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If your child is scared of dogs, you know that just telling your child "don't be scared," is probably ineffective. If you have had a pet in your home ever since your child was a newborn, chances are your child has grown up with the animal and is very comfortable with it.

But, if you have a toddler or young child and want to purchase a pet you may have some issues to deal with. Or, if a friend or relative has a pet and your child is scared of their animal, here are some suggestions to help them overcome their fears.

Dont belittle their fears. Saying things like, "Don't be a baby" is not going to convince them not to be scared. Empathize with them and try to get specific things they are scared of, rather than just "I'm scared of dogs." If your child will tell you that they are scared the dog will lick them, push them over, etc. you can deal with those fears individually.

Remind them of things that they used to be scared of that turned out to be fine. For example, their first haircut or going to pre-school. This will help show them that they have overcome some fears already.

Take baby steps with them. Have them say hi to a dog in a cage. Praise them when they are not scared. Once they can do this, see if they can say hi to the dog on a leash. Move forward slowly, as they become more comfortable with each step.

Read books about dogs and point out dogs on television and in the movies. Show them how friendly the dogs are.

Buy your child a stuffed dog. Have her name him and take care of him.

Never force the issue. If you are at a house with a dog and your child is scared, either leave or ask them to put the dog outside or in another room. Your children will see that they can trust you not to force them to be with the dog and they will begin to loosen up.

Don't make the dog a big issue. If you go to a friend's house and they greet the child at the door by saying, "Hi, here's Fido, want to pet him?" Your child will naturally be on the defensive. If the dog is in another room, they can gradually work up to seeing it at their own pace with no pressure.

Above all, remember, that like a fear of monsters, your child will eventually grow out of this fear as well.