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Is your child frightened of dogs? Dogs Trust is here to help

Understanding Dogs

There will be many times when families want to enjoy the different activities the outdoors offers, but a survey* by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has discovered that, whilst more children are afraid of wasps, bees and spiders, over a third (37%) of UK parents think that their children are fearful of dogs. With 33% of 2-14 year olds coming into contact with a dog every single day, this could be problematic for families when they are out and about, especially as 25% of parents say their child’s fear of dogs affects their daily life.

To help children and parents, Dogs Trust offers its popular ‘Understanding Dogs’ workshop as part of its hugely successful Be Dog Smart education programme, which teaches around 200,000 kids and parents every year to stay safe around dogs. Dogs Trust’s Education Team, who deliver around 7,000 workshops in schools across the UK every year, have noticed a worrying increase in the number of children who are fearful of dogs, and have found that many kids are unaware of how to act safely around them. Knowing how to respond appropriately is in the interests of both their own safety, as well as the dog’s well-being.

The most common reaction when a child sees a dog is to avoid a public area, run away, hide or scream or shriek. Dogs Trust is pleased to offer some helpful tips for parents to help them manage their child’s fear when out and about.

Maria Kyle, Education and Community Manager, explains why this type of reaction could confuse a dog,

“Children may not always know how to react when they see a dog, particularly if they are unsure or frightened. Sometimes they can run away or scream which is a normal reaction for a child who is scared but this may be confusing for a dog. As the UK’s largest dog welfare charity we have a responsibility to educate parents, children and dog owners on behalf of the dog.

Whilst we are not saying that all children in the UK needs to love dogs, it’s really important for children to be comfortable/safe around dogs, especially as 33% of children will come across a dog every day. We hope this vital extension to our Be Dog Smart programme will help thousands of children across the country improve their confidence around dogs, and ensure they always act safely and calmly in a situation where they may feel frightened or worried by a dog.”

Top tips whilst out and about:

  • If you see a dog and are frightened, walk past calmly
  • Never run away as this may encourage the dog to chase after you
  • Try not to scream as this may alarm or excite dogs
  • Try to avoid areas where dogs are off lead
  • Many children’s play areas have railings around them to keep dogs out

Top Tips for dog owners:

  • Make sure your dog is under control at all times and will come back when you call them
  • Keep your dog on a lead when near children’s play areas or where there are groups of children
  • If your dog does not react well to loud noises or can get over excited, then be cautious around children

The survey* revealed:

  • One in three children (37%) are afraid of dogs despite 33% of children coming into contact with a dog every day
  • 25% of parents say they thought their child’s fear affected their daily life when out and about
  • More children are scared of dogs than deadly snakes (20%) and lions and tigers (7%)
  • 57% of children are afraid of spiders but 20% of children only see these animals 2-11 times a year.
  • 53% of children are scared of bees and wasps but 22% only see them once a week
  • Around 1 in 7 parents said they themselves were afraid of dogs.
  • 15% of parents said they had no idea why they are afraid of dogs. 68% said it was down to past experience and 12% attributed it to the influence of the media.
  • On seeing a dog, 53% of parents say their children will avoid the area where they saw the dog. 29% said their children would physically run away and hide and 17% said they were likely to shriek or scream

For more information and advice, or to book any of our workshops, please visit our dedicated education website www.learnwithdogstrust.org.uk. There you can also find our ‘Building Confidence Around Dogs’ booklet, which is available for download and packed full of highly practical tips for the whole family.