How to Overcome your Fear of... Dogs
So, an aquaintance has invited you over to their house for the first time. You ring the doorbell and hear the gut-clenching sound of 'woofs' from behind the door. As the door is opened, you're faced with your fear, skirting around its owner's legs, yes, there it is: THE DOG. Beyond the blood rushing to your ears you hear the question "Are you alright with dogs? If you want, I could lock Buster in another room." Despite the instant panic, you can hear the reticence in Sharon's voice to really lock Buster away. You say " Sorry, but I'm not used to dogs. If you could, that would be great" meanwhile Buster has already come out to greet you (with his gnashers) and is pawing at your feet.
If you are a dog-lover please take note of this situation. You probably won't realise what's wrong with this picture, but all those people out there who are afraid of dogs have probably experienced being forced to be around or be touched by a canine. With England being a nation of dog-lovers, I have to address dog owners first in my list of 5 things you could do to help yourself or another overcome a fear of dogs:
1. Consider the feelings of the person
Yes, fears can be irrational but they shouldn't be dismissed as silly and noone should be forced to be around dogs if they don't want to. This shock tactic doesn't usually work. Think of your own fears or phobias. For instance, that fear you have of spiders, that's probably how you're friend feels to be around your dog.
Although fears are definitely not silly, remembering that they could be irrational can actually be helpful. Keep in mind that your fear may have stemmed from your mother's fear, or a programme you watched. Just because a dog chased and harmed someone else it doesn't mean all dogs act the same. Educate yourself through speaking to dog owners (without their dogs present of course).
3. Take control of the situation
Meet a dog. This may be the most daunting thing you could ever think of doing but if you have the opportunity, put yourself in a controlled environment with a dog owner that you trust. This could be sitting next to your friend while they hold their dog. Or stroking a dog while your friend keeps it on a short leash. This way you will know the dog won't be able to dig its teeth into you, claw at you or run after you (yes, these are some people's fears, dog owners).
4. Choose the dog
By choosing a dog, I don't mean running out and getting one. Noooo, what I mean is, be a liitle prejudice. If one of your friends has an Alsation but you find your cousin's Chihuahua less scary, try to get used to the Chihuahua in a controlled environment rather than throwing yourself in deep with the Alsation. Or, if you know of someone with puppies, (that tend to be more docile and timid), try to set targets for yourself each time you seem them, such as touching them, then stroking them, then hugging them. Your confidence around them will probably grow as they grow into fully-fledged dogs.
5. Seek professional help
Of course, there are always professionals that can help with the problem. It may sound extreme and potentially expensive but worth it if your boyfriend's hampering you about moving in with him and the pup. Maybe hypnosis or therapy could be just the thing!
I talk from personal experience. I had a fear of dogs as I remembered the heavy steps of a relative's rottweilers when I was young. The advice to not run in front of them and not show them fear made me even more scared. Then I wasn't around dogs for a long time so I developed an irrational fear. However, since witnessing my cousin's French Bulldog grow from a cute puppy, I have been able to see firsthand why dogs are called man's best friend!
How have you overcome your fear of dogs? I would love to hear your suggestions. What other fears do you have or would like to conquer?