Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Crossing the line

Angus has an extreme fear of dogs. Has so for a while now. I'm not entirely sure how it started. It might be to do with the extensive dog population in our area. Our neighbours on either side have dogs... and not just one, but 3 in one house, 4 in the other. They bark, they snarl, they snap. No doubt it is a bit overwhelming for a not quite 3 and a half year old. They overwhelm me at times. I grew up with dogs though, so I didn't have this type of fear at Angus' age. But it is his anguish and we acknowledge it. We comfort and reassure him and try not to make a big deal of his squeals and terrified pleas for us to pick him up, every. time. he sees a dog in the vicinity.

On Sunday, we had a rather odd encounter, while playing with the boys at a local park. A lady was walking a large black dog, off the leash. Angus preoccupied at first with our game of frisbee throwing. Until the large black dog made an excited, bounding, b-line straight for him. Angus realising the dog was heading in his direction, at pace, squealed and ran as fast as he could to me. Scott had already swooped Felix up from the grass, naturally wanting to avoid a collision between a 10 month old baby and a large dog. 

The lady owner proceeded to instruct Angus not to be afraid of her dog. She continued by saying the worst thing a child can do is run from a dog, as it will make the dog chase them more. I am sure she wasn't aware that she was talking to a not quite 3 and a half year old child. Right? Right?? What amazed me about this situation was the lady persisted with her plight about how gentle and loving her dog was and that she used to tell her children the same thing when they were scared of dogs. Then repeatedly urged a clearly frightened Angus to go over and pat her dog. It was an awkward moment, as I smiled politely, consoling Angus in my arms. I honestly thought I might have to physically restrain Scott, who stood holding Felix, expressionless. I know my husband, he was not impressed.

The encounter started me thinking about crossing the line with other people's children. I felt this woman crossed the line with my child. I feel she had no right to lecture our little boy, particularly regarding a matter that was obviously disturbing to him. I met up with a friend of mine yesterday for a park play date and there was a dog in the park we were in. Within minutes, she had spoken to her little boy (also Angus' age) about not going near the dog, because it was a strange dog and we shouldn't go near strange dogs. Whether Angus' fear of dogs is unnatural or not, it is something for us to deal with, in our own time. My friend summed it up in one sentence, "I would rather the kids be more cautious, than trusting of dogs unfamiliar to them". My thoughts exactly


  1. We've had this situation recently too, only with our own dog. I do agree, it is best for kids NOT to run, because the dog gets excited and thinks it's an invitation to play. BUT, she did definitely cross the line. It's up to you to encourage or dissuade your boy from engaging with anything he fears. If it were my dog, I would have been terribly apologetic and embarrassed.
    Hope he isn't scarred from the experience.

  2. She definatley crossed the line, who is she to say what your son should or shouldn't do! I love dogs, but she sounds like she shouldn't have it off the leash if she can't control it and stop it from chasing small children! Your friend is right, I always tell my kids they have to ask the owner before they pat any dogs. I hope with time his fear passes. x

  3. We've just come back from the park where I was asking every Mama in sight if they wanted our dog put back on the leash.
    He is very gentle and kid friendly - but how is anybody else to know that?
    I have the opposite problem - children always want to play with our dog at the park and I'm super cautios about letting them - just in case.
    I don't like how fearless my Magoo is with other dogs and I dissuade him from approaching people's dogs too.
    I love our dog, but he is an animal - and all animals can be unpredictable.
    You have every right (and then some)to protect your son.

  4. My middle one had a huge dog phobia. She is 5 now and is getting much better. I used to have to explain frequently to dog owners that she was scared and they needed to put their dogs on leads or walk them away from here. Usually people are good about it. Hope Angus grows out of it as well. Cazxx

  5. I completely agree!
    I have always told my boys not to touch or pat another persons dog, unless I am talking with the owner (know them), and they have insisted that the dog won't bite etc...

    How is a small child to know if a dog is friendly or not? Smaller dogs will give you a blank look, then snap at your fingers while your patting them!...

    I had a friends chihuahua come and sit on my back while I was laying on the ground once, then growl at me when I went to move! ha ha

    Dogs are a hard one.


  6. Oh my goodness, we had an almost identical experience. Except my daughter didn't have a fear of dogs.

    We were playing in a playground when a large dog came bounding up and knocked my girl over. She was hysterical. The owner came up and made a big song and dance about how she needed to pat the dog and get over her fear. We told the owner she shouldn't have a dog without a leash on in a children's playground. She went on and on so much about patting the dog that my husband lost his temper and told her to get away from us (not so politely).

    A lot of children have a fear of dogs, I think it's a natural thing and something that he'll work out in his own time. I think other people stepping in like that is definitely crossing the line.

  7. Poor little love. While she probably meant well it wasn't a helpful thing to do at all was it? I guess some people don't get how important it is to be sensitive and that other people may not feel the same way they do. I hope your little one is ok now xxxx

  8. She crossed the line.

    I'm sure she thought she was helping him, but she definitely crossed it. Next time you need to stand up for yourselves and the way you want to parent your own children! If you're uncomfortable with the way a person is talking to your child, honey, you've gotta step in! I'm happy to be the raving lunatic every time if it means I'm standing up for them. You know what you have to do... sometimes you've got to totally trust your gut and say 'that's not okay'. F$%k politeness. You know?

    On the dog front, my own children (Max and Badoo) have each had a massive fear of dogs (they are scared of things in general - noises, the unknown, foxes, whatever). Badoo is still terrified (she is not yet 3), but Max has very slowly grown out of his fears. He is cautious, but calm around dogs now. The thing that helped him the most was his best friend's Mum. Elliot has a dog and Max was too scared to visit him. Jodie slowly, slowly got Max used to Sirus and slowly, slowly introduced him to the idea that dogs are okay. So even though he was petrified and it was very traumatic all round, the exposure did the trick, but she was gentle and kind as she did it.

    Facing up to his fear of dogs unleashed something in that boy (sorry, pun! Can't help myself). He has been so much more settled and less fearful ever since.

    Sorry, long comment. I can't help myself. You probably stopped reading ages ago!!!


  9. I totally agree with your friend I'd rather my kids be cautious than to have no fear. Cooper actually got bitten by a little dog when he was a toddler so he was terrified for a long time but we eventually got him to come around to being at ease with dogs now. The problem is he now loves dogs and will just try and pat or touch any dog because he loves them so much but it totally freaks me out as he has no fear.
    I agree, she crossed the line. Mind your business lady, poor Angus :-(


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