I have a five-year-old son. Quite often when we're walking in the countryside a puppy of a big breed will come running up to him and try to jump up and often end up knocking him over and/or scratching him. This is making him nervous around dogs.
We tell him things like not to wave his arms around or carry sticks but he just generally acts like a five-year-old, running and laughing and squealing. While I can tell he's frightened to a puppy it probably looks like he's having fun. The puppy usually responds well and quickly to an adult (like me) telling them to stop and go back to their owners. But often only after my son's got upset. He very often ends up in tears and scratched and it's the one thing he remembers of the day.
The owners generally stand at some distance uselessly calling and don't really acknowledge any of the family in any way. I think it's generally accepted that this is just a hazard of the countryside where we live (in a very rural location) and that this will just happen.
I don't want to stop taking him out for country walks, but I don't want him to end up with a phobia. He's generally very kind, gentle, and calm around animals, and knows a lot about things like not getting too close, or coming between a cow and a calf, etc. Working dogs are usually very good, and I don't worry about farm dogs, gamekeeper's dogs, etc. He has relations who have dogs and he gets on well with them. It's only really "family" puppies which cause trouble. But it really distresses him, and I get frustrated at the lack of any reaction at all (like an apology or concern) from the dogs' owners (which would help him, at least, understand the interaction), but the most you usually get is either something like "He's only a puppy" or "Your son had a ball in his hand".
What's the right way forward getting him in the outdoors, or should we feeble town folk stick to the high streets?
Most recently a "teenage" spaniel comes bounding over half a field from behind and jumps on my kid who was a few yards in front of me pushing autumn leaves with a stick. He jumped up and knocked him over, and was pawing to play but scratched him on the tummy in a few seconds.
Only then really being aware of the situation, I went over to the dog said "No" sternly and "Go", and pointed to his owners (still half a field away and stationary) who were whistling ineffectually and he went charging off and the family disappeared into the woods. He was in tears of course. Some negative dog interaction happens, say, once a month. In retrospect, I can see why what my son was doing might have interested the dog, but I can't bring myself to say he shouldn't do this stuff just because a dog might appear from nowhere.
An example of things happening quickly. I was in a city walking across a green open space in the dark with him, no lights (broken city lights), he had a torch. He was holding my hand. A small dog came up out of the dark, jumped on him; he pulled out of my hand and ran off screaming. The dog thought this great fun. I ran after him because he was running into the darkness. The owner who eventually arrived told me off because screaming encouraged the dog. Other than being out in the dark (not late, we live at high lat.), I don't see what we were doing wrong, but I want to avoid it. I tried to tell him not to scream when pounced on by a dog in the night but it didn't really make sense even as I said it.