What if Man’s Best Friend isn’t your friend at all, but rather your worst enemy? Are you destined to go through life constantly avoiding dogs or the people who own them? Hardly. But there are certain things you can do to make the uneasiness lessen when you do find yourself around them. You can learn how to overcome your fear of dogs if you take your time and realize that, at first, the animal isn’t that sure about you, either!
Take it slow
The fear of dogs is scientifically known as cynophobia, and you can find out more about it on Animal Planet. When you are around a dog you are not familiar with, the best thing to do is to take it slow. Remember that the dog doesn’t know you either, so it has mixed feelings about you as well. You can ease the tension by gently offering your hand to let the dog sniff it and get a sense that you are not going to hurt it. Once you have done that, just let the dog take the lead and see how things go. If it is calm, you might even offer it a treat to show it that you like it; food is always a good way to entice a dog to be friendly.
Don’t insist on petting the dog right away. It may still harbor ambivalent feelings about you and if you reach over to pet it, it might get scared and react badly. Just take your time and let the dog get used to being around you. It may warm up to you in time, but don’t rush it. It will let you know when it is ready to accept you by how it acts around you.
Don’t act like you are afraid of it
If you act afraid around a dog, it will sense your fear and may then get upset and react badly. Instead, the better way to handle it is to act as if you two have been friends for years. Even if you don’t truly feel a connection with the dog, act like you do. Otherwise, you may scare it and it’s hard to predict what its reaction to you will be.
Start with a puppy
If you are afraid of being close to adult dogs, start by getting a puppy. This will give you a chance to not only learn how to care for it and love it, but also to deal with your own fear of dogs. You will quickly see that not all dogs start out aggressive and if you take the time to train the puppy, they can develop a sweet personality and not be feared by anyone, especially you. In fact, you may be surprised by how loving, loyal and protective of you a dog can be. This is one of the best ways to overcome your fear of dogs. Once you develop a strong bond with a dog of your own, you will be able to get rid of your cynophobia altogether.
Teach your children, too
Children usually like dogs, but if they have had a bad experience with them in the past, that may not be the case. Fear of dogs in children can be overcome, too. As you learn how to cope and care for a puppy to relieve your own fear of dogs, you can do the same with your children. They will learn from watching your own interactions with the puppy, and this will teach them the same things you are learning on how to get along with dogs. Choose a small breed that will be easy to take care of and not be overwhelming to small children, based on size alone. You will be doing them a favor if they learn that dogs are not to be feared, but to be loved and cared for. This article on PetFinder.com tells you all you need to know about different dog breeds.
Remember that dogs are not naturally aggressive; they have to be taught to be that way. If you fear aggression in dogs, stay away from ones that are known to bite for no reason, to jump up on you, to snarl their teeth, etc. All these behaviors are not acceptable. However, remember that they were taught to be this way and this is a lesson on how not to train a dog. Unfortunately, dog aggression is a very real concern but can be controlled by those who give time and effort to training a dog the correct way.
Most feared dogs
People tend to think that the most feared dogs out there are pit bulls, Rottweilers and the like. That’s because their owners have taught them to be aggressive and because of that, they now have a bad reputation. However, the most feared dogs shouldn’t be those of a certain breed, but the ones who are not properly trained to behave correctly. These are the jumping, snarling, barking and biting dogs.
What to do
The best thing to do is to “size-up” a dog you are not familiar with. Watch it for a while, at a distance, and see how it reacts to strangers and if you would be comfortable coming in close contact with it. See if it comes around to the stranger after a while and if it seems willing to make friends. If not, this may not be the dog for you to be involved with.
Most probably, a better choice would be to choose a dog that belongs to a friend or a relative. Explain your fear of dogs to the dog owner and how you are trying to overcome it. This person will be able to tell you how their dog reacts to strangers. If favorable, this may be the dog for you to start with.
Follow the suggestions above and see if you can start a good relationship with the dog. By going slow, you can instill a feeling a trust between the two of you. Remember that the dog needs to feel comfortable around you, too, and that it will let you know by its reaction whether or not it is accepting you. If you believe it is, then slowly take steps to gain its trust.
To put it simply, if you pay attention to the dog and the signals it is giving you, the end result may just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!