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Fear of Dogs

(10 Posts)
venusandmars Sun 02-Oct-11 10:58:39

Posting here because I'm hoping you dog lovers might be able to help me.

I have a fear of dogs, especially big dogs that bark. I see a dog, and become anxious that it will bark, and I'm sure that this anxiety makes the dog nervous and more likely to bark!

I really want to overcome this - I live in a place where there are lots of dogs nearby. I have booked to go for hypnotherapy, which I hope will help, but I also want to actually learn to be more comfortable around dogs, and learn how I should behave towards them. Do you think that someone who teaches dog behaviour would also be able to help me?

chickchickchicken Sun 02-Oct-11 12:07:16

my son had such a fear of dogs that he didnt want to leave the house in case we saw a dog. it didnt matter if dog was big or small, barking or quiet.

in our case it helped to start off with observing dogs on the tv and discussing their body language. it sounds obvious but it really helped him to understand what the dog might be thinking.

we were then able to progress to introducing him to a dog who lived near my parents (we couldnt do it near us as he was too frightened). he hadnt met this dog before and we orchestrated that someone would be sat down outside with the dog sat next to them. we made sure dog was exercised beforehand and was as calm as possible. we gently allowed son to go at his own pace. after a few of these meetings son was able to walk with us and the dog. this is where i may get all soppy as i'm sure the dog knew to be extra gentle with my son. a lovely relationship developed between them and we spent many years walking the dog (RIP special dog)

it still took a lot more work with dogs he didnt know but 15yrs later we now have 3 dogs and have been involved in picking up strays and taking to rescues (sometimes directly off the street so dogs are complete unknowns)

i think your case will probably be different. i am an adult scared of spiders (good thing about having a dog now is that i have taught one of them to catch spiders for me grin) and the above scenario would not work for me. i think you are incredibly brave to even contemplate treatment.

if you could post roughly where you live maybe one of us could recommend a dog trainer? they vary in quality and there are a lot of bad trainers around

another thought - do you know anyone who has a PETS dog? that pets as therapy dogs

if you lived near me i would be happy to help in any way i could. my dogs are well behaved. i am not a dog behaviourist though

oldandcrabby Sun 02-Oct-11 15:50:10

Pets as Therapy volunteers and their dogs can do phobic work. The referral process is through a health professional,who contacts the charity who then approaches a volunteer to see if they can be available. I have worked with a school nurse, child guidance, and a psycho therapy worker A volunteer and his or her PAT dog should not work independently with you. PAT dogs can be big but are not barky, they are assessed for calm behaviour.
It can be a slow process, but you sound motivated and an ideal candidate. It does not work if the client is not committed, I tried with a boy who was being pressured by his dad, so they could play football in the park together, another young mum had other problems which were more pressing.
On the other hand, after 10 months of slow patient work with a boy of 8 with Asperger's we managed to get him to pat my dog, and his father volunteered with the Cinnamon Trust and the whole family walked a black lab on Sundays. Quicker was the work with a Down's Syndrome lad of 16. He had a lot of support from his mother and his TA. It took about 6 sessions and he was walking the TA's dog on a double lead.
Good behaviourists usually insist on a referral through a vet, but they might consider one from a health professional. I would suggest you look at the CAPBT website to find one in your area. If they run training classes, they might let you observe, for a fee.
If a dog does approach you, stay calm, don't squeal, don't run, turn your back on it, don't flap your arms about but fold them. Don't stare at the dog, eye contact can be seen as a threat. You will be so boring the dog will lose interest.
Good luck

RedwingWinter Sun 02-Oct-11 17:56:36

Good for you for doing something about it. I am sure that knowing more about dog behaviour would help you. I used to be absolutely terrified of dogs and would go weak at the knees if I saw one walking towards me down the street, but now I am a proud dog owner (and of a big dog, too).

The single thing that helped me the most was realizing that if I ignored a dog completely, and didn't even look at it, the chances were that it would completely ignore me too. This made it so much easier for me to walk past a dog. I think because I was scared of them I used to look at them and pay too much attention, and as a result the dog would pay more attention to me.

It also helped me to learn how to understand dogs because then I could tell if a dog was friendly or not. I used to feel very threatened if a dog barked. Now I know that it might just mean excitement or hello and I can tell the difference. There's a lovely book about dog communication by Stanley Coren that I found really interesting.

And of course there are some circumstances in which it's perfectly reasonable to be scared of a dog. Most normal people would be scared of an unknown dog that is growling and snarling at you. It helped me to know this too, because I was just scared of every single dog I saw. I am sometimes still afraid of specific dogs in specific circumstances, but I don't see that as a problem, and even if I feel afraid I'm better able to deal with it.

Good luck!

venusandmars Sun 02-Oct-11 21:15:11

Thanks for your replies and your encouragement. It is horrible having such a fear. I recently had to visit someone at home and I mistakenly thought that they had a dog. I was literally shaking as I knocked the door and even when I found out that they had no dog, it took so long for my anxiety to subside that I could barely concentrate on my work.

I will look at the websites that you recommended. Thanks.

venusandmars Wed 05-Oct-11 12:40:36

Just to let you know that your suggestions of ignoring dogs has really helped. Thanks redwing and oldandcrabby.

Today I went on a work visit and I was invited to see part of the site (which I accepted). As we walked there, the manager asked if I was OK with dogs, since her dog was in the office [eek! shock ]. I made some joke about jumping if the dog barked and she replied that he was a quiet dog. i went in expecting something small, only to find that he dog was a big bull mastif [eek! shock again!]. Previously I would have been fixated on the dog, but I did as you suggested. I put my hand down so it could sniff me, then I turned my back and looked only at the people in the office. Next time I sneeked a peek in the dog's direction he was laying down in his bed. Lovely well trained dog, and brave me smile

RedwingWinter Wed 05-Oct-11 18:10:13

Yay! Well done you!! And thanks for sharing, it's nice to know it went well.

Elibean Wed 05-Oct-11 20:22:11

Oh well done you! I'm reading your thread, because dd1 has a friend with a serious dog phobia (she's 7.5), and her mother is pretty dog/animal phobic too. We're getting a rescue pup on Saturday, and I would love to offer helpful suggestions for dd's friend when she visits, if she still wants to!

I shall borrow some of these, and quite probably come and ask for more in due course smile

Well done again, and hope you keep going with it...sounds like making the decision, and asking for help, have started the turn around for you.

oldandcrabby Thu 06-Oct-11 11:38:48

How sensible and how brave! I'm really impressed, well done. Keep up the good work, you don't have to like dogs but life will be easier if you are not scared.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 06-Oct-11 11:45:22

Oh, well done! Hopefully your ability to manage an encounter with a big quiet dog has already made you feel a bit better. smile

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