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Helping Your Child Overcome His/Her Fear of Dogs and Cats

Your neighbor got a new dog or cat, and now your child won’t play outside anymore.  Your child is afraid of the new four-legged neighbor next door.  How can you help your child overcome his/her fear of the dog or cat?

1. Acknowledge the fear. Discuss it with your child: try to determine what is causing the fear. Does loud barking frighten your child? Does the dog excitedly jump on people? Has your child seen aggressive behavior from the dog or cat? Has your child had an experience with a different dog or cat that has inspired a fear of all dogs or cats?

2. Never tell your child that he/she “shouldn’t” be afraid. Your child has a right to feel his/her fear. The emotions are real to him/her. Don’t make your child feel wrong for feeling what he/she feels.

3. Assure your child that most dogs and cats are loving, gentle individuals.

4. Read books and watch movies about friendly dogs and cats. Role play with stuffed animals (dogs and cats).

5. Steer clear of dogs and cats that you don’t know or whose temperaments may reinforce your child’s fear.

6. Gradually re-introduce your child to friendly, gentle dogs and cats. Walk with your child past a dog or cat. On a different day, spend time together in a room with a dog or cat. Gradually increase time with and proximity to dogs and cats as your child’s comfort level grows. When your child is ready, pet a dog or cat together: your child may want you to hold his/her hand and have your entwined hands jointly pet the dog or cat. When your child becomes comfortable with that, have a dog or cat quietly sit near and then on your child’ lap. Ultimately, encourage your child to hold a dog or cat.

7. Teach your child to read the body language of dogs and cats and respect the boundaries given by dogs and cats. Is the dog napping? If so, let’s let the dog sleep. Is the cat playing with a stuffed animal mouse? If so, let’s not interrupt the cat’s play. Is the dog or cat leaning away from your child while being petted? If so, let’s pet more slowly and gently or simply stop petting for now.

8. Once your child has overcome his/her fear of dogs or cats, instill in your child a cautious optimism about unknown dogs and cats. You don’t want your now-fearless child to approach every dog and cat that he/she meets: some dogs and cats bite and truly warrant keeping a distance.

By following these simple steps, you can help your child overcome his/her fear of dogs and cats and allow your child the opportunity to feel more at ease in homes and neighborhoods with four-legged residents.  For more useful tips, continue to visit Care4hire.com.

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