Most children love animals, and some are particularly enamored with dogs. However, most children do not know how to react when a dog starts acting aggressively. Children are at eye level for most dogs. These factors put children at a greater risk for danger. If a dog bit your child, you know how scary the situation was for both you and your child. Your first concern was tending to your child’s injuries, which may have been severe enough to require a trip to the hospital.
After your child starts to heal physically, you may be concerned about the emotional impact of the dog bite. Your child will encounter more dogs throughout his or her life, and you do not want your child to live in fear. There are certain strategies you can use to help your child get over the emotional trauma of a dog bite.
Take small steps
Though you certainly do not want your child to continue to fear dogs, you also do not want to retraumatize him or her. Slowly engage your child with dogs again. Start by reading your child books with positive messages about dogs. Show your child movies where dogs are friendly and well behaved. Once your child becomes more comfortable, try taking him or her to park. If your child reacts in fear during any of these experiences, you should go back a step until your child reacts more positively to dogs.
Teach your child how to interact with a dog
Dogs may interpret eye contact as a sign of aggression. Teach your child to not look into a dog’s eyes. Tell him or her to gently pat a dog on its back. Approaching a dog’s face may be too scary for a child who was bitten. Make sure your child knows to never pull a dog’s tail, hit or tease a dog. Tell them to not approach a dog when it is eating.
Introduce your child to an older dog you know
Once you think your child is ready, arrange for him or her to meet an older dog you are familiar with. According to WebMD, puppies are too unpredictable and may nip a child. If you do not know anyone with an older dog, you could consider going to a dog meet up or dog friendly restaurant. In these environments, your child can slowly approach a dog. Generally, the types of dogs that attend these events are well socialized.
It may take some time for your child to be comfortable around dogs again. Being bitten by a dog is a traumatic experience, especially for someone so young. If you find your child is still struggling to interact with dogs after trying these steps, you want to contact a therapist with experience in treating children who have experienced this type of trauma.