I like dogs, I really do.
My kids like dogs too, but only when the dog is on a lead, is close to their owner and isn’t acting like a lunatic.
If the dog is frantic/running around without a lead, or if the person walking their dog isn’t carefully keeping their dog close to them, my kids hate it. Sometimes people purposely let their dogs get close because the owner thinks that my kids want to pat their dog…
When my kids feel confronted by a stranger’s dog, they scamper up me like I’m a tree, grabbing every bit of clothing, hair or body part of mine that they can cling to, or, they hide behind me and whimper. When dog owners see the frazzled state we’re in, their most usual response is, “Oh… don’t worry, it’s a friendly dog! Your kids should get used to dogs.“
ARE YOU CRAZY?! LOOK AT ME! I’VE GOT PETRIFIED KIDS HANGING OFF ME LIKE LITTLE MONKEYS!!! Telling me that your dog is friendly is great, but it’s already too late. Trying to calm a terrified child down by saying “Oh, don’t be scared” is like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the toothpaste tube. It ain’t gonna happen. And, the dog owners rarely remove their dog, even when they see the terror in my children’s eyes. Instead, I’m the one who almost always ends up having to move on.
If I actually say what I’m feeling, “Yes, I know your dog is friendly, but my kids are scared of it,” the look I get from them indicates that *I’m* the one being a jerk for ‘letting‘ my kids be scared of dogs. Yes, then I turn into the idiot!
Dog owners know their dog. But I don’t know your dog and my children don’t know your dog. I know dog owners don’t see my side of the story because they only know their nice dog wants to come up for a sniff. I don’t think they realize that for us, it’s not enjoyable!
When my older daughter was a toddler, she got bowled over by a stranger’s golden retriever while we were walking through an outdoor market. The dog was well meaning, but to her, he was still a furry, slobbering, unpredictable monster, that was towering over her head.
For a year after that, my daughter was TERRIFIED of dogs. It took a long time of me doing silly role playing games for her to get her over it. I had to seek out people with friendly and calm looking dogs to ask if we could pat them, in order for her to overcome her intense fear of dogs. Now, at 5 years old, she’s no longer terrified of dogs. But, she’s still weary of them, and I don’t blame her. Her little sister isn’t too keen on them either, if they come up too close without warning.
A dog that comes up to an adult’s thigh is head high to a small child. Would you be scared if a slobbering, unpredictable, furry monster, that stood 5 or 6 feet tall with big pointy teeth, came rushing up to you? I would be!
Dogs are animals. Yes, they can be man’s best friend. Yes, many can be intelligent, and can be great companions, and can keep people safe… BUT… they are still unpredictable animals. Dogs maul and kill children on a regular basis. Not *your* dog, of course, but yes, it happens.
If my child was walking down the path, drooling, possibly barking, possibly biting, possibly peeing and/or pooing on the grass, possibly jumping on you/sniffing your feet or your crotch, and she was scaring you, would that be acceptable? Certainly not. I would be expected to remove my child, or at least be apologetic and remove my child.
I do know many responsible dog owners. In fact, one man we see regularly walking his dog, actually has a stern talk with children who walk up to his dog to pat it. He lets them know that it’s not always safe to do so without asking permission from the owner first. Also, most of my friends politely put their dogs outside or in the other room, when they have guests coming over. It’s not hard to have a little courtesy for others.
Anyway, I’m sure there are plenty of dog owners out there right now reading this who think I don’t understand their lives and that I don’t understand dogs. I also realize that plenty of dogs don’t like children! But, I think it’s important for dog owners to consider how other people might feel about their dog. Not everybody loves dogs. I respect animals. I like dogs, I really do. But, I don’t want them running up to my kids and causing a nightmare for us!