Dog Attack Aftermath: Helping Your Child Heal Emotional Wounds

Most parents know how to help their child heal physically after a dog bite. However, they often struggle to help them get over the psychological trauma. Here’s what you can do to help them heal and feel calm around canines again.

Give It Time

Sometimes, children just need time away from dogs after a bite or attack. Try to talk with your child, but don’t be surprised if they’re not anxious to open up and tell you all about it. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn’t.

If you do talk to your child, focus on how they feel, and what actually happened during the attack. Avoid the temptation to validate or invalidate the child’s feelings – it will backfire on you.

Most parents might say something like, “Oh, don’t be so afraid – the dog didn’t really mean it.” Or, “It’s OK to be afraid. That dog was really scary.” Both of these approaches invalidate the reality of the situation, even though you want to support your child as a parent.

Here’s what really happens:

When you tell your child something along the lines of “it’s not a big deal” or “you’re blowing things out of proportion,” what you’re doing is teaching your child that his or her feelings are invalid. And, because of that, it’s better to lie about those feelings, or repress them, because they don’t matter anyway. Obviously, no one wants a child to grow up like that.

But, validating emotions can be just as destructive. It can teach a child that dogs really are scary – all of them. It also doesn’t let the child come to his or her own conclusions about what happened. It doesn’t let the child figure out solutions to the problem and what can be done in the future to prevent an attack.

Teaching Respect For Dogs
Of course, you should speak to an attorney if your child has been bitten by a dog. But, you should also teach respect for dogs, in general. They are domesticated animals, but they still have a wild streak in them. For example, don’t make eye contact with a dog if it’s eating. Dogs often see this as a challenge to their food, which they “own” if they are eating it.

Dogs are territorial by nature.

No petting during eating time, and don’t try to take the food away from a dog during mealtime.

Act Like a Dog

No, this doesn’t mean getting on the ground and barking like a dog (though, that can be fun too). if a dog knocks your child down, he or she should know to curl up like a dog would. Curl into a ball, keeping his face down, legs together, and use fists to cover his neck. This position will help protect his vital areas and especially fatal bites and attacks.

Most young children don’t have the patience and attention span for lengthy discussions about what they should and shouldn’t do. Because of this, you have to make the discussion fun and entertaining. Teaching your child the right way to behave around dogs, through gamification (make it a game) is probably the best way to go.


Rhys Richards works as an emergency medical technician. He enjoys sharing his experiences in the health field by posting online. Look for his articles mostly on health websites.

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