Internet Split Over Aunt Who Doesn't Want Niece to Scream at Rescue Dog

A woman has divided opinion online after asking whether she is right to object to her niece screaming at her dog.

The woman posted her story on the parenting forum Mumsnet on Wednesday and has already received hundreds of replies.

Writing in the "Am I being unreasonable?" thread, the anonymous user explained that her five-year-old niece and the girl's parents—her brother and sister-in-law—had come to stay at her house.

She went on: "Every single time my niece comes into a room my dog is in/comes down the stairs/ just sits in a room and my dog walks in, she screams at the top of her lungs. I mean a really high pitched cut through your soul kind of scream.

"This is turn scared the c*** out of my dog which makes her run away and in turn makes my niece scream louder."

The pet is a medium-sized rescue dog and two-and-a-half years old. She is trained, which has "taken a lot of hard work," the woman said, and still attends weekly classes.

The five-year-old girl has previously been bitten by her parents' own pet dog, a smaller terrier, the woman explained. The family still has the terrier. She added: "My dog has never once bitten and is certainly not aggressive."

For the woman, however, the real issue is her sister-in-law's reaction to the screaming and "pandering" to her daughter.

Child shouting at dog
Stock image of a child shouting at a dog. Getty Images

"I tell my niece to stop screaming because it's not nice and there's no reason to. She then demands to be picked up by her mom and she does it straight away. Instead of sitting there and saying you're being silly, she's fine, there's nothing wrong, she panders to her, picks her up and thus re-starts the cycle of screaming/picking up and not accepting my dog.

"This is my dog, my dog's home and not theirs. I've put up a stair gate for the last two days so I can stop my dog coming into the lounge but I feel like I shouldn't have to do that. My niece will then stand the other side of the gate calling her a bad girl and a naughty dog when all she's doing is lying there. I do tell her off for saying this but doesn't seem to change a thing."

The responses from Mumsnet users varied widely, with some saying the woman should tell her brother's family to leave and others insisting she was the unreasonable one.

One commenter wrote: "I can't understand why they are visiting for a few days when their daughter is terrified of the resident dog. What a daft idea. Everyone would be better off if they stayed somewhere else and visited you."

Another put it more succinctly: "Don't have them round, it's not fair on the dog."

One user recommended a softly-softly approach: "I'd suggest to them they go home early as it's clearly not working out with your dog or niece and don't invite them back."

Some suggested the child was seeking attention, but others had more sympathy for the girl and her mother.

One posted: "I don't think she should be told not to be silly, if she is genuinely scared she can't help it. But she should be told to stop screaming and should not be telling your dog it is naughty."

She had had similar experiences, the commenter added, but tried to handle them more diplomatically. "My children have at various times been nervous of family dogs and I have only asked for the dog to be moved out of the room in houses which are neither the kids or dog's home and only for short periods. If we are in the dog's house and they aren't coping, we leave."

Another commenter wrote: "It's hard to properly understand the dynamics without being there but assuming that your niece is genuinely afraid (which wouldn't surprise me if she's been bitten by a smaller dog before, and now here's a giant version of the animal that did it!) I don't think that your SIL is doing anything wrong by picking her up and comforting her.

"I say this as someone with very little patience for people who are afraid of dogs generally because my instinctive feeling is that it's ridiculous (which I know is not really fair!) but if my 5 year old was afraid of something, however irrational, I would absolutely comfort them. Partly because I love them and it's just natural to comfort them, partly because I don't actually think anyone (young or old) is really helped by having their fears dismissed and being told not to be so silly.

"It would be helpful if your [sister-in-law] could also work with your niece to introduce her to your dog and see that he's safe, assuming that is the case, but it's very easy to criticise from the outside."

A 2016 study by U.K. charity the Dogs Trust found that 37% of parents said their child was afraid of dogs and 25% said their child's fear affected their daily life.