How do I Overcome a Fear of Dogs?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2019
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While dogs are often considered one of the friendliest and commonplace pets in households throughout the world, a fear of dogs is not uncommon and can be debilitating or just simply frustrating for sufferers. The first step in overcoming the fear of dogs is to determine where the fear is coming from. Many people with a fear of dogs have often had some sort of traumatic experience involving a violent or aggressive dog in the past, which has developed into a full fear as a teen or adult. Determining where the fear is coming from is the key to getting over the fear.

Once you have determined where the fear of dogs has come from, it is time to start learning more about dogs. Sometimes a fear of dogs can stem from a lack of understanding of the animal, so learning more about dogs in general and even specific breeds of dogs will help you become more familiar and comfortable with them. Research which dogs are mostly friendly and loyal, and which ones are prone to violence or aggression. Try to learn about what makes them happy or angry, and what their mannerisms and habits mean.


After learning about the dogs, it's time to encounter them. Start from a safe distance — perhaps drive to a dog park and watch the dogs from the safety of your car. Note their mannerisms, habits, interactions with other dogs and with humans, and so on. Do this for several weeks to grow accustomed to seeing the dogs and being in their vicinity. Once you feel comfortable enough to take the next step, try getting out of the car and stepping away from it. Take incremental steps forward over the next several weeks until you feel comfortable approaching the gate of the dog park.

Next, it's time to come in contact with a dog. Set goals for yourself: first step, get within a few feet of a dog. Next step, pet a dog on a leash in a controlled environment. Next step, pet a dog not on a leash. Continue to set small goals and continue to expose yourself to dogs. It may help to start by exposing yourself to smaller, less intimidating dogs, but keep in mind that some small dogs tend to have a shrill, loud bark that can also be intimidating. Keep in mind that a bark does not always translate into aggression: dogs often bark when they are happy and excited to see you. Keep in mind, too, that dogs often just want love and attention, which is why they enjoy petting so much. Most importantly, remember that you are the big dog: most dogs are submissive to humans, so you are usually in control.



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