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Building Confidence Around Dogs

How to build confidence around dogs

Millions of families in the UK have dogs. With so many pooches around, the chances are you will come into contact with them at the park, along the street or even at a friend's or family member's house.

At Dogs Trust, we understand that not everyone likes being around dogs and we know some people may also be scared of them. This fear can have such an impact on a child's life, that we have put together some information to support them and their families.

In conjunction with our successful Be Dog Smart campaign we have developed a programme of activities for parents and children on how to manage these fears to ensure everyone can live together safely and happily at home and in the community.

For more information on what we can offer please contact your local Education and Community Officer.

Top tips for parents:

  • Maintain a safe distance from the dog and ask the owner to keep the dog on a lead.
  • Allow your child to have their emotions, be understanding toward their fear. 
  • Narrate the experience to lessen the panic  ̶  'That dog is barking and is making you nervous'.
  • Address your child's fears and talk positively.
  • Gauge when your child is having an unhelpful thought, catch the thought and help your child to replace it with a helpful thought.
  • Encourage your child to be a 'thought detective' - 'How likely is that to happen?' 'What experience do you have of this?' 'Are you 100% sure?'
  • Frightened and anxious- breathe in together for 5 seconds and out for 7 seconds, which can be practiced at home to keep calm and distract them.
  • Evaluate the level of fear and if it is reducing at all, keep a thought diary to track it.
  • Act out a role play with a toy dog, talking through different dog's behaviour.
  • Read books with pictures of dogs in and eventually, when ready, build up to meeting a placid, calm 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 the dogs.
  • Try to avoid areas where dogs are off lead.
  • Many children's play areas have railings around them to keep dogs out.

We also offer a comprehensive leaflet which is available to download for free using the link at the bottom of this page. In this guide you will find information on what fear is and why/how it occurs, how to gauge the level of your fear and advice on what you can do if your child has a fear of dogs. 

If you are interested in booking a 'Building Confidence Around Dogs' workshop at your local school, library, community centre or other suitable location contact your local Education and Community Officer.

*Dogs Trust has been working alongside psychologist Dr Olivia Kenneally to develop a programme to support managing a fear of dogs in children. If the fear is at a high level, or to overcome a fear altogether, further professional advice should be sought.