Just Another Manic Mommy
Fear of Dogs
Dear Manic Mommy: My daughter is almost 5 years old and gets hysterical if she sees a dog. I’ve seen too many children and adults bitten by dogs to be a dog lover myself. However, independent of that, my daughter is old enough to know that dogs can bite. To her, it’s scary having a large, four-legged hairy animal charge to her, circle around her, lick her and bark loudly in her face. Another mom in our community recently took in a dog. The dog ended up mauling her toddler right in front of her. The child needed 200 stitches. How do I manage to protect my child but not create a phobia?
Manic Mommy: Well, first of all, I do hope the neighbor whose child was injured has sent that dog somewhere else – possibly to a new home without children!
My neighbor’s son was terrified of dogs, much like your daughter is. He would cry at the sight of any type of dog, no matter how small or large. And then, one day, she told me they were going to get a dog. I couldn’t believe it! Why would she subject her son to a dog when she knew how afraid he was of them? I thought it was not a very good idea. I was wrong! The family got a dog, and mind you, it is not a small dog. Her son got used to their new pet and is now no longer afraid of dogs.
I’m not saying go out and buy your daughter a dog to cure her phobia. I’m just giving you an example that perhaps she will outgrow this phobia. Also perhaps, she senses that you are not a fan of dogs and she is taking clues from you on how to react when she sees a dog?
You might want to introduce her to some of the smaller dogs in your neighborhood and let her pet them or maybe take her to a pet shop so she can see and pet some of the smaller puppies. This way she can get used to dogs. Dogs are everywhere. Eventually, she will have to either get used to the animal or stay away from them completely, which, in this day and age of dogs being Man’s Best Friend, it seems pretty impossible as so many families do have dogs as pets.
You say your daughter is old enough to know that dogs can bite. So, she’s old enough to know to stay away from them. My thought is that if she is not around antagonizing a dog, it probably won’t come near her to bother her. Most pet owners do keep their dogs on leashes (at least where I live). Just use caution if you come face-to-face with an animal, and in the meantime, I do think it’s a good idea to round up a friendly pup and get her used to petting a dog. You never know, she might surprise you. My guess is that by the time she’s 10, she will be begging you for a dog of her own! Best of luck!