It is prudent to treat dogs with respect, especially those that you have never met before. Some people, however, are profoundly afraid of dogs. An abnormal phobia of dogs is called cynophobia. It is a relatively common problem which can make life somewhat difficult for those who experience it.
If you are afraid of dogs, you cannot enjoy a leisurely walk through your neighborhood for fear of seeing a dog on a leash or hearing one bark. The sight of a large unleashed dog is enough to turn your legs to jelly through fear and sheer panic. Visiting friends and relatives who own dogs is also a real problem for people with this phobia.
What’s more, the fear and panic that result from being near a dog can make the situation even worse. Dogs can smell fear. A frightened person is more likely to attack, so an aggressive dog may react to the smell of fear by attacking first. Fortunately, there are ways of overcoming your fear of dogs so that you can lead a more normal life.
1. The Cause of Cynophobia
Why are some people so afraid of dogs? In most cases, this phobia is caused by a negative past experience with a dog such as a bite or attack. The negative experience often occurs during childhood.
From then on the subconscious mind associates all dogs with fear and panic. This overgeneralization on behalf of the subconscious mind is what makes cynophobia so tragic. The person with the phobia misses out on the joy that can come from interacting with a dog, and never feels the unconditional love dogs can give unless they can surmount their fear.
2. Repeated Exposure
So how exactly does one prevail over an abnormal fear of dogs? Some people use therapy or hypnosis sessions to overcome their fear of dogs. However, there is a cheaper way of surmounting this awful phobia. The secret to overcoming your fear of dogs is to expose yourself to them on several occasions.
That doesn’t mean that you should try cozying up to a Rottweiler right away. It is best to begin with small steps and move on from there.
3. Start off by looking at different pictures of dogs
You should also watch movies and TV shows about dogs, and read some articles in the effort to understand more about their behavior. The next step is to come into contact with a small dog on a leash several times. Once you are comfortable with that, try meeting a medium sized dog on a leash numerous times, then a big one.
Once you are used to coming close to dogs on leashes, see if you can handle being next to unleashed dogs. When you can come into contact with several dogs at once without feeling afraid, you will almost have reached your goal. The only thing left is to formally meet a dog.
4. Protocol for Meeting Dogs
It is very important to be able to stand fairly close to dogs without panicking before you can properly meet one. That’s because the protocol for meeting a dog starts with letting it sniff your hand, and that’s not a sensible thing to do if it will smell fear. Before you meet the dog, relax and breathe deeply.
When the dog approaches, stand back and offer your hand to the dog. Make sure your hand is below the level of the dog’s muzzle, and let it come to you. Do not attempt to move into the dog’s space. Once the dog has sniffed your hand, you can stroke it gently on the chin or chest.
5. Avoid leaning over the dog
Do not approach the dog from behind before it has had a chance to sniff your hand. Avoid leaning over the dog. If it is a small dog, crouch down to its level before you offer your hand so that you won’t lean over it. Do not stare the dog in the eye, touch its neck area, or put your hand over its nose or muzzle.
The dog can mistake these actions for signs of aggression. A dog’s reaction to you depends on your body language and the emotions you feel.
If you are unafraid and your gestures are friendly rather than aggressive, you will get along well with the dogs you meet.