Phobias are very common in dogs, but a dog that is nervous around children is a particularly notable problem; he could be a potential threat to any kids around him and a potential liability to you.
If your dog is skittish around kids, it is imperative that you work on getting him used to children so that he never panics and attacks one. This behavior can and should be changed, and it isn’t as hard to do this as you might expect.
Why Your Dog is Afraid
There are two reasons why your dog might be skittish around kids.
He hasn’t been socialized around children.
Children are loud, erratic, messy, and generally very different from adult humans. A dog who has never spent much time around kids may not know what to make of them as a result. He might become startled and react poorly when one suddenly screams or starts running at him from across the room, even though the child means him no harm.
He’s had a bad experience.
Younger children are especially prone to being rough with animals, even if they don’t always realize what they are doing. Your dog may have had his tail pulled, been poked in the eye, had some fur torn out, or suffered any number of other small injuries at the hands of kids. Through these experiences, he may have learned that children are aggressors who must be feared.
How to Help
Now that you know what’s driving your dog’s anxiety around kids, you can take some measures to help him with this problem.
Start bringing him around kids.
This ideally should have been done when your dog was a puppy, but even if he’s well past that stage now, it’s never too late to help him understand what kids are and that they’re not a threat.
Make sure that you explain to the kids that they are expected to treat the dog nicely and be gentle, then supervise them (perhaps with the dog on a leash) while they spend some time around each other. Reward positive interactions with a treat. Once your dog has been around enough to children to know they won’t usually hurt him, he should calm down in later encounters.
Consider professional training.
If you’ve spent some time socializing your pet dog and he’s still having trouble keeping calm when children are around, it may be time to call in the professionals.
Experienced dog trainers know how to make dogs comfortable during this process, and this makes it easier for your dog to start to get used to children. These trainers will probably get the results you want faster than you would yourself, and their help may be the only thing that can get through to particularly anxious dogs.
Don’t expect too much of him.
Some dogs will never become fully accustomed to having children around, especially if they are older animals who are set in their ways. Your main goal should be to make sure that your dog will never attack a child out of fear; if he still does not enjoy being around kids, that may simply be his personality, and it’s your job as his owner to know that and accommodate him.
Teaching your dog to tolerate children will take time, effort, and a lot of patience and love, but it will pay off in the end. Even the most fearful dogs can eventually grow to love children and live happily with them. Have faith in your dog and keep at it; the two of you will make progress as you work together.