How do I stop my dog from being scared of kids?

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“My dog is scared of my baby. Is this a problem?” “He suddenly started being scared of kids.”

These are the types of questions I get asked every week at work by anxious, stressed-out parents or owners of dogs that have suddenly changed their behavior towards children for no apparent reason.

In most cases, the answer is yes, it’s a big problem and needs to be addressed quickly! Some people go as far as asking if I think their dog should be euthanized because it can’t cope around kids! This isn’t the case, but it goes to show how hysterical people can become when they feel like there’s no solution to their issues surrounding their dog and children. There always is a solution. You just have to be patient and work towards it the right way. Much of the time, the solution is a lot simpler than you think – it’s education and patience.

The first step to change is awareness. The more aware you are that your dog may show some behavior around children that can be perceived as aggressive or scared, the better you will be able to identify any warning signs and take action before an incident occurs. The following list is a compilation of things I’ve personally heard in my consulting room from owners who have come to see me because their dog has suddenly begun to act around dogs in the street, or when kids are around, or when at the vet’s office, etc.

What do you do when your dog doesn’t like kids?

1. Leave your dog at home when you go to the shops. It may be quite normal for him to bark at kids running around on the footpath or playing in their front yards. If this doesn’t bother you, then there’s no need to change it. If it does however, leave him at home where he feels safe and secure.

2. Take him to the park when there are no children around. If he shows aggression or fear towards kids, avoid taking him to places where young families spend time such as playgrounds and parks, especially during peak times such as weekends or holidays when these areas are likely to be crowded with children playing.

3. Take him for a walk at times when there are less children around, for example early in the morning or later at night. If you have a dog park nearby, use it during off-peak times as well.

4. Act calm and relaxed yourself – don’t get stressed if your dog acts this way too – remember that your anxiety is being transferred to him.

5. Teach a “sit” or a “stay” – even around kids – and use it as much as you can, especially when children are around. Don’t wait until he jumps up at them before giving him a command to sit – your timing will be too late! Instead, teach him basic commands such as sit, stay, down, leave it, etc so that you have a set of tools to use when you need them.

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How do I teach my dog to be around children?

As is the case with most training, prevention is better than cure. Teaching your dog basic commands such as sit, stay, leave it etc will give you more control when you need it most. Most dogs that don’t like kids are simply scared of them and they need support to build up their confidence around them. Teach these commands using food lures or treats to get their attention and then use head collars with a leash if the dog is paying more attention to the kids at that point rather than you.

Teaching these commands will also come in handy in other situations too. For example, teaching your dog how to walk on a leash next to you without pulling ahead is useful for lots of situations, especially when you have a dog park nearby where lots of dogs love to run around and play.

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Why is my dog afraid of my baby?

Most dogs will show a bit of interest in your baby at first. If they don’t, then it is probably normal for them not to do so. For example, some dogs have been raised with children from a young age and are used to being around babies. If this is the case with your dog, there’s no reason for him to be afraid of your baby. If he has never shown any interest in babies before, then there are probably other reasons for his fear.

Before worrying about the reasons why your dog is showing fear around your baby, make sure that you have built up a strong relationship with him using positive reinforcement training techniques. Teach him basic commands such as sit, stay, leave it, down, etc. If you do this first and your dog is obedient to these commands (see Basic Commands – It’s not as hard as you think! ), then his mind will be on you rather than on the baby.

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Why did my dog bite my child?

Most dogs that bite children are not being aggressive, but they have a reason for biting that may seem quite normal to us. Perhaps your dog was scared of the child from the very beginning and so when the child got too close to him, he snapped as a way of warning him off. If this is the case, then it’s important to make sure that your dog feels comfortable around children. Teach them basic commands such as sit, stay, leave it, down etc. to give you more control over the situation if necessary.

At times dogs are not taught to respect children or they have never been exposed to them before. In this case, teaching your child how to behave around dogs can be very useful. For example, never approach a strange dog without asking the owner’s permission first. Make sure that your child is in a safe place before calling the dog over to say hello etc.

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Is my dog jealous of my child?

Some dogs are quite happy to have a baby in the family while others take time to get used to it. If you have not built up a strong relationship with your dog before introducing your baby, then he may be showing jealousy as a form of protection. For example, if he has never seen children or babies before and so does not recognize them as being part of your family, then it is very normal for him to show some fear around them.

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