When a pet-free family visits a home with a dog, it goes something like this: the playful canine bounds out of the house, barking loudly and flying at the children, who try to escape the onslaught, screaming and shaking. This excites the pet until there is a cacophony of barks and shrieks and tears. The pet owner laughs sheepishly and pulls the dog back, explaining that their dog is safe and won’t bite. Often, dog owners suggest that the parent acquire a dog of their own to cure the child of his fear.
62 percent of American households own at least one pet.
According to the Humane Society, 70 percent of those homes have chosen a dog. Nonetheless, various reasons such as allergies, costliness, or preference lead many families to opt out of pet ownership. Casually suggesting that they remedy the ‘problem’ of their terrified children by bringing in the source of the fear is distasteful.
The situation gets more complicated when you realize the legitimacy of the fear: dog bites cause around 585,000 injuries a year, and children under 12 are the victims in 51% of those cases. Even dogs with no history of aggression are not immune to having a primitive or violent reaction to children.
However, most parents do not want their children to be gripped by paralyzing fear when they encounter a dog. Conquering this fear appropriately takes teamwork and empathy from parents and dog owners.
Always consider a child’s possible discomfort around animals.
Ask about pet preference before inviting a family over; understanding the situation and preparing adequately can eliminate emotional outbursts. Your dog is a wonderful part of your life, but many people – especially children – have had traumatizing experiences with aggressive dogs.
Have an honest conversation about your child’s feelings with the dog owner.
If your child is frightened of dogs, ask if the animal can be kept in a separate room or on a restraint for the beginning of the visit. Slowly introduce the dog to the child in a calm, controlled manner. Do not allow the dog to rush at the child with frenzied barking. In the same regard, respect the dog and the dog owner by encouraging your child to cope without screaming or running.
It’s okay to keep the dog and child distant from each other until there is mutual affection.
Both pet owner and parent need to assure the child that they will not allow the dog to progress past the child’s comfort zone. Stay aware of the dog’s excitement level and the child’s heightened emotions, and diffuse potential hysterics before they begin.
Dogs are the most-chosen pet because they have many wonderful attributes which allow them to become a beloved part of a family. With a little compassion and cooperation, both pet owners and pet-free families can enjoy quality time together.
Sources: The Humane Society of the United States , US National Library of Medicine