Yesterday around 10am we were walking in Wandsworth Park when an unleashed dog ran right up to our young children at pelting speed and utterly terrified our 5-tear old boy, who dropped his water bottle in fear which the dog then played with. My son dashed between my legs wrapping his arms around them sobbing; I couldn't move away as I was also holding the buggy which luckily our other two children (1 and 2) were safe in.
The owner didn't seem fazed at all, not running over - just casually waved from a distance and yelling 'don't worry the dog is fine, he's super friendly'. He had absolutely no awareness that his dog had really frightened our son and it was obvious he was bemused that somehow a child would be so uncomfortable, as if everyone should be happy to have dogs running up to them. We've actually had other incidences where dogs were running around unleashed and I've had to pick up my children when they were afraid.
This morning at the first mention of going out again to the park our son welled up, sobbing that he didn't want to go out to the as he is now scared that there will be any dogs around. Nothing I could say would reassure him that he would be safe, and honestly, I don't blame him. So he has stayed back home with my mum who (luckily) is visiting for half-term, which means I'm able to take the other two out.
Everyday we have seen many dog owners not putting their dogs on a leash and letting them run loose in public parks, etc without any care or concern about the welfare of other people. Not everyone likes dogs, and to simply let them run loose feels very wrong. It feels deeply unfair that this keeps happening and it is really upsetting that this incident has affected our son (and possible other children) in this way.
It's worth mentioning that our children haven't been restricted in spending time with or around dogs. My father in law has a dog, and my husband who grew up with dogs - and aware that our son is a bit nervous around them - goes out of his way to teach him gently how to make eye contact, and take deep breaths, and has actually managed to get him reasonable comfortable to pet dogs when they are out walking near them. Also, our local primary school is aware that some of their pupils have a fear of dogs and so run a program to help any such pupils become more familiar and calm with them - and our son participates in this. So we absolutely aren't trying to instil fear of dogs in our children, quite the opposite.
Our issue is the situation whereby a large dog was charging towards our buggy without a lead, and the owner could've called the dog when it was quite clear this was distressing our son - but chose not to. That's the issue; just as we do genuinely try and teach our children to be relaxed and calm., and to be even social around dogs - dog owners should be able to recognise if there are certain times when their dogs are actually being too fast, or too loud, etc - and in those instances, beckon them back. It can't be fair that it;'s entirely down to non-dog owners to always be prepared to accept any dog behavior towards them, no matter if it is frightening, and for dog owners to bear no responsibility towards their pets.
Is this even legal? We understand that dogs needs to run around, and in places like the big Commons (Wimbledon, Wandsworth) that seems like it could be more appropriate - although we've seen dogs running up to & disturbing people having a picnic, or doing exercises, many times and it just seems so many of the owners are completely indifferent about their dogs.