few years, but as they get bigger, and so the animals get smaller, the fear will diminish
  6. Get yourself a pet. It’s probably a bit mad to get the pet which your child is really scared of, but getting another animal, can help show your toddler that they aren’t all scary. My little boy started to become happy with cats, so we got two. We even have a reward chart behaviour to choose for looking after your pets to encourage your children with them as well
  7. Encouraging them to be respectful not scared is fine. It’s always important to check the temperament of an animal first with the owner if its an animal you don’t know. It’s better to keep your distance, and then ask questions. If you do this, then your children will pick up this habit from you. They do, after all, copy a lot, don’t they?!

Patience, as with all things kiddie, is the watchword here.

I never thought my little guy would ever be comfortable with dogs. Stuntboy is now quite happy to walk past them at the park, and even strokes them when the owner lets him.


How are your children with animals? Does it bother you? Do you have any tips you would like to share?

Helen is a mum to two, social media consultant, and website editor; and this site is (we think) the only Social Enterprise parenting magazine! Since giving up being a business analyst when juggling travel, work and kids proved too complicated, she founded KiddyCharts so she could be with her kids, and use those grey cells at the same time. KiddyCharts has reach of over 1.1million across social and the site. The blog works with big family brands (including travel) to help promote their services, as well as offering free resources to parents of kids under 10. It gives 51%+ profits to Reverence for Life, who fund a number of important initiatives in Africa, including bringing running water and basic equipment to a school in Tanzania. Helen has worked as a digital marketing consultant (IDM qualified) with various organisations, including Channel Mum, Truprint, Talk to Mums, and Micro Scooters. She loves to be creative in the brand campaigns she works on. Get in touch TODAY!

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Pit bull

Sunday 15th of May 2016

Well in my views one can overcome any kind of phobia or fear but they have to give it a go sincerely. Most of the time we are more scared to face the situation than the thing itself that we fear.


Tuesday 3rd of May 2016

Amazing tips!! I am a father of of two children and they both frightened from dogs ,now i can tackle this problem give some tips to my chidren that how to face a dog !


Monday 2nd of May 2016

amazing tips !!it helps me i get the point that how to behave in front of dogs ..thanks for write such fine tips..

Psychotherapy for children

Sunday 24th of April 2016

A very fine post with very nice and useful tips that greatly helps parents to overcome their kids fear for dogs and other animals. A very big thanks to you Helen. You did a wonderful job. Very practical and useful tips i have ever read. Hope to see more informative and helping blogs from your side. Quite interested to read more.

Depression Hypnotherapist

Sunday 24th of April 2016

well researched and finely written article full of useful info. Fear of children for dogs is a common problem that make many parents concerned but this post covers this issue very well and give amazing and fab tips. Quite helping. Well-done Helen, its a great job done by you. Hope you pop over with more useful blogs. Thumps up. Many thanks for sharing this.

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