Some children have a fear of dogs. Whether the cause is a previous bad experience with a dog, lack of exposure to dogs, general anxiety around them or a true deep fear, there are techniques you can use to help your child overcome that fear.
Fear stemming from a lack of exposure to dogs will be easier to overcome than an actual deep seated fear of dogs, but whatever the cause, try these methods to help your child overcome their fear.
If you are planning to have a dog in the family, starting with a small puppy may be less threatening to a fearful child. A puppy may be energetic, but it is also needy and affectionate, and may easier for a fearful child to bond with.
Another route to go is to choose a dog that is used to being around children and is already fully trained. A calmer dog is less likely to frighten a fearful child than a very energetic, excitable dog.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Too many parents want to make sure their child receives a pet when they ask for it and just don’t have the heart to say no if finances or living situations are not ideal for owning a pet. In this case the pet suffers. If you are going to have a pet, it is vital that you understand and explain responsible pet ownership to children – and this is also an important part of the explanation of why they may not be able to have a pet at any given time.
It is a pet peeve of mine to see a family with a toddler get a pet and not teach the child to respect the animal. Tail pulling, carrying them improperly and playing rough with pets is not proper care and may lead to the pet defending itself and then being removed from the home as if it did something wrong. Teaching your children to care for pets can begin early in their lives and will require your attention and supervision.
Pets require more than just a place to live. They need attention, healthy food like CANIDAE and medical care just like your children. If you do get a pet your children will need several lessons on the various aspects of responsible pet ownership in order to learn to respect and appreciate the pet as a family member and to care for it properly with your help.
Children of all ages can understand that being hungry and thirsty mean you need to eat or drink, but they need to be taught how much food and water your pet should have and when to feed it. Explain to them that just as they have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks, the pet also needs to have regular meals and treats. This is one of the first responsibilities that children can assist with when you have a new pet.
The dogs we share our lives with now have never been around young children. The one time that my sister-in-law brought her grandchild to our home, our dogs cowered in the corner of our bedroom during their entire visit.
If we are out taking a walk with our dogs and a young child runs towards us, we step between the child and the dog and divert the kid’s attention. We’re just not sure what would happen. Since we aren’t around kids often, we have not properly socialized our dogs in that area, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.
In order to avoid any potential issues, why not err on the side of caution? If you are a parent of young children, it’s important to teach them sound pet safety rules.
If your child is approached by a strange dog
In these circumstances, it’s important to teach your kid to:
• Stand tall and firm, like a tree. • Keep her hands down at her sides. • Stare straight ahead. Don’t look at the dog. If your child looks into the dog’s eyes, the dog may interpret that as an invitation to fight. • Stay still, never try to run away. Dogs have a prey drive and love to chase moving objects, even children. • Keep quiet. Calling for help or screaming out of fear may scare the dog. • When the dog loses interest, back away slowly, one step at a time.
If your child follows these steps, most dogs will simply take a few curious sniffs and then turn away. Still, it’s important to let your child know what to do if she is ever attacked by a dog. If the unthinkable happens and a dog attacks, your child must curl up in a tight ball and cover her face with her hands.
We’re all ardent animal lovers here at the CANIDAE RPO blog, and I know you are too or you wouldn’t be reading this. We all share a deep and abiding passion for pets, and we want nothing more than to see every animal treated with compassion, kindness and love. What better way to work towards that common goal than to instill those values in children at a young age?
Whether it’s with our own kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids or a friend’s child doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we help all children learn to form loving bonds with animals. We know from experience that pets enrich our lives in so many wonderful ways, and they teach us vital life lessons that make us better human beings. Sharing this knowledge with the young ones in our lives is a great way to pay it forward.
Kids learn by example, and it’s up to us as adults to show them not only the right way to treat animals, but how to develop a strong pet-human bond. The results are so worth it!
Adopt a Pet
Having a pet in your own home is the most obvious way to foster a child’s love of animals. They get to see firsthand just how special animals truly are, and each passing day is an opportunity for their relationship to blossom. If having a dog or cat in the family is not feasible, consider getting a smaller pet such as a hamster or gerbil which still provides a way for kids to bond with a living being.
Involve Kids in Pet Care
Learning how to care for their pets teaches kids about responsible pet ownership, but it also helps them build a lasting love for all animals. If you’re unsure which chores are appropriate for the age of your child or the type of pet you have, the ASPCA has a nice Pet Care Section with kid-friendly tips on caring for dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and other pets.
We love our dogs like they are part of the family, but they are more than just cute rambunctious balls of fur offering endless amusement. They can actually make a family unit stronger, on emotional and physical levels. Sometimes I think we can only aspire to give as much back to those we love as our pets enrich our lives.
How do dogs make a family bond stronger and help us live better lives? Let’s count the ways.
1. Creating Memories and Milestones
If you’ve ever been around a tightly knit family, then you have probably heard a few stories about their shared recollections and probably a few pet memories. Having a dog creates a shared being to love, and we tend to note the things those we love do. And dogs seem to provide endless antics for us to notice.
Beyond their antics, milestones in our pets’ lives become ones in our own. When my family begins reminiscing about past Christmases, the first one brought up is almost always the Christmas Eve our family dog, Daisy, had puppies. She brought extra joy to the holiday and added to our family history.
2. Bonding Over Common Ground
It’s these moments and what people have in common that make them close. People are so diverse in interests, and just plain busy doing their own thing, that common ground can be hard to find, even if they are related. Even when family members feel like they have little to say to each other, they can still talk meaningfully about their pets, or work together to feed or play with them.
This can open the channels of communication and lead to further conversation on other topics, instead of everyone retreating behind closed bedroom doors.
Most people who share their life with a pet enjoy talking about how strong their connection is with their animal. They like to discuss how much they delight in spending time with their pet. They share stories that illustrate how well their dog or cat understands them. I’m one of those people; I can talk about the power of the connection I have with my dog and my cat for hours. I am completely convinced that living with pets is good for my mental and physical health. What’s more, I know living with a cat has helped my mother-in-law tremendously. My husband and I are amazed at the positive influence a little gray tabby cat from the local animal shelter has had on his 87-year-old mother’s life. It’s as if she’s awakened from a long sleep. She and ‘Skeet’ are a perfect match, and getting her this cat is one of the best things we’ve ever done for her.
With this in mind, it’s not a far leap to believe that being around domesticated pets can be a helpful, positive and enriching experience for children with autism.
How animals help autistic children
First hand testimonials from parents and documented reports from clinicians confirm that interacting with animals (sometimes called animal-assisted therapy) offers emotional and physical benefits to autistic children. Structured programs like horseback riding or swimming with dolphins are beneficial, but the animal interaction doesn’t have to be that organized to be helpful. Something as simple as having a dog in the house can have a positive influence on a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder; it helps with their physical development by improving their coordination and strength. Additionally, a joyous relationship with an animal will help an autistic child develop more self-confidence and a deeper sense of well-being.
Colleen Dolnick, a Missouri mother who has a 10-year-old son with autism, tells Everyday Health: “Animals can be amazing for children with autism. Animals can relate to these children. And these children, who have a hard time relating to peers, can really relate to animals.”
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.