My Child is Afraid of Dogs – Is There Anything I Can Do?



Despite the fact that we are known as a nation of animal lovers, not everyone has the same feelings towards our four legged companions – in fact, a fear of animals is one of the top three phobias.  This is quite a surprising figure, given that dogs are the number one pet of choice in Britain. If your child is struggling with a fear of dogs, read our Holidays4Dogs article for help and advice.

A fear of dogs is know as cynophobia. Like many phobias relating to a fear of animals, (spiders and snakes being two of the more common types), cynophobia often develops because a person has experienced a negative association of the dog – usually during childhood. Indeed, according to the University of York – a fear of animals was one of the top three fears among 84% of children who took part in research on the subject of phobias in children.

Children’s reactions to dogs can vary depending on the individual child. Some children may be happy with dogs on the lead, but show extreme tension around dogs running free. Certain children may show only mild agitation, while others may become hysterical in the presence of dogs.

It can be devastating for the child in question to deal with such fears. It can also be difficult for families who may find they have to avoid situations where the child might come into contact with dogs.

What can be done to help a child who is fearful of dogs? 

It largely depends on the individual child and the severity of the condition. However, generally speaking, a fear of dogs can be treated with cognitive behavioural techniques, which are usually quite successful.

You can speak to your GP who may offer a referral. There may be other services your GP should know about that can help with the presentation of mental health problems in children.

However, mental health services are severely over-stretched. If you can afford to, you can seek private CBT which will be much quicker. Do make sure any CBT practitioner is accredited and experienced in working with children with a fear of dogs.

Alternatively, you can contact the Dogs Trust who run workshops – see below for more information.

Confidence workshops with the Dogs Trust.

The Dogs Trust runs ‘Building Confidence Around Dogs’ workshops across the UK. You can book one of these for free.

The Trust have been working with psychologist Dr Olivia Kenneally to develop a programme to help support and guide children who have a fear of dogs. The courses can build confidence and help children to successfully overcome their  fears.  You can find out more here :-