A Note To Overfriendly Dog Walkers10:15:00
I have spoken before about Gracie's fear of animals. She is genuinely terrified of all animals no matter their size. We have managed to make some improvements and help her by taking her to farms etc. So she is now ok with going to places if she knows the animals cannot get near her and I am working on helping her find ways to keep calm when she see's animals in public places. Like teaching her to stay still and calm when someone walks past with a dog so she can see it has passed her and that she was brave with no tears.
Of course her fears are starting to have an effect on Zach and Elsie who are becoming very wary of animals too. What doesn't help me is people who let dogs off leads and just shout 'Don't worry he is friendly', 'She won't hurt anyone' etc. despite the fact my child is shaking and in tears while a dog is running towards her. Each time this happens it is like we have taken three steps backwards and it ruins any progress we have made. I have no problems with people letting their animals have freedom and exercise but I do expect them to be able to control their pet and to have an understanding that not all people like animals as much as they do.
As a parent, I understand that not all people like children and so I don't let my children harass strangers and will stop them if they seem to be disturbing people. I just expect that same courtesy from animal owners. Anyway, it seems after a few conversations with fellow parents, that I am not alone in this way of thinking.
Just last week I took the kids to play on our local green and while we were sat in a secluded section of field making daisy chains, a lady approached us with a dog. Now her dog was on the lead and she was politely making conversation with me and the kids which was nice. However, she then went on to ask the kids if they wanted to see her dog. At this point Zach had ran and hid in a bush, Gracie couldn't have been any further on my lap and Elsie was in her pushchair. Gracie instantly said no and I explained she was scared. So the Lady bought her dog closer saying he was a lovely dog. I could feel Gracie tensing and was about to say something whilst she was pushing the dog closer and closer to Elsie. Then Elsie screamed. She was scared of this big fluffy black thing trying to climb up her and my nice afternoon with the kids suddenly turned into me trying to calm three children who now wanted to go home.
Half an hour later, one of the school mums came along with her children to meet us and I told her what had happened and just when I started explaining what the woman did she managed to describe the dog and went on to tell me that her 5 year old daughter had just almost bolted into an extremely busy road because the same woman had done exactly the same to her on her way to see us!!
So if you are reading this and happen to be a dog owner, please think twice when your lovely, friendly dog is running off the lead. For some people, a fear of animals can lead to such anxiety that it makes it impossible to go anywhere in public. Whether your dog is a little ball of fluff that would never hurt a soul or a big cuddly bear who loves attention, that doesn't matter. A fear is a fear and quite often it is completely unexplained as to why the person is scared in the first place. There is enough room for all of us and do ask before letting your dog near other people. The same way you would expect someone to ask if it is ok before approaching or petting your dog.
*The dog pictured isn't the dog from the story. That is my friends beautiful furry friend Wilbur!