Dogs are extremely popular pets, so ignoring them is nearly impossible. A lot of people are scared of them however, and tend to resist even looking at them or passing by them. They are terrified when they see a big dog or pups jumping around. In scientific terminology this is known as “Cynophobia”, which is the fear of dogs.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Dogs

Many people say that if you fear dogs, you should just get one yourself. This isn’t always the answer, as forcing yourself to doing things you don’t want to do can make you even more frightened. Fears are intense, horrifying and mostly irrational as they are born out of a bad experience of your own or sometimes by hearing another person’s exaggerated version of events. Anyone can overcome their fears, whether it’s the fear of water, heights or certain animals.

Sometimes cynophobia develops after a bad experience with an animal or simply through lack of exposure to them, but often this originates as a type of panic disorder, for no apparent reason. A lot of parents teach their kids to avoid dogs. Kids freak out easily, shouting and yelling at the sight of a dog, and they end up doing things that unnerve the dog. An incomplete or even a confused understanding of canine behaviour could lead to full-blown anxiety.

Like all phobias, the fear of dogs can vary dramatically from person to person. It’s also possible to be afraid of a specific dog breed but have no problems with other types of dogs. People aren’t alone in their fears; sometimes the problem arises because dogs can be afraid of people too and in order to protect themselves they start barking or jumping onto you.

With professional help, the fear of dogs can usually be treated; however, many cynophobics avoid seeking treatment because they’re embarrassed about talking about their fear. A number of psychotherapies like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Hypnosis, etc. have shown tremendous results in treating cynophobia. Desensitization is also a type of therapy, recommended to overcome all kinds of phobias, where the patient is slowly and gradually exposed to the object they are not comfortable with till they are able to relax with it around.

Here are some useful tips to overcome your fear and accept the fact that a dog can be your best friend:

1. Dogs can be quite scary if you are scared. But tell yourself you aren’t scared, and maybe ask a friend who has a dog to show you pictures of them together or go to their house and slowly and steadily acquaint yourself with their dog’s behaviour.

2. If you have entered a house where you weren’t aware that there was a pet inside, don’t panic. Settle down first and the dog will also enter a submissive stage after some time. Then you can approach it or call it to you but make sure the owner is nearby, just to ensure that you are safe.

3. Always be calm; breathe in and out then step closer to the dog but do not look into its eyes. The dog may jump up to you or lick you but it won’t harm you.

4. Do not get scared of the dog because of its size. Dogs like Labradors may be large in size but they are one of the gentlest creatures.

5. Start by playing with puppies. They are harmless, small and don’t have sharp teeth. Unlike bigger dogs, they don’t growl or snarl. You will be surprised to find that puppies will recognise you within just a few days of your friendship.

6. Parents need to understand that the first step to helping your child overcome the fear of dogs is to recognize and accept that the fear. Parents generally tell their kids that a little pup can’t harm them, which rationally doesn’t work with kids. This isn’t always the answer, and by saying so you force your kids to play dogs and make them even more frightened.

7. On the other hand, some parents warn their kids not to touch a dog or to ask dog owners if their dogs bite before entering their houses. Words have immense power and they leave a lasting impression on kids’ minds.

8. Always remember that dogs are lovable animals and loyal to their masters. They can have a fierce side but remember that they attack only when provoked. To get rid of your fear, you have to be sensitive, knowledgeable, positive, careful, and responsible towards the animal.

9. Pet owners should choose the right professional trainer for their pets after consulting their vet. This will help make their dogs friendlier and better able to deal with people who are scared of them.