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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 is comfortable being around dogs and we know some people may also be scared of them. This can impact a child's life, from not wanting to play in the park or visit friends, to being worried about walking down the street in case they see a dog. 

Therefore, in conjunction with our successful Be Dog Smart campaign we have developed a workshop for children and their families on how to understand dogs better and build their confidence. 

For more information on what we can offer please contact your local Education and Community Officer directly via their email or phone number listed. 

We also have our Building Confidence Around Dogs leaflet available to download from the link below.

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.

*Dogs Trust worked alongside psychologist Dr Olivia Kenneally to develop this guide to support building confidence of dogs in children. If the fear is at a high level, or to overcome a fear altogether, further professional advice should be sought.