Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Dog or Not to Dog

When I was little, if I missed the school bus in the morning, I had to make a lonely walk down to the end of the street to catch it on it's way back through the neighborhood. Normally, this was no big deal. But one morning, when I was about eight years old, I was making my way down the street when a neighbor's Doberman began to chase me. I threw my lunch at it and screamed bloody murder until another neighbor came to help me. Ever since that day, I've disliked dogs.

And then last spring, as we were all walking down the street to Sydney's bus stop, a neighbor's annoying Beagle chased poor Sydney down the sidewalk and into the path of an oncoming car. Luckily, the car was able to stop a good three feet from a terrified and screaming Sydney. However, the experience traumatized both her and Liam and they both freak out if they see dogs, even small and friendly ones.

As much as we dislike them, I know we're in the minority. In the past couple of weeks we've been to several houses with dogs and while the owners have (mostly) been accommodating by putting their dogs in the garage/backyard, I know this won't happen everywhere the kids go. They have to to learn to be around dogs. And as a non-dog person, I have no idea how to do this for them.

Should I just give in and get a family dog? Surely the kids would get over their fears of them if we got one, right?

The problem is, I really don't want one. I don't want to have to bathe it. I don't want to have to entertain it. And Ryan has informed me that he really doesn't want to have to pick up poop.

So, my internet friends, what do we do? How do we get our kids to stop fearing dogs without actually having to get one? Is that even possible?


  1. Oooh... don't get a dog if you don't want one. Because you really, really won't be happy if you do. Maybe just make it a point to be around your friends/family members' dogs, and don't have them put away in the garage/backyard when your kids are there. Also, try visiting some animal shelters with your kids to let them pet the dogs.

  2. Don't get a dog! You will be miserable and so will the dog. It takes a lot to get over being so scared. Clay recently had an encounter with an overzealously friendly dog but he thought it was going to eat him. Now he is a little wary of dogs and we have one. In fact a lot of the time we have two because we dogsit a friend's dog about half of every week. When we moved here the neighbor's son was deathly afraid of all dogs. Now he is deathly afraid of every dog EXCEPT ours. I'm sorry but I don't think there is going to be any quick fix for this. Just as your experience has caused your dislike/mistrust of dogs, this may have been too much for Sydney. If you have a friend with a really good dog who is understanding about it, you could enlist their help to expose the kids to a friendly dog but in the long run, you are probably just going to have to deal with them being afraid. As a dog lover and someone who can't imagine life without one, I feel bad for you, they can being a lot of joy, but not if there is fear.

  3. I too have a fear of dogs, but only strange ones that I don't know. I got over my worst fear by trying to hang with "friendly" dogs (people I knew who had good dogs). I think the idea of visiting the shelter is a great one, the workers there can guide you to the friendly ones. I think the fear of dogs is something that your kids will outgrow or learn to cope with as they get older. But don't get a dog to get them over it; I don't think that will work.

  4. NOOOOOO. Don't get a dog! Please, don't get a dog. You have to really love dogs to put up with the day to day maintenance of having one. I would suggest seeing if your friends that have dogs might let the kids hang out with their dog for an afternoon or something.

    However, if you're in the market for a cat, I've got one (or two) for you. They even come complete with litterboxes (which they won't use)! ;)

  5. I echo what everybody else says about not getting a dog if you don't really want one. It is a lot of work! That said, however, my mom got us a dog when I was in high school. My sisters got over their dog phobia in no time. I wonder if volunteering to dog sit for a neighbor or friend when they go on vacation would be effective in treating dog phobia...

    ...from Tien

  6. I like the idea of exposing your kids to friends/neighbors dogs one at a time, especially if the dogs are small and calm. Not ours :) I think taking them to a shelter might be a mistake, because of the sheer quantity of animals and the noise level. Maybe go to the dog park and stay outside the fence to watch?