- Pets and Animals
How to Overcome a Fear of Dogs in Three Easy Steps
Are You Afraid of Dogs?
I used to be. When I was a little girl, there were two dogs that lived in the neighborhood. Rover liked to play fetch. We used to love throwing balls and sticks for him to fetch. Brownie was a little dog and he did not play fetch. One day, I decided that he should play fetch too, so I tried to wake him up from his sleep and convince him that he should play fetch. He decided to bite my toe instead.
Ever since then, I have been scared of dogs. I would not go to people's houses if I knew they had a dog. I would cross the street to avoid one. I've run away from them, and have frozen in my tracks being barked at by a dog until a car passing by honked the horn and startled us both.
I often wondered, "Why is it always me that has to cross the street? Why don't the people with the dogs cross the street. A human being should have the right of way in walking down a street."
Dogs and Other Animals Can Smell Your Fear
I was told that dogs could smell fear, and that I should stop being afraid. You know what? That made me even more afraid! If they smelled my fear, and they knew it, they could attack me and rip me to pieces. I would be in pain and agony on a hospital bed in a body cast. I would be scarred and marred for life. Even if I couldn't picture the complete extent of the damage, I knew it would be very, very bad.
It is easy to tell people to stop being afraid. How could I stop being afraid of dogs?
I managed to do it, and today, I live with the dog you see at the top of this page. I will outline the steps I took to stop being afraid of dogs, and help you overcome your fear of dogs. These steps are really easy and not complicated at all, but they will take time to go through them. Do not rush through the process, and consider professional therapy if you need it.
It really changes your quality of life for the better when you are not afraid. The freedom in your life to visit whomever you want, whether or not they have a pet, to walk down the street without listening for each dog bark, and to go to a park without wondering when your next encounter with a vicious animal will be is priceless.
The term for fear of dogs is Cynophobia. Animal phobias are the most common of the specific phobias. 36% of patients who seek treatment are afraid of dogs or cats.
Some people experience severe anxiety attacks when they are around dogs, or even when they anticipate being around dogs. Because of the large number of dogs in the United States and around the world, this condition can be especially debilitating.
Why are You Afraid of Dogs?
Like the man in the video, most people who are afraid of dogs have either witnessed or experienced a bad incident with them. The first step in overcoming your dog phobia is to examine this incident and think about what caused it, and you could have done or not done to prevent it.
Yes, we have seen videos where people are attacked for no good reason, or the clues were so subtle there was no way we would have been able to tell that an attack was coming. But for the most part, we have given the animals a good reason to attack us, and by simply changing our behavior, we can avoid attacks.
As I mentioned, I saw myself in a body cast, mauled from head to toe. The chances are much greater though, that if I was bitten, it would only be on one part of my body. The second step to stop being afraid of dogs it to think about the consequences realistically.
By actually thinking through the likelihood of the consequences, I can realize that I am picturing the bite to be a much worse than it likely would be. It would be bad, and painful, but by really thinking about it realistically, I could avoid overreacting look at the situation in a calmer fashion.
Besides thinking about the extent of the damage, also consider the probability of being bitten. If you are kind and approach gently, the chances of being bitten are also low. Sure, canines can smell your fear, because that puts them on alert that you may react in a dangerous way. But they can also sense when you are not a threat.
Get to Know Them
People who have witnessed a terrible incident tend to avoid situations where they are around animals. As a result, their fear gets a chance to grow. Since they aren't around animals, they don't know how they act, and don't see that most of them are friendly and playful, and aren't out to get them.
The third step to overcoming your fear prejudice is to get to know them. I was lucky enough that this happened naturally for me. My next door neighbor had dogs. I saw them every day in the back yard playing and sleeping. They were not out to get me.
Learn a dog's body language to figure out when a dog is friendly and when he should be left alone so you can stay safe as you interact with dogs.
Over time, I noticed that they understood people, and followed their commands. I saw that, like people, they wanted to be liked. Not only were they were not out to get me, they wanted to please me. I was able to see that dogs were actually fun to be around.
Once you get to know dogs from a distance, from photographs, videos and on the other side of the fence, you will need to get to know them at a closer range. If you know a friend who has a dog, you can ask him to keep the dog on a leash as you get comfortable getting closer and closer to the dog.
What would you do?
If you saw a dog running around outside without a leash or tag, what would you do?
How to Stop Being Scared of Dogs
I'm not sure when or how it actually happened, but I decided to get my own pet. Now, I understand that he is cooped up in the house or yard all day, and taking a walk is a special treat for him. I know that most people who walk by him are not afraid and actually enjoy talking to him and petting him. I know that crossing the street is not a good idea because otherwise you won't get to experience that it is actually possible to walk by a dog and not get bitten.
I was able to stop being afraid of them, and even grow to love them by taking these three simple steps:
- considering what caused my fear and thinking through what I did wrong
- analyzing my fear and thinking about the situation more realistically, and
- getting to know dogs.
Sometimes we can let our imaginations run away from us, and they aren't the big bad monsters we imagine them to be.