10 Reasons Some Kids are Extremely Scared of Dogs

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Some kids have to be restrained from tackling strange dogs and smothering them with affection, but there are also those who are stricken with terror at the sight of man’s best friend. If a child in your life is struggling with a  fear of dogs, here are ten of the possible root causes of their phobia.

  1. Previous Trauma – Whether their experience was as harrowing as a major attack or as minor as being inadvertently knocked down by an excited puppy, kids who have suffered any sort of traumatic experience with dogs may have a difficult time feeling safe around them later.
  2. Barking – Though kids are endless sources of loud and unexpected sounds, they can often be startled and unsettled by the barking of a dog. Even playful barking from a big dog can sound menacing, and it can be too much for more timid tykes.
  3. Mistaking Exuberance For Aggression – A jumping, barking dog with a lolling tongue can look like a leaping, snarling dog who’s foaming at the mouth to a little one, who is still having trouble processing the non-verbal cues of adults in their own species.
  4. Sheer Size – A Great Dane with the sweetest disposition and calmest demeanor may still scare a preschooler who could easily sit astride him like a horse. Being dwarfed by a large, fur covered creature that licks and sniffs is understandably unsettling for some kids, who may not be as frightened by smaller breeds.
  5. Unfamiliarity – Kids that have never been exposed to dogs regularly might be terrified due simply to inexperience. With no reference point to rely on, these kids may not know if dogs can be trusted and react with terror.
  6. Accidentally Instilled Fear – Though they may seem to never be listening, kids can store up the things their parents say and process them in ways that weren’t intended. As a result, kids that are warned not to touch dogs by well-meaning parents could end up with a phobia based upon the fact that they’ve learned that it’s never okay to touch a dog, though that was far from their parents’ original intention.
  7. Pressure to “Get Over” Their Fear – Anxious to help their children overcome fear, some parents may force a child into a situation where they encounter a dog face-to-face. These sink-or-swim tactics can backfire in a major way, however, leaving kids more frightened than they were to begin with.
  8. Witnessing a Parental Phobia – In the minds of children, their parents are superheros with no fear and are stronger than anyone in the world. If they see one of these all-powerful beings react to a dog with fear, they will often feel as if dogs are something that everyone should fear.
  9. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy – When scared kids are forced to interact with a dog, that dog can sense the child’s fear and is likely to react with wariness or even aggression in some cases. This causes the child to become more frightened and to react with even more fear the next time, which can lead to a never-ending cycle.
  10. Angry Neighborhood Dog – The angry neighborhood dog is the stuff of legend. He may be famous for eating kids whole or swallowing bowling balls covered in firecrackers with a single gulp, and he strikes fear into the hearts of kids all around the block. If this is the only interaction a child has with a  dog, it’s natural for them to feel later as if all dogs should be feared.

Experts agree that the best way to help a child overcome a fear is to introduce them carefully to a controlled environment in which they can slowly become more accustomed to their source of anxiety, rather than forcing immersion which can lead to permanent trauma. Always remember to start small and stay positive.

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