Ask the expert
Q: “My three-year-old daughter is terrified of dogs, and runs away screaming when she sees one, which sometimes attracts the dog’s attention, making her even more scared. What can I do to reduce her fear?”
A: Hollie Sevenoaks, head of education at the Dogs Trust, says: “Although we’re a nation of dog lovers, a recent survey by Dogs Trust found 37% of UK parents think their children are fearful of dogs. Children may not always know how to react when they see a dog, so we’ve worked with a psychologist to develop some tips on how to manage a fear of dogs as part of our Be Dog Smart education programme.
“Our top tips would be to sit down and talk to your child to help them think through their worries about what might happen if they were to encounter a dog. Children can pick up on fear from those around them so talk positively about dogs and the many helpful roles they play.
“Develop a stepped approach to engaging with dogs – for example select books with pictures of dogs in them for book time and watch films where the leading star is a dog.
“Move on to spending time with a friendly dog which is quiet and calm. Explain to your child that not all dogs are the same. Just because one dog might have misbehaved, it doesn’t mean all dogs will.
“Understand that dogs see the world differently to humans and that running away or screaming can be seen as an invitation to play. Of course, dog owners need to do their bit too and make sure their dogs are under control at all times.”