Fear Of Dogs
Fears are common at this age, and it's not unusual for a toddler to be wary, even scared, of dogs. Unlike babies, toddlers also have better memories and may be affected by a previous negative experience (like a nip of the fingers by an excited puppy).
What you need to know:
If you're afraid of dogs too, you'll need to address your own fear before you can help your toddler overcome his. That's because no matter how hard you try to hide it, your child will pick up on your anxiety.
What to do about it:
While a sense of caution around dogs is a good thing — after all, you don't want your little one pulling on Rover's tail or dashing after strange animals — you can help him be more comfortable around our four-legged friends. Here's how:
- Begin by exposing your child to canines of the non-flesh-and-fur variety. That may include cuddly stuffed animals, battery-operated ones that bark and move and picture books featuring friendly canines ("Let's read about Spot").
- Next, find a mellow, even-tempered dog (one that's used to kids and doesn't jump and lick faces). But before you arrange a meeting, take a photo of the pooch and show it to your child. Talk about the dog with him. For example, explain that barking is its way of talking and a wagging tail means it's happy to see you.
- Introduce your child gradually. At the first meeting, hold your toddler in your arms while the dog is kept by the owner's side. Wave to the dog and greet it by name. Invite your little one to follow your example.
- As your child becomes more comfortable around the dog — it may take several visits — decrease the distance between them (with your child still in your arms). When you're finally close enough to touch the dog, don't force or urge him to pet the animal. Instead, pet the dog yourself and say, "Look, I'm petting the doggy. He's so soft and friendly. Do you want to pet the doggy, too?" If he wants to, let him touch the dog as you hold his hand and show him how to pet it gently.
- Have patience. If your toddler doesn't want to touch the dog, tell him it's okay. But keep up the encounters. Each time, give your child a chance to change his mind — until he finally overcomes his fear and is able to pet his new furry pal.