A few weeks ago several of the AnimalSense trainers went together on a “field trip” to Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana. Wolf Park is an education and research facility that is home to some 16 gray wolves. One of the things we got to do was to go in with the wolves – inside the seven-acre area that is home to the main pack. There I was, face to face with a wolf, petting a wolf, letting a wolf lick me. Yet I felt no fear.
When I was 12 or 13 I delivered papers. I rode my bike, and I vividly remember that as I approached one house about halfway through my route, I would be on the lookout for a German Shepherd sitting on a side porch. As soon as he saw me approaching, he’d chase after me. And I would pedal as fast as I could. For all I know this was just a fun game for the dog. But for me it was no game. It felt more like a matter of life or death.
Dog trainers often talk about fear in dogs, but we don’t often talk about fear of dogs. I imagine that might be largely due to the fact that we work with “dog people” who don’t have any fear of dogs. After all, if they did, they likely wouldn’t be dog owners. But I think it’s important as dog owners to recognize that there are people out there… family members, friends, neighbors… who don’t share our love of dogs and may, in fact, be afraid of our dogs.
Keep your dog leashed. Don’t let your dog approach strangers – on or off leash. And be especially cautious with children. Adults with a fear of dogs will probably just keep their distance, but a child’s reaction can be more unpredictable. And sometimes even “dog people” might have children who are afraid. In looking into all of this, here’s an article I found with 10 tips for helping your child overcome a fear of dogs. And if you’re interested in learning more about what sparked this topic for me – Wolf Park – here is a link to the Wolf Park website.