If you have a child that is afraid of dogs, then the most logical thing seems to not force them to interact with one.
But what if there’s a stray dog on your street? What if you take your child to the playground and there are some dogs on the way? What if your or your kid’s friends have dogs?
And worst of all, what if your family wants to have a dog despite your child being anxious around dogs? That’s perhaps you right now.
Happens more often than you might think and while it can be temporary due to the kid being unfamiliar with animals, sometimes the fear persists.
Can you make it work? Sure, but there are some things you want to look out for to make the relationship work.
Despite the size, temperament, energy level and many other factors, you now also need to take into consideration which breed might be best for scared children.
Why Is Your Child Scared of Dogs?
“I’m afraid of dogs!” This is a common phrase heard from children when they are faced with the prospect of interacting with them.
As it turns out, many children have dog fears that can result in increased anxiety and avoidance behaviors.
If your child is one of these kids who are fearful around dogs, you might want to consider getting them a dog that will be less likely to set off their fear response, but you’ll still need to address the underlying issue.
So why are children scared of dogs? There are three main reasons:
- Traumatic experience
- Fear from parents/relatives manifests
- Shy, timid child with lack of canine interaction
If your kid had a bad experience with the neighbor’s dog, this can definitely result in anxiety around dogs.
It doesn’t have to be a flesh wound from a dog bite. Has your kid been knocked over by a big dog, growled at, or barked at? These can all be causes.
Yep, parents can project these fears on their children.
You wouldn’t believe how often it’s the parents or other relatives that cause the anxiety in the first place.
The parents might’ve had traumatic experiences in the past or just a lack of familiarity with dogs and now they project that anxiety onto their children.
Maybe one of the two parents wants a dog and the other one constantly reinforces the anxiety since he or she goes out of their way to avoid dogs on strolls outside.
As a Rottweiler owner, I can definitely tell you that too many parents frantically switch the side of the road with no alarming sign whatsoever.
For generally shy children, the best way to go might be to spend more time on one-on-one interactions. I’ll go into more detail below.
12 Best Dogs For Scared Children
There are a couple of things you might want to consider when choosing the right breed for a scared kid.
Some kids are afraid of big dogs while others had negative experiences with black dogs or really pushy, hyperactive ones running them over.
When choosing the right breed, check the following:
- Exercise/Grooming requirements
- Other specifics such as color, head shape, muscularity
It’s not rational to be afraid of certain head shapes (bully breeds are seen as more intimidating, for example) but it’s not rational to be afraid of large dogs in general either so make sure to know about any specifics upfront.
You can either talk to your kid and if he or she is old enough, you can probably explain that there’s nothing to be afraid of and go ahead with your preferred breed.
However, if you’re dealing with a toddler it’s possible to desensitize them to any dog, but it might be a bit easier or harder, depending on the individual.
Children are incredibly intuitive and can lose fear quickly but deep manifested fears might be harder to get rid of.
The Beagle is among the dog breeds that do not have a menacing or intimidating appearance.
These furry, friendly creatures are famous for their love of children and sometimes enjoy being around them more than adults.
Beagles grow to medium size but do not bark too loudly which can help soothe some anxious kids who might feel scared by big dogs.
The poodle is a low-maintenance breed that is not known for being aggressive, which is definitely helpful for children who are afraid of dogs.
They also have curly hair and big eyes, which some kids find charming or less scary than other breeds with pointy muzzles.
Poodles can come in three different sizes (standard, medium, miniature) and if you’re looking into this breed, be aware that the Poodle is very smart and needs even more mental stimulation than other breeds.
3. Irish Setter
The Irish Setter is a relatively large dog but slender and might be a good fit for smaller children who are afraid of dogs.
When raised together, this breed gets along well with kids and have rarely been known to snap at strangers or other animals out of aggression.
They also love human contact and are playful which may make them easier for shy children.
4. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a perfect breed for shy or introverted kids.
They have an outgoing and friendly personality that can help calm small children down when they get nervous around animals.
This dog also loves to play and will be great with the young owner, but make sure to get one with a fitting temperament as some Tollers can be quite stubborn during training or get easily overexcited if stimulated too little.
5. Golden Retriever
I know, boring.
But c’mon, the Goldie is among the most popular breeds in the US for countless years now.
The Golden Retriever is a breed that loves to be around people which may make them a good fit for shy children who are afraid of dogs.
They also enjoy playing with other animals and will get along well with any child they live with if socialized properly.
Golden Retrievers are not as easy to maintain as other breeds on this list but they’re not high-maintenance either. Regular grooming should suffice.
6. German Shepherd
German Shepherds are known for being loyal to their owner and will make a great companion (and protector) for any shy child.
They can be large and have an outgoing personality, making them perfect for children who need more time warming up to dogs.
However, their confident personality may scare some children off so make sure to introduce your GSD properly and if you’re getting a puppy – GSDs are known to have quite the puppy biting phase.
7. Bull Terrier
Bullterriers were actually used as nanny dogs in their country of origin.
While some may find the appearance of these dogs a bit daunting, others love their goofy demeanour and egg-shaped heads.
The Bullterrier is a muscular breed with a very strong jaw, so keep that in mind.
However, when you’re buying a pup from a good breeding line and socialize them properly, these dogs can make great family pets.
8. Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is described as being “calm and good-natured”.
However, this large dog can weigh north of 100 pounds (45kg+) and can be quite strong and goofy when playing. Always supervise your dog playing with the child.
Due to their size, these dogs might be a bit more intimating to kids, but they look super sweet and kids love their medium-length coat.
Often labeled as a gentle giant, Newfoundlands love to be pet so they make the perfect companion for someone who needs time warming up to dogs.
However, they’re big boys and can look intimidating especially when they come in black.
If you’re into large breeds, this teddy bear is not only a super fluffy breed but also balanced.
On another note; big boys come with more slobber, shedding, etc. so take that into account.
10. Great Dane
Great Danes are known for being the largest dog breed in the world.
While some Great Danes can be humungous, others are on the “smaller” side. But make no mistake, all Great Danes are big dogs and need space, more food, appropriate exercise that doesn’t hurt the joints.
11. Cane Corso (not for beginners)
This dog breed is relatively unknown, despite them gaining quite a bit of popularity in the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, with popularity there’s an influx of irresponsible breeders seeking to make a quick buck.
Many people are looking into this breed because they heard of their guarding instinct.
Make no mistake, the Cane Corso is an excellent guard dog and protector for your child but they can be incredibly gentle within the family.
However, they’re often not very fond of strangers and require strict socialization as well as clear and fair leadership.
12. Rottweiler (not for beginners)
I own a 100-pound Rottie girl and she’s absolutely adorable with kids and other animals.
While the Rottweiler is neither a breed to take advantage of for other dogs nor a breed that tolerates unfair treatment, they can be incredibly sweet if the handler has the right knowledge and invests time into training them.
While you can get this dog as beginner, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re already struggling big-time with a child that is scared of dogs and you can’t invest too much time into making the relationship work.
Don’t be fooled by the puppy eyes.
While the Rottweiler is one of the best puppies your toddler can grow up with, Rottie pups grow quickly.
The Calmest Dog Won’t Solve a Child’s Problem
Even if you get a child-friendly and very calm dog, you’ll still need to address the underlying problem of your child’s anxiety.
No matter if it’s past traumatic experiences, your own fear, or just a lack of contact – there are two things that will help.
Gradual desensitisation and counter-conditioning.
Sounds like dog training? Well, it kinda is.
Make sure to take it slow and start by introducing a dog you know will react calmly and then gradually work your way up.
Why Does My Dog Not Like Kids?
If that describes your dog and you’re trying to find out if he’s among the breeds that do well with kids then mark these words:
Every dog breed can be great with kids.
And every individual dog can be bad with kids.
Just because you get a Golden Retriever doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be best friends with your kid. Some have had traumatic experiences themselves, especially with small children.
Vice versa also applies. The biggest, most intimidating-looking canine can actually be a gentle pooch. Socialization and temperament decide what it’ll be.
Breeds just have tendencies which is what we’re trying to take advantage of when choosing one.
If your dog doesn’t like kids, it can be due to the kids invading the dog’s space, being very hectic/loud, ignoring warning signals, jumping on him, pulling the tail, or being disrespectful in general.
The dog should be a family member and some dogs just don’t like having their space invaded. If your kid does that and the dog isn’t taking it, it might have nothing to do with children in particular but how they behave.
Very anxious dogs might get easily startled and nearly every dog has some threshold of what they’re taking in terms of ear or tail-pulling.
Teach your child how to behave around the dog and desensitize as well as counter-condition your pooch.
Let me know in the comments what your experiences are with kids who are anxious around dogs and how you were able to (hopefully) solve it!