Dogs Trust offers a helping hand for children who are fearful of dogs

Dogs Trust Snetterton will be taking part in a new nationwide campaign launched by the animal charit

Dogs Trust Snetterton will be taking part in a new nationwide campaign launched by the animal charity, 'Managing fear of dogs'. Picture by Clive Tagg. - Credit: Archant

The summer holidays have set in and families are looking forward to spending more time out and about, but for those with children who are afraid of dogs, planning days out can be more complicated.

A survey by animal welfare charity Dogs Trust has revealed that more than a third (37pc) of parents in the UK think their children are fearful of dogs, while 25pc say their child's fear of them affects their daily life.

So to help these families, Dogs Trust is launching its 'Managing fear of dogs' project, offering one-to-one sessions with its education and community officers to help youngsters overcome their problems with pooches. It forms part of the charity's Be Dog Smart education programme, which teaches around 200,000 children and parents every year to stay safe around dogs.

The charity's local base at Snetterton will be getting involved, with Dogs Trust education officer for the East of England Joanne Goodman available for sessions at a variety of schools and community centres in Norfolk.

Dog Trust's 24 education and community officers, who deliver 7,000 workshops in schools in the UK each year, have noticed an increase in the number of children who are fearful of dogs and have found that many do not know how to act safely around them – a worrying trend when, according to the survey, 33pc of two to 14-year-olds come into contact with a dog every day.

Maria Gill, senior education officer: 'Children may not always know how to react when they see a dog, particularly if they are unsure or frightened. Sometimes they can run away or scream which is a normal reaction for a child who is scared, but this may be confusing for a dog.

'As the UK's largest dog welfare charity we have a responsibility to educate parents, children and dog owners on behalf of the dog.'

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Youth trainer Jayne Boundy said: 'In the summer when families are out and about it's important that children can feel safe around dogs.

'Parents with fearful children have told us they may avoid certain places, which is not nice if you're wanting to go out for picnics and things like that. We think this is a really valuable campaign to launch to address these issues. We want to arm children with practical tips which you can practise at home.'

Dogs Trust has worked with a child psychologist to provide some helpful tips for parents to help them manage their child's fear when out and about, such as asking children why they are fearful of dogs, what they would do if they encountered one, using role play to act out possible encounters, or reading books and watching films with them which present dogs in a positive way.

To book your child in for a session with an education officer, or to download a Be Dog Smart Family Guide, go to www.bedogsmart.org.uk.

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