Fear of dogs: how to overcome it


Cold sweats, tachycardia, hyperventilation, nausea, stomach aches. These are some of the Symptoms suffered by people with cynophobia, or what is the same, phobia of dogs. Sonia suffers from a young age, when with two years she was wrapped in a brawl between two dogs and one of them ended up dragging her down the street. That experience was for her a trauma that leads her to change the sidewalk every time a dog passes by, especially if it is large and loose. "When you come to me I am paralyzed, I raise my arms and curl up against the wall. I always try to calm down because I understand that they smell the fear, but it is difficult," he says.

His problem is shared by a large number of people who, in very serious cases, decide to go to therapy to overcome a fear that affects their daily lives. The psychologist Rosa Vera, from Vertex Psychologists, treats patients with this problem in her office. "To develop this phobia not only must have been the victim of a traumatic event. He may also have witnessed an attack on another person, "he says. Canine educator and psychologist Jesъs Gutiйrrez adds that" the fear of these animals is increased by the number of cases of attacks on people, which has caused an alarm social. "Another means of acquiring this phobia is the "transmission by imitation", according to the educator, through parents who have fed an irrational fear in their children, either out of their own fear or by comments such as "don't come near, bite you". There may not even be any apparent cause to have this feeling of rejection. In any case, you have to differentiate between fear and phobia: if you feel a "disproportionate, irrational and objectively unjustified fear that leads to blockage or to avoid those situations", you suffer from cynophobia, according to Rosa Vera.

Overcoming a problem with these characteristics is not easy. Experts say that the fundamental thing is to be aware that it will not disappear by itself and you have to be determined to take the step. Therapists employ various methods, but "the treatment that has been most effective is the exposure therapy, where the person gradually approaches the source of his phobia until it is no longer frightening, "says Gutierrez. That is, always with the supervision of a professional, mainly in serious cases or children, since" an uncontrolled exposure can lead to a retraumatization, "says Rosa Vera. If the fear is mild, could help take a puppy for that person to participate in their care and become fond of him.

The canine educator Borja Capponi teaches courses to overcome fear in the rehabilitation center he has in Nuevo Baztбn (Madrid). From there he gives us the keys to learn to control our fear and know how to behave before a hostile animal. He himself was afraid of being a child: "Some dogs bit me and one day I thought 'they don't bite me anymore!'" His perseverance worked. "Dogs have 300 million receptors in the nose and when we get nervous our body expels substances such as adrenaline, endorphins. The animal feeds on that because it sees you insecure, "he says.

People with this phobia can react by blocking (as is the case with Sonia) or running to flee. Capponi explains that the latter is a wrong reaction. "If a dog comes to us out of control we must try not to get nervous. It is difficult, but we must walk naturally, as if it did not exist to go unnoticed." If it's a quiet dog, "you have to let it smell us to identify us"With these recommendations, he may overcome his fears, or even make a new friend.

Borja Capponi Tips

CONTROL THE NERVES. The dog is a predator and if we run or retreat, the animal will chase us. "It is best to ignore him, self-control, be natural and not make sudden movements. You have to raise your arms because you could bite them. If we are calm, he will leave," says Capponi.

KEY CANES. "If you are strong and confident, you transmit that to them." But be careful with this, since if you look at a dominant dog in the eye, he can interpret this as a challenge.

THREATENING DOGS "It is important to look at the body language that the animal transmits to us:« If it comes slowly towards us with its tail up, its pupils wide open, its ears forward and its mouth closed, even if it looks at us sideways, it is a bad sign . It is best to bow your head, "he says.

How to pet them? "If the animal is calm, the first thing is to let it smell us so that it identifies us. It is not advisable to touch a dog that we do not know, since they can interpret that you invade its space, but if we want to pet it, the ideal place is the cheek, never head. You have to go straight ahead, "he says.

Fear of dogs

In most cases, the fear of dogs appears in childhood, when due to a bad experience, a scare or a trauma, the child becomes an adult without having overcome that fear.

In recent years, the media have helped to increase the number of cases of fear of dogs, infusing irrational fear of specific breeds.

If you are a person suffering from cytophobia, and you don't know how to overcome the fear of dogs, I invite you to read this article.

How to overcome the fear of dogs

To begin, you must begin by assuming that the fear you feel for dogs is totally irrational, that is, it makes no sense.

When a person feels fear it is because he is anticipating something that is going to happen, so does it make sense to think that absolutely all dogs are going to attack you? Are they going to bite you?

Stay with that phrase that you will have heard thousands of times: "The dog is man's best friend." For something it will be, right?

To be calm there are a number of guidelines to reduce your fear of dogs.

Guidelines to overcome the fear of dogs

  • Record in your memory that dogs don't go around attacking for free or for fun. Only a very small number of dogs attack, and they do, when you have reason to do so: they have been damaged, they have been disturbed or their home or territory has been invaded.
  • Dogs are very social animals, as we humans are: those dogs that you find on the street are dogs that are already accustomed to living in society, therefore, you should not fear them.
  • Consider a list of goals to meet to face your fear: you can start by considering approaching a puppy, then petting it, etc. Just imagine it and look for videos on youtube of puppies of dogs playing.
  • Approach a place where there are dogs, such as a park and watch them from a distance. Do you see any attacks? How they relate?
  • Find friendships or family members that have a balanced dog and begin to face your fear. Make the list of objectives you set yourself a reality. You will discover a wonderful animal.
  • Do it little by little, take your time, and when you start interacting with the dog do it gently. You can let it come and smell you. He will not do anything at all, so please, try not to harm him by thinking irrational actions: the dog will not do anything to you!
  • Ask your family for help, it is better to be accompanied and without pressure.
  • If you see that you can't just cope with your fear, there are canine training centers that help people overcome the trauma.

To perform all these exercises, help yourself with these techniques to overcome the phobia: OVERCOME YOUR FEAR OF DOGS


Hi. I am 11 years old and I have him. very much afraid of dogs and how to overcome it and that's why I need help
. someone in help please ??

Since I can remember, I am very afraid of dogs, so my parents and I decided to go to the psychologist. It helped me a lot of advice to sew on, I played the one in my movie theater and I give food to a very good granny so far. I have little fear now of dogs but those of the Maso breed because for me they are nervous and that scares me with a goal that is very good and labrador that jumps and I don't like that.

Hello, very interesting article, just make a note.
Not all people who have dog phobia, cynophobia, fear that they may be bitten, since that would be a more or less rational thought.
They simply irrationally fear the simple presence of the dog near them, even when they are muzzle, leash or behind a screen…
I personally know many cases like what I tell you. And it annoys me that many dog ​​owners still say that "if you do nothing ..." and bring the animal even closer without respecting the fear of the phobic.
It is true that you can overcome with an approach to the object of fear, but it must be done in a controlled way, not by the first stranger that crosses you in the park.

Hello, I am 12 years old and I am very afraid of dogs, it is because a dog wanted to bite me as a child, but I have read these things and I will try to see if they work for me, they seem very good.
Thank you!

Hello, I am 17 years old and I have cynophobia since I have a conscience just like my father, and that is not going to do anything to you is a lie, many times my relatives have approached me to a dog, it is very uncomfortable, dogs always they approach me and I am terrified of their intention, some bark at me, others just want my attention, my mother says that they love me and want my attention, because they feel my dislike for them, however I have never liked dogs and I dislike that come closer, but I dislike a lot more intolerant people who prioritize dogs over people I have tried to bring your dog to lose their fear, let me tell you as a cynophobic that such attitudes only increase the anguish towards dogs and lovers of these. Do not criticize the cynophobes, the phobias are irrational but having the "best friend of man" (saying popularized by American cinema films between the decades of the 60s and 80s) will not think that it is ridiculous and much less denigrate us, Learn to be tolerant.

Hello, I am 17 years old and I am really afraid of dogs, it is a fear that I cannot control, there are times that it even makes me cry, it is very ugly because my parents tell me that nothing will happen to me, that I must control myself , and that makes me feel more fear, because I feel they have no idea how much fear I feel, and the worst of all is that where I live there are many dogs on the street and every day I go out my method is more.

Hi, I'm 11 years old and I'm very scared of buts and I have a puppy and I can't enjoy it, please help me 🙁

Hello, my name is Joel, I am 38 years old and I have always been afraid of dogs, I am not able to approach one and I am ashamed causing me to be unsociable so they can help me

Hi there! I am 17 years old and my fear of dogs is quite large, I do not leave my house if it is not by car, I tremble a lot when I look at them and the worst thing is that I have a puppy of 6 years already. Help me please I am very desperate and I don't know what to do😭 I would greatly appreciate your understanding 💖

Several tips on how to overcome the fear of these common pets.

Fear of dogs is one of the most common forms of fear. Being very common pets there are those who have a really bad time just by crossing one by going down the street or passing in front of a house where one is barking.

In this article we will see different clues about how to overcome the fear of dogs, and how to apply these tips on a day-to-day basis.

Why does this fear appear?

There is no single reason why a person can develop fear of dogs. Different aspects that may be influencing this, such as the wild appearance of this mammal (which ultimately is of the same animal species as the wolf), its propensity to bark (a sound that sometimes scares and may express aggressiveness), its relatively unpredictable character ( if we compare it to that of a human being), etc.

In general, the fear of dogs is something acquired, learned involuntarily, although this learning brings more inconvenience than advantages. In fact, in the most extreme cases you can even talk about phobia to dogs, or cynophobia, which is what happens when this anxiety and feeling of discomfort are so powerful that it significantly erodes the person's quality of life on a daily basis.

It should be noted, then, that if the fear of dogs is extremely intense, probably the most useful will be to go to a mental health professional. Resorting to psychotherapy is necessary for those people who experience a level of fear that prevents them from even exposing themselves to dogs and who believe that this seriously harms them (it is possible to present that strong learned fear and that however they live in a place free of dogs, with which, unless the fact of residing there is imposed by fear, does not have to be a serious problem).

For the rest of the people in whom the discomfort is not so intense and it is possible to take the first steps necessary to being near a dog while maintaining self control, which is what happens in most cases, the advice that follows can be useful.

1. Evaluate the degree of fear you feel

First, it is important to estimate the extent to which this fear of dogs is intense or not, which also helps to know in the first place whether it can be a phobia or not.

For example, if you can stay in a place having a dog resting about three meters from you and you know for sure that, beyond feeling bad, you will not lose control of the situation as long as the dog does not address you or not make sudden movements, most likely it is about a fear of normal dogs, not pathological (In fact, even if you don't meet that condition, you may not have a phobia).

Once this is established, draw a hierarchy of situations that scare you in relation to dogs, ordering them according to the discomfort they produce. From there, assess what are the different stages you will have to go through, taking into account those aspects of the interaction with dogs that give you the most fear.

For example, It is possible that for some people the level of fear does not depend so much on the proximity of these animals, like the chances of them barking, or this fear may not exist if the dogs are small. Knowing this will help not lengthen the process of overcoming this fear.

2. Recognize the symptoms of fear

When you are experiencing the effects of fear of dogs in the first person, look at the specific manifestations of this fear when it reaches its maximum or when it is close to reaching its maximum. Do you tend to run away a few meters losing control? Do you feel that you stay on the site and prefer not to move? Knowing this will help you prepare the appropriate measures for the next phase.

3. Expose yourself to fear in a planned way

The first thing you should do is try to go through situations linked to fear of dogs that give you less fear, to become resistant to them. When you have passed this phase and notice that you can no longer make significant progress in it, go on to expose yourself to another situation that usually scares you more than the previous one, and so on.

In addition, it is good that you have prepared strategies to prevent fear symptoms from being a problem. In some cases this can be simple, like having a bottle of water nearby if your mouth usually dries, but in others you may need a person to help you, especially if you tend to run away. This helper may have the task, for example, of preventing you from running back, since flight feeds fear.

It is also important that you make sure that in this phase of training to overcome the fear of dogs you do not use a dog characterized by being aggressive. Do not put on unnecessary obstacles.

4. Learn about dogs and their kind nature

In addition to intervening in the way you react in real time to dogs, It's good that you act on your beliefs. Some of the fear can start from the ignorance of these animals.

Dogs are just a lineage of artificially selected canids to make the most kind and collaborative individuals have offspring. Everything that makes a dog a dog has to do with its clear tendency not to attack and its propensity to engage rather in tasks of protection of human beings.

Avoidance behaviors can increase fear. However, exposing yourself little by little, or resorting to the help of a psychologist, will help you overcome your phobias.

One of the psychological problems The ones we live with are phobias, irrational fears that, if treated, may disappear. They are born from disgust, apprehension, a state of anxiety and constantly ruminating, putting the acc>

"These exaggerated fears produce clinical discomfort and can trigger an anxiety or panic attack," says Professor Antonio Cano Vindel, professor at the Faculty of Psychology at the Complutense University of Madrid. Generally, they do not respond to pharmacological treatments, but to a behavioral-behavioral therapy in which the illogical and irrational of fear is shown.

For example, “one is as likely to suffer a plane crash as to touch the lottery. However, we never give a ticket for a flat trusting that the rest will be paid by the money we earn in this prize. But we do feel the anguish of dying in a plane crash when we are going to take a trip, ”reflects the anxiety and stress specialist. Hence, we must understand why phobias occur and seek professional help to avoid limits and enjoy all the opportunities that life offers us.

Panic to the dogs

When the object of our phobia are the pets, specifically dogs , we not only expose ourselves to having a bad time - since 40% of Spanish households live with a pet, so it is very likely that we have to visit a friend who lives with these animals - but we also miss the opportunity to enjoy from the company of these four-legged furry nobles.

"Animal phobia, or zoophobia, can affect anyone, although it affects women more than men. 90% of animal phobias develop in childhood, approximately between eight and nine years old." , explains psychologist Natalia Ayelén Tomé Grosman, of the Vithas Parque San Antonio Hospital (Málaga).

Why does a phobia develop?

As the psychologist explains, two factors must be taken into account at the origin of a phobia: biological and psychological vulnerability.

  • The biological vulnerability consists of a neurobiological hypersensitivity to stress, genetically determined Certain people may have a labile or unstable autonomic nervous system, which activates easily and is slow to reduce this activation and return to calm.
  • The psychological vulnerability is based on the individual's belief that he will not be able to predict and / or control his response to stressful situations. This may be due to the overprotection of the parents or, on the contrary, the lack of affection, lack of attachment, as well as having experienced stressful or traumatic episodes, and not having tools to overcome this stress.

"A person who in his childhood has been bitten by a dog, will develop or not a phobia depending on their genetic and / or psychological vulnerability, as well as their personality, their abilities to cope with stress, their sensitivity to anxiety, etc. ", adds the specialist.

Even so, "it is clear that a direct or indirect negative experience (having suffered a bite or seeing this situation closely), generates a direct conditioning, which depending on the severity and added to the avoidance of the situation after the negative experience, they may end up increasing the risk of developing a phobia, "he warns.

Help the children

Many times the family can exacerbate the phobia without realizing it, either because of the fear of something happening to the child, or because he does not know how to properly manage negative emotions. Learning to remain calm and not giving importance to that fear is sometimes the best way to deal with this problem.

Therefore, it is not good to avoid encountering dogs while you are with a person who suffers from animal phobia, because that way you will never learn to overcome it. While it is true, that when the fear is excessive, it must be exposed in a controlled and progressive way, to avoid worsening, and with the help of a professional.

How to overcome adult phobia

Although it had been claimed that zoophobia can remit without treatment in childhood and adolescence, the general trend does not seem to be this. In adults, the disorder tends to be chronic unless treatment is received.

Mainly, this consists of face the feared and / or avoided situations. It is called live exposure (EV) and today, for today, it is the best way to handle these problems and overcome them. For example, "in the case of animal phobia, it is good to talk about those who are afraid of us, see photos or videos of them, visit places where there are these animals (shops, zoo, friends' houses, etc.) , stroll through streets where you can find them, approach them, listen to their sounds, touch and caress them and feed them, "recommends the psychologist.

Before starting the EV, it is convenient to give information about the feared animal and correct possible misconceptions about it. Also, it may be necessary to teach skills to handle the animal in question.

What if I adopt a dog?

Many people who know others with phobias of dogs recommend, without hesitation, have a pet at home. In the opinion of the psychologist Natalia Ayelén Tomé Grosman, it can be beneficial as long as a previous exposure work is done. That is, "if my child usually has high anxiety every time he sees a dog, bringing one home without prior preparation and without warning can be harmful. However, with proper treatment (exposure) carried out by a professional of psychology, the phobia can be resolved in a matter of weeks and the whole family can enjoy a new canine member, "concludes the expert.

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