Dog bites are traumatic at any age. When a child is bitten, he can develop an extreme mistrust of animals. Read on to learn how to help him overcome his fear.

How Can I Help My Child Feel Comfortable Around Dogs After an Attack?

Recovering from a dog attackAfter any injury, children and adults alike can develop anxiety and fear toward the object that hurt them. A variety of factors, including mistrust, pain, and fear can affect a child’s emotional state following a dog attack. This type of trauma cannot only cause anxiety toward dogs and animals in general, but can also lead to societal withdrawal. As a result, when your child suffers a dog bite, no matter how severe, it’s important to monitor his behavior and reactions toward others—humans and dogs alike.

Monitoring Behavior

Symptoms of canine distrust and fear are simple. If you notice your child actively avoiding dogs, not just the one that bit him, he may be experiencing a form a post-traumatic stress. This reaction is particularly concerning if before the attack he was interested and engaged with other dogs. Another symptom to look for is any signs of physical or emotional withdrawal. This behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be canine-related. For instance, if your child flinches at sudden movements or becomes introverted after an attack, he may be suffering from post-bite anxiety.

Easing Anxiety

It’s essential for your child’s mental health that you not only monitor his behavior after an attack but also talk to him about his anxiety and encourage him to explore his feelings. The following techniques can be used after a dog attack to help ease your child’s anxiety while also encouraging trust—after all, not all dogs are vicious, and your child deserves a chance to embrace the positive qualities of man’s best friend.

  • Encourage open communication. Speak to your child immediately after the attack about what exactly happened. How does he feel about what happened? Explain exactly how the incident occurred and why the dog may have attacked. Remember that you should encourage him to talk without making any comments about your own feelings. You don’t want to influence what he says or replace his feelings with your own.
  • Reintroduce pets slowly. Depending on the degree of anxiety, you want to reassure your child that pets are normally friendly and non-threatening. However, it’s perfectly normal for a child to associate all dogs with the aggressive behavior of the one that attacked. Therefore, it’s important to allow your child the time to ease back into trust. Rather than letting a friendly dog play or wrestle with your child immediately after an attack, keep them separated until your child feels comfortable. In other words, allow your child to see the pet, but don’t force an interaction.
  • Exhibit trusting behavior. Although your child may exhibit signs of distrust and would rather keep his distance from dogs, you need to show him that not all dogs are scary. Again, don’t force him to interact with a dog if he doesn’t feel comfortable. However, by allowing him to watch you pet and play with a friendly dog, he’ll begin to reconcile his feelings and see that if you can trust a dog, so can he.

For more information on how to handle all aspects of a dog bite, from avoidance to injury compensation, feel free to browse our collection of articles. We encourage our clients to take advantage of the knowledge and experience we’ve learned over the years. Take a moment to learn more about dog bites and see how our resources can help you and your family overcome a traumatic attack.