How To Stop Being Afraid Of Dogs

In a world that cherishes man's best friend, you must know when not to fear the fluffy good boys

Mankind has relied on canines since times of old, and for good reason. Aside from hunting, dogs have proven themselves to be loyal companions that are incapable of neglecting their masters when they feel needed. Yet, for some reason, there are those who express fear at the sight of any dog, big or small.

fear of dogs
source: theconversation

As a man who once feared dogs, I feel inclined to speak on behalf of those who are uncomfortable being around man's best friend who wishes to change their mindset, whether it be in an isolated setting or out on the streets amongst dozens of canines. 

The causes can be far and wide, or something as simple as a cognitive disposition, but in almost all cases, the person will be adverse to dogs because of negative history.

Here are 10 examples of why someone will fear dogs and why that rationale isn't sound:

1. Dogs are excitable by nature

Whenever there is a dog passing you by on the street, a lot of the time, they will be inclined to jump up and play with you. At least, that's the experience I've had in life, and I'm certain others have had a similar situation. 

These days, I know that dogs just want to play and be friends, but for the majority of my adolescence, that never occurred to me. Yet, thanks to a more empathic mindset, I know better now.

More than likely, a dog does not wish to turn your face into chop suey, as they have no reason to. Any animal such as that must be put down, but in regards to most dogs, they just want to lick and make you feel better.

The excitement most dogs express at first sight of a stranger is just them seeing that person as a potential friend. And unless the owner has beef with that individual, it is unlikely they will sick the dog on you.

A good way to tell if a dog wants to play is by approaching the canine slowly with a closed fist and allow the pooch to give it a sniff. If the dog responds positively and either rubs your hand with its head or licks it, then it might want to be pet.

Through understanding, one can find a reason to become friends with dogs by giving the critters just as much affection back as is received.

2. Bad experiences do not translate into permanence, nor are they universal

In mass media, through the spreading and overblowing of bad news stories, there are tales of individuals, sometimes even children, being mauled by a dog.

Though reports like these are disheartening, they are not worth immediately dismissing and jumping to the conclusion that the owner was bad and, as a consequence, so was their pet. 

Quite the opposite; while a bad owner is usually to blame for their animal's violent tendencies, a lot of the time, the animal is provoked in a manner they are not used to, and are just responding by instinct, as I have previously witnessed.

My brother, who suffers from autism, will lose his mind whenever a dog gets too close, and he will sometimes tap the dog roughly. Though he's never been bit, the dogs he comes into close contact with usually start to grumble afterward.

Now, while my brother and other special needs individuals are not completely to blame, it is understandable why canines will react the way they do; they sense they are being mistreated and are just responding as any animal would.

In that sense, the logical response would be to consider things from the beast's perspective; if this bare-skinned creature approaches me and strokes my coat in an uncomfortable fashion, they must not like me. I'm offended and will let them know that by grumbling and baring my teeth.

As for those with the power of higher reasoning, it would make far more sense not to tap a dog when disturbed by one. Rather, if one cannot bring themselves to play with the pooch, the best response is to simply walk away. If you cannot bring yourself to touch a dog, then that's fine. Do so when you're ready.

When a dog understands someone doesn't want to play, interest will be lost, and a new playmate will be sought in order to satiate that longing for attention.

3. Civilization has embraced dogs for good reason

For anyone who is afraid of dogs, just being outside is uncomfortable, and can cause many individuals to have anxiety attacks. Given that dogs are so prevalent in society, it becomes a roll of the dice, with the odds stacked against you, that a dog will not appear.

By and large, there will likely be at least one person walking his/her four-legged friend. Dogs are not inherently aggressive, which is why the government allows them to run around under the guidance of responsible owners.

Anyone who has ever owned a dog will say that they have never had a bad experience with it, and anyone who has must have done something to set the dog off, or they just weren't compatible with the canine, but potato potato.

Dogs can sense when an individual is anxious around them, and with no understanding of why that is so, they will become nervous too, leading both parties to have an unpleasant experience.

If you cannot stand being around a dog on your own, perhaps it would help to associate yourself with those who have differing opinions.

By talking to a friend who owns a dog and explaining your concerns to them, then they may be inclined to sympathize and introduce you to their pet, who may or may not be friendlier than those around your neck of the woods.

In fact, just the other day, I was requested by my neighbor to come over to see if the cat in her backyard was my long-lost feline, at which point her dog started to grumble at me, even though I made no aggressive gestures.

As dogs tend to take after their masters, that canine was clearly just being territorial, as my neighbors don't always like having company over. On the other side of the spectrum, however, is my friend's dog who, despite being shy, is likable and has requested head pets with a nudge of my hand.

I understand my neighbor's dog was just trying to protect her territory, as she has a guard dog mindset, which is fine. Like humans, dogs can have different temperaments based on their living conditions. It just takes getting to know the critter that allows you to identify with and potentially get along with it.

When a person has the chance to interact with a familiar canine as opposed to a strange one, then the interaction will likely be a positive one, leading to the former wanting to interact with other furry beings.

4. If you seek validation with a dog, then perhaps it's best to start small

Going back to the idea of cynophobia being rooted in an individual with a rough history, there are those whose skin will crawl because of something traumatic or potentially dangerous that happened early on in life, like in my case.

When I was around six years old, my neighbors got a golden retriever puppy, and before they installed an invisible fence, the dog would run over to my yard. At one point, my dad picked the dog up and placed it behind the fence I climbed to escape from it. I never understood why the dog was so eager to be around me.

I was appalled by this, mainly because I was so skittish, and I didn't have the idea in my head that the dog just wanted to play rather than make me feel dread. This incident sparked my fear of dogs, which took me years to recover from and required some deep thinking on my part.

Had I acknowledged that my dad was merely trying to get me accustomed to the pup rather than run from it, perhaps my experience would have been different. Aside from cognitive responses, body language also plays a part in how a dog will act around you.

If you turn tail and run in the opposite direction, that will tell all the nearby dogs you want to play with them. The way I responded was not correct, as the pup was indeed friendly and just wanted a companion beside his owners. 

For years, I resented my father for the course of actions he took in trying to introduce me to my neighbor's dog, as I felt the mingling should have been done on my part. I know now he was only trying to get me out of my shell, and I respect him for at least trying.

If you wish to open up to dogs more then it might benefit you to get a puppy, something so small and innocent that you are unable to muster anxiety towards it. Having a creature that only wants to be friendly around you in your home is a good step towards opening up with other peoples' larger dogs.

Anyone who cannot escape a bad history with a canine should take the time and acknowledge the past to figure what there was to truly be afraid of, then perhaps a revelation can be made in the future when there's one in the house. 

5. Evolution has placed us above dogs

As man's best friend, it stands to reason that dogs will follow in our footsteps, not vice versa. This is apparent in almost all pieces of satire featuring a canine and their master, all thanks to the organic hierarchy.

Evolution has placed humanity above canines because of our intelligence and ability to fertilize dominance in untouched places. Dogs understand and respect this, and being only a little less intelligent than we are, they are inclined to follow close behind and respect whoever holds the leash.

Those who fear dogs don't always take this into consideration when that fight or flight response kicks in. Yet, sometimes a kind approach is the best response.

While not all dogs are as sociable as my neighbor's golden retriever, there will be those that open up when you offer to pet them. An example of this is my other neighbor's Samoyed, who according to my fellow suburbanite, doesn't usually approach those he's never previously interacted with. I approached that walking cloud, and he seemed happy to be pet, tail wagging and all.

My experience with dog owners has taught me that sometimes the lesson doesn't even have to be taught passive-aggressively. When you eventually get a dog, and it seems they are living with someone who cherishes them and provides food and water, the animal will open up and love you.

This could be due to man domesticating wolves, but it seems far more likely that if canines felt as inferior as they truly are on the evolutionary chain, then they would not go along with their master's commands.

In a world that cares for canines, the time to be afraid is never, for there is no need to when those lesser beasts are willing to act as second in command.

6. Nature and nurture go hand in hand when it comes to befriending dogs

Like I said earlier, dogs will respond to outside stimuli as they feel necessary. Yet even if the dog had a bad upbringing, it's still possible for there to be love and codependence in the beast.

In the past, I have met people whose dogs came from bad homes, with individuals that neglected and abused the creatures. As a result, the canines were expected to be anti-social and beyond rehabilitation, as they would either shut down or get mean around humans. However, that is not always the case, based on what I've previously observed.

There is a particular YouTuber I watch who at one point adopted a pitbull that once belonged to bad owners. The poor good boy was on the receiving end of their cruelty, but when he was picked up by this comic's family, he befriended the other animals in that house and loved everyone there until his final days. Dogs like that are ones we all can only hope for.

As with our own experiences, the way a dog is brought up does not mean they will never want to seek bonds with new people. Heck, even if a canine was pitted in dog fights, it's still possible for them to be loving companions in the right hands, but I digress.

There is always a reason as to why dogs may be indifferent to humans, sometimes deciding to flat-out reject any and all attention. While not all dogs are as sociable as those on the street, there is always room to turn around in the right hands for a pupper.

7. It will take validation to be accepting of dogs

As humans and dogs can have compatible personalities, it could just be a matter of finding the right dog that will tickle you pink. Size, breed, and temperament aside, a good segue into dog cohabitation would be to find the one that's right for you.

As in "Avatar," the best way to find out what dog is right for you is to visit a pet store, or other adoption centers, and see which pooch comes to you. Of course, it's unlikely the animal will try and kill you, but a similar idea applies.

I've had friends who told me they picked their dog based on the "he/she chose me," idea. Out of all the pups they could have chosen, the ones they went with were the friendliest, running up to their future owners, and wagging their tails happily.

Once the first signs of a bond show themselves, I suggest you jump on that train and see how the dog reacts to your advances. If it follows your lead, then the question of whether you should adopt that one has spoken for itself.

Compatible personalities are required for any relationship, as they are the cornerstone of a healthy bond and need for one another. When the time is right, that knowledge will help in selecting a dog.

8. An immersive experience with dogs will aid in befriending them

Given the information you have already received, you could be getting close to a revelation, but in order to truly wash away this nervous facade, I would like you to try something.

In your spare time, go to the local dog park and walk into the center of the canine play area. If you can't bring yourself to approach the dogs, but just become a statue, that's fine. Getting used to being around them is the progress we'd like to see.

Now, when the tykes approach you, the best you can expect is for the animals to jump up and start licking you wildly. Hopefully, the owners don't look at you funny. If that seems overwhelming, the adoption center is another safe bet.

I have friends who also feared dogs at one point who used this knowledge to their benefit. If being swarmed by large, heavy dogs isn't your cup of tea, however, then perhaps allowing a litter of pups to do so is more your speed.

Exposure is paramount in overcoming any fear. Upon realizing that dogs are of no physical threat, then the only logical response is to go along with the positivity and befriend the critters.

9. As much as it hurts (your pride and your wallet), therapy might be the best solution

If everything else I have told you isn't worth your salt, and you still shudder around spending any time around dogs despite wanting to be comfortable with them, a shrink might come in handy.

Provided you've already spoken with your dog-loving friends, then a therapist could help you learn some things about yourself that your chums couldn't pick up on. I'm no psychiatrist, but I know a thing or two about phobias.

Often when one is afraid of something, be it an object, a person, an event, or an animal, it could be that they associate that particular phenomenon with a past occurrence, sometimes even something the individual does not recall.

I've had friends who told me they used to be afraid of dogs because they were pushed around by them in their infantile years. Though they do not recall this, people they know, their parents and guardians, would see their dog violently push the cradle with its body, which disturbed the baby.

As with pregnancy, the physical experiences one has early on in life can have consequences down the line that require digging to uncover. A shrink can help peel back those layers and reveal the root of almost any cognitive disposition.

10. When all else fails, give in to your phobia

Upon hearing that, you're probably scratching your head, and I don't blame you. You're probably inclined to believe I've given up on my own argument, and to that I say nay.

Everyone handles fear and overcoming those negative dispositions in their own way. There is no "getting over it," when trying to face the perceived danger head-on. The point at which one finds themselves prevailing is just like learning any new skill.

When I was learning to drive, I was an anxious mess. Upon getting in the driver's seat, I couldn't process what was before me. My senses were all over the place, my knees were weak, arms heavy, vomit on my sweater already, mom's spaghetti. That was until I had that "click."

Once I gained an understanding of what I was supposed to do, through muscle memory and mental acuity, I was flying down the road, and with the wind blowing in my hair, I was ready to see the world or at least the next block over.

If you still fear canines to this day, that's fine. No one is pressuring you to like dogs. You get into that when you're ready, and you do so by recognizing your "click." Once you have that, all will fall in line.

Befriending dogs is not an easy thing for everyone. Even when society won't acknowledge the weight that this fear carries, the best thing to do is to go by what the individual thinks is best.

The first step to befriending dogs is to understand what makes the furry beasts so special, then making those critters feel special through love. Anyone who fears dogs will do better with that reckoning.

I'm just the average bear trying to find his place among other aspiring writers. Also please consider following me on Twitter @good_wickham

No Saves yet. Share it with your friends.

Write Your Diary

Get Free Access To Our Publishing Resources

Independent creators, thought-leaders, experts and individuals with unique perspectives use our free publishing tools to express themselves and create new ideas.

Start Writing