Am I Wrong

Updated on April 10, 2008
D.K. asks from Broomfield, CO
12 answers

My friend came by and is in a huge bind next week and needed me to watch her four year old daughter. I told her sure I would be happy to! Then she said her daughter was super afraid of dogs and could I lock up my dog while she was there. I told her very nicely that no I wouldn't that the dog was very child friendly, doesn't jump on kids or even bother them and that locking her up would be cruel. She got upset and kind of stormed out saying she would think about it. I also told her that it is okay if a child doesn't like dogs, but to encourage fear in dogs is a way for a child to get bitten. My dog is like lassie the most child friendly dog and ADORES children. If it was some scary pit bull then I would understand but I do part time daycare and all the kids I watch love my dog and she loves them. My dog is part of our family and to lock her up for three or four hours at a time for a few days is wrong in my opinion. I promised my friend I would make sure the dog didn't bother her daughter in the playroom (where the dog never even likes to go) but I couldn't lock her up. I feel that I was fair and would never put a child in harms way. My dog has been dressed up like a princess, have sunglasses put on, driven as a racetrack for cars and loves the attention from the kids, mine especially. She is very well behaved and I just think because of her feeding her daughters fears her daughter will never learn to trust dogs and get bitten one day. My dog would be the perfect dog to allow her daughter not to be afraid of all dogs. I have taught both of my kids to respect animals, to never pet a strange dog without permission of the owner and not instill fear but respect for animals. Am I wrong in not locking my dog up???

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So What Happened?

I appreciate all the feedback. Yes I do understand there are two sides. I do understand a friendship is very important and I did listen to her reasons why she needed me to do this. I am very sympathetic to fears, even if it is about dogs.

If it was a few hours ONE day that would be one thing, however that is not the case. It isn't about a playdate with my kids and she does have other resources to go to for child care, she is asking I do this for four or more hours, three days straight! That is excessive and not fair to our dog. My dog can go outside or upstairs for a few hours, not several and not for days in a row. It isn't my job to dictate to anyone about fears.

It isn't about me proving a point at all. However, she is asking for FOUR or more hours a day for three days straight I lock up my dog. My dog is a huge family pet and it would upset my dog to lock her up or put her away from everyone. She just likes being around where she knows where everyone is. If it was a few hours one day of course I would accomodate my friend.

Statistics prove dogs are more apt to bite with someone that is showing signs of fear then not. My friend and I have had this discussion before and that is why I was taken back by her asking me to put the dog up. If it was a few hours one day then I would be okay however our dog is part of our family and shouldn't be punished due to someone choosing to encourage their child's fears. I am afraid of heights, big time, however I encourage my children to not be and wouldn't want them to be afraid because I am. I actually acquired this horrible fear as my mom was and I truly believe it fostered onto me. My friend is actually the one afraid due to just never being around them growing up. Is that really fair to encourage a childs fears because of your own? I don't think so and no I have never told her that either! That isn't my business.

If my kids are afraid of something (which they both of their own set of fears)of course I support them but try and educate them so they have some empowerment over their fear. All you can do is help educate them, support them and reassure them the best you can. But I also don't push off my fears onto anyone else or expect them to rearrange their life because of them.

I hope she and I can talk about both of our sides and come to an agreement, however she is pretty set my dog needs to be locked up while her daughter is here even AFTER I assured her I wouldn't let the dog bother her daughter. I want to help her and offered to do this free of charge and just keep the dog as best as I could away from her daughter.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

I do not think that you are wrong at all. I also agree with you that keeping dogs away is not helping her fear. Dogs are everywhere now days and avoding them is not safe for the child. You seem like you have a handle on things. I would have done the same thing. If she needs you that bad then she will get over it. Let me know what happens!

J. S

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answers from Denver on

It really isn't a matter of who's wrong and who's right. There is a saying I really like...Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy? Seems your friend is reaching out for your help. I have a dog. There are friends of my daughters who are afraid of her and some who aren't. My dog is also really, really friendly...but it's not my job to 'cure' or judge the fears of others. If a fearful child comes over, I put the dog in the basement. She has always survived and has never minded. Although I'd rather it be that whatever child it is could just get over it, it's not really a question of how I'd rather things be, but rather how things just are. So you have two can refuse to put the dog away or you can just suck it up and be helpful. Think how much easier it will be if you ever need help from your friend...or anyone else for that matter. One time one of my oldest daughter's friends showed signs that she was curious about our dog, but afraid. I asked her if she would like to go with us in the back yard and play frisbee. She agreed and we did. She is still timid with our dog, but we no longer put her away when she comes over and everyone is fine with it. I waited for HER to show that she was ready to walk through her fear instead of trying to push her into it, knowing that when I've been pushed I tend to push back harder. The fact of the matter is, if I'm going to take the dog on a car ride for a few hours, some time in a room with food and water is not at all's simply no big deal. One other thing you can do is ask if there is anything you can do to help her child get over her fear. This will open up a door that gives your friend control over just what you would like to see happen plus she will see you as even more helpful...who knows... she just might take the opportunity!

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answers from Macon on

HOW ABOUT THE LEVEL OF FEAR.....ALOT OF YOU THAT ARE RESPONDING THINK IT IS OKAY TO PUT A CHILD WHERE THEY ARE TERRIFIED! My daughter is way afraid of dogs...I mean way. She has panic attacks and cluths you and screams until you are gone from them. My daughter is visually impaired and this has alot to do with it but when they are young they need to be sheltered not forced into being around what they are afraid of. I say compromise... dont dictate to each other or there wont be a relationship there at all!

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I have 3 dogs and none of my friends would ever dream of asking me to lock my dogs up when their kids are over. On the other hand I always put my dogs in the laundry when children come over so I know both my dogs and the children are out of harms way. I think it is a two way street, your friends need to be willing to put up with your dogs when they are at you home, but you must also be an accomidating host for anyone you invite into your home. If it is only for a day or two I don't think it will hurt your dog to be put in another room or outside while the child is there. Or you could always offer to watch the child at your friends house. Is it really worth causing tension in a friendship over such a silly issue? As another mom mentioned it is not your job to try to break the childs fear of dogs, and some people are just not animal people and you will never be able to change that. I guess you need to decide what is more important, helping out a friend in need or proving a point.

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answers from Boise on

Hi D.,
I am going to play devils advocate here, if thats ok? If it was your child who was deathly afraid of's. And you were in a huge bind and the only person you knew and trusted had a cat, how would that make you feel, childrens fears, especially of animals are very real, no matter how well behaved one is, I have 8 cats, 2 dogs and 2 birds. I LOVE animals. But have had to put up one or two over the years, for just this reason, and I usually use a baby gate if they are inside animals and chain up the outside ones, do they like it, probably not. But it is only for a few hours, I also use that time to introduce the child with the fear to them, my kids interact and so do I with whichever one it is we had to put up. We invite the child to pet them, if they don't want to they can stand back and watch you'd be surprised how most kids within a day or two, with proper guidence and understanding change there fears, they don't become dog/cat lovers overnite but they also usually no longer have an intense fear of them. The mom may have hindered her daughter in not getting her exposed sooner, but she's mom and our instincts are to protect them even when their fears are unfounded. Just a different thought!

I forgot to add something funny, we used to have an attack chicken, he was MEAN. Friends who came to visit would get out of their cars and run, cause if you caught him off gaurd he would come after you, I would of locked him up but he terrified me, so if the kids wanted to play outside we had to go to their houses. If you aren't comfortable locking up your dog then don't but realise it could hurt a friendship.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

No, you are NOT wrong! You did your friend a favor by not feeding into the fear of dogs. We have a 5 year-old Lab and a 4 year-old son, and they are best buddies. I'm thrilled that he is growing up with a love for animals, and not a fear of being hurt by them. Stick to your guns; if she wants to come back on your terms, she will.



answers from Salt Lake City on

No, you're not wrong. My daughter is afraid of dogs, as as much as I try to help her get over that fear, it's something we're still working on. However, I would never as a friend to lock up their dog if they didn't want to just so they would do me a favor and babysit. If I was that concerned, I'd just try to find someone else to watch my daughter.

My best friend has a large dog but she has babysat for me lots of times. I've never once asked her to put her dog outside and usually by the time I pick her up, my daughter and the dog are friendly because the dog is a good dog.

Anyway, I would suggest telling your friend, again, that you'd love to help her out, but that you aren't going to lock the dog up or put her outside and maybe this would be a great opportunity for her daughter to get to know a dog a little better. If she still has a problem with it, then there isn't anything you can do about it. It's her problem, not yours.



answers from Denver on

My son is both terrified of and allergic to dogs...he can be around them physically (although he usually stays far, far away), but can't touch them or put his face near them. My friends all know this and put their dogs outside or in another room when we go over to visit. Unfortunately the alternative is not visiting our friends at all. If your friend's daughter had a medical condition like an allergy, would you lock up your dog for her? if yes, how is that different from a mental condition like a phobia? You were probably your friend's last choice for babysitter because of your dog and she must have been desperate to have to ask you. It's not your place to judge her on "encouraging her fear of dogs", nor should you take it upon yourself to try to "fix" her fears. The fact is, her girl is terrified of dogs (a very real phobia for many children, especially if they've had a bad experience with one) and you're risking losing a friend because you won't put your dog away for a little while. Maybe you did the right thing for you and your dog by not agreeing to your friend's request, but if it had been me, I would have immediately agreed to the slight discomfort of my dog in favor of a scared little human being.



answers from Denver on

I have to say that it is a horrible feeling that the child must be going through when she is around dogs. Nobody would want to feel the anxiety that she feels. That being said, I would not want my child to continue feeling that way. I believe that your friend's intentions (wanting to spare her daughter those feelings) are probably good but not the best idea. Of course, my guess is that mom also has anxiety about dogs.

Unfortunately, when kids are afraid of animals for no good reason, it is because the parents have led them down that path. Children that are not exposed to and taught how to deal with dogs and other animals in a mentally healthy way will suffer over the long term. Her mom is doing her daughter a disservice to teach her that her environment will adapt to her irrational fears.

I am a dog lover and have helped my friends children overcome their fears and stop suffering from the anxiety that comes with them. It is a wonderful thing to watch a child become empowered and feel the enjoyment that comes from being around animals.

I don't believe you are wrong. You can ensure your friend that you will carefully supervise any interaction between your dog and her child. Maybe she could bring her daughter over for short visits when you can hold her child (I don't recommend mom holding her because her daughter will feed off of her anxiety) and then have the dog follow commands and do any tricks that she knows. Then have the child tell the dog to "sit". (Sometimes dogs won't listen to somebody else, but you can cleverly say "Okay, now you say 'Rover, sit!'. You have said it and the dog will listen to you, but the child says it and the dog responds so it works like magic!)

Don't force the child to pet the dog, but in your arms they usually start to feel very confident when the dog responds. You can then have the dog lay and stay at a comfortable distance while you play. Don't put the child down though until she is calm and relaxed also.

I think children feel better when they approach the dog rather than the dog coming toward them. (They probably feel a loss of control.) I have my daughters help me with the next phase. I will have the dog lay down and receive love from my kids. Allow the child to observe from a distance without pointing it out or making a fuss over it. Usually the child will calm down if they are focused on playing something with you, but you know they are still keeping an eye on what's going on and if it looks like the other kids are having fun they usually get curious and will move in closer for a better look.

See if you can get your friend to let you "borrow" her daughter for short periods of time to do these things. Maybe your friend should try these things with you, too, (Minus you picking her up! lol) without her daughter present.

In the end your friend will be happy that she has helped her daughter to not carry these awful feelings with her like baggage for the rest of her life!

If her daughter does come over for a longer period, you could try some of these things during part of the time and put the dog away part of the time if her anxiety is too high.

Here's to raising happy, well-adjusted kids to the best of our ability! (I think they forgot to give me the owner's manual when I had kids!)

I am sorry this is so long!

Best wishes to you all, L.



answers from Great Falls on

I totally agree with not locking the dog up. I have a sheltie who is shy around strangers unless it is a child, then he is in love. But also with a child being afraid of dogs, my brothers two girls where terribly afraid of animals of the furry kind and wouldn't come near any of the extended family pets, Finally my brother and his wife bought the girls a dog. A few days later problem solved. Most dogs in this world are not mean and there is no reason to keep them away from kids. Just give them (dogs) a safe place to go when they've had enough of little hands and all is normally good.



answers from Norfolk on

I wouldn't lock up the dog either, if she can't respect that she obviously doesn't understand a dogs basic needs. It would indeed be cruel, I'll back you up on that anytime.



answers from Denver on

NO WAY---It's your house you can do whatever the heck you want. Don't let people tell you what to do in your own house. It sounds like your friend needs to find a little understanding.

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