DogAbility Center

Canine-Assisted Activities

for children & adults of all abilities

153 Broadway Hicksville, NY 11801

(516) 387-0066

Volunteers page

Fear of Dogs

                                                                             Contact us:   


Many adults as well as children prefer NOT to have a dog because of allergies or lifestyle.  However there are some who are actually afraid of dogs.

This may be due to a personal experience of a bite or of lack of experience or being uneducated in canine behavior.

Although there are some places and things we prefer to avoid, such as large crowds, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, preferring a car or train over air transportation.  These situations can be avoided and controlled by our choice.

Fear of Dogs however can be quite debilitating. You may not be able to visit friends or family because they have a dog. You may find yourself terrified when you encounter one on the street. You have little control over whether you will come across a dog in your lifetime so it makes sense to address and overcome this type of fear.

Just as with people, there are dogs that are unfriendly, emotionally or mentally disabled. Some dogs have gotten a reputation as friendlier and safer dogs than other breeds of dogs. Professionals in canine behavior all support the statement that its the "DEED and NOT the BREED" that people should consider when avoiding certain dogs.

At DogAbility FOD sessions we have designed sessions in a sequence that has shown tremendous success. Since our handlers and dogs are friendly, skilled and experienced you or your child will have a safe and inspiring experience.


Fee = $50 per private session / $135 for 3-session discount package (if paid in advance)


COMMENTS from participant families:

"Great class today and great dog, Evee. You knew that a smaller dog would suit Kelly well. Thank you for making DogAbility a welcome place for Kelly." ~ Liz T 

"Zachary had a great time at his first DogAbility session! Our goal is to work on overcoming his fear of dogs and help manage the sensory overload that barking creates. Many thanks to Vicki and her team for a wonderful experience!" ~ Kimberly A

"Thank you so much! I really appreciated your help today. Many thanks to Vicki and Suzanne for helping me work through my fear! " ~ Lori M

"Just wanted to share with you that Amiya did very well over the past 2 weeks at her grandparents house with their dog. She was afraid for the first day, but by day two, she was petting the dog and trying to feed him. Your dog therapy sessions were a HUGE success. We cannot thank you enough. Adding a dog to our family dynamic is looking like more of a possibility for the future." ~ Anthony & Evelyn M

"I brought my daughter for a session and left feeling so proud that she was calm, not anxious at all, and loved playing with all of the great dogs at the center!" ~ Holly W



10 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome a Fear of Dogs (and 1 Tip to Avoid)


1   First, understand your child's fear. Spiders, snakes, public speaking -- most of us are a little unnerved by something. And although our        logic tells us a tiny bug or a short speech won't actually hurt us "fear isn't rational, says Colleen Pelar, CPDT, CDBC, a certified dog behavior consultant and pet dog trainer, "so rational talk isn't going to help you through your fear." That means the first step to helping your child overcome fear of dogs is to recognize and accept that that fear is there.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

2   Then, watch what you say. Be sure you're not unintentionally creating -- or reinforcing -- a child's fear of dogs with the words you choose. "I've heard people say well-intentioned but awful things to their kids," Pelar says. "Things like, 'Pet that dog under his chin, or else he might bite you,' or a parent will tell their child to ask a stranger 'Does your dog bite?'" Words have great power to inform a child's view of dogs as dangerous, or as new friends to meet, so choose your words carefully. 

3  Take puppy steps. There's no reason to rush your child into face-to-face doggy introductions. You don't need to force them to be around dogs right away, Dennis tells WebMD. "That may backfire and just increase your child's fear." Instead, gradually introduce your child to dogs, starting with picture books, TV, movies, then from a distance, perhaps in a park or sitting outside a pet supply store. "Gradually increase the intensity of the exposure," Dennis says, "but be sensitive to whether any one step is too much for your child. If it is, go back to the previous step." Pelar, author of Living with Kids and Dogs...Without Losing Your Mind, shares this opinion. "The biggest mistake I find people make is not going at the child's own pace. We need to let them set the pace, let them say when they're ready to go closer." 

4   Meet an adult dog, not a puppy. When your child is ready for that next step -- getting closer -- find a mellow, adult dog to start with, not a puppy. Like little kids, puppies are unpredictable, wiggly, excitable, and when they're very young "they still have the mouthiness going on," Payne says, and "the last thing you want is for a puppy to run up and give your child a little nip." You can also look for a group that does doggy meet and greets, says Payne, or reading programs where therapy dogs go into libraries. "Situations like that where the child isn't immediately forced to interact are very helpful." 

5   Learn a little doggish. In these early interactions, you'll have lots of time to teach your child about canine communication. "Dogs don't have a verbal language," says Case, author of Canine and Feline Behavior and Training: A Complete Guide to Understanding Our Two Best Friends, "so they communicate with facial expressions and body postures." For example, look for that famous doggy smile, which is "mouth open, lips pulled back, tongue sort of lolling, no tension in the face," Case tells WebMD. "It looks similar to our smile and it's an invitation to interact and can be interpreted the same way as you would a smile in humans." To help your child learn these cues, look at a book of photos of dogs, and ask your child 'What's that dog feeling?'" Pelar says. "Then go to a park and do the same thing, look at dogs and talk about them. That's how I'd start." 

6  Search out dressed-up dogs. As silly as it sounds, kids (and adults) are often far less fearful of canines in clothes, so be sure to point out dressed-up pooches to your child. "I found that if I dress my dogs in bandanas, or put their therapy vests on, it makes a huge difference for kids," Payne says. "And it works for adults too -- the brighter the clothes the better!" Pelar agrees, "I always put a bandana on the dog if we do school visits. Something about the clothing just makes people more likely to approach." 

7  Petting a pooch. Once your child is ready to take the plunge and touch a dog, it's a good idea to keep the pooch occupied and let your child pet the dog's body instead of the more-intimidating head. "You don't want the dog looking at your child because the dog's face is what tends to be scary to kids," Payne says. 

8  Prepare for the sniff and lick. When a child is ready to let the dog interact "parents need to understand that dogs check you out by sniffing you," Payne tells WebMD, so make sure your little one is prepared. "Tell your child 'The dog is going to sniff you, and he might give you a kiss!'" That quick smooch can be a dog’s way of giving your child the thumbs up, or the canine way of getting to know you better. 

9  Teach kids manners. Safe and happy interactions between kids and dogs have a lot to do with "teaching kids gentleness and respect at a very young age," Case says. So be sure you teach your little one to never push, hit, or tease a dog, or pull on a dog's tail. 

10  Always ask. Finally, the most important thing: Teach your child to always ask first before approaching a dog they don't know. 

* At our DogAbility DogSmart sessions we teach children that instead of asking to pet every strange dog they come across that they should consider a few things first. Consider that an owner may have a NEW dog and be unaware that their dog is UNcomfortable around children. Perhaps the dog is having a bad day and isnt in the mood for being touched.

Instead of asking to pet a dog, consider remaining 6 ' away and insure that the encounter is safe, friendly and educational.

Ask these types of questions:

What is your dog's name?  How old is your dog?  What breed is your dog?   How long have you had your dog? What does your dog like to do?



Copyright © 2015 DogAbility Center, Inc.