Why Are You Afraid of Dogs?

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    Apr 01, 2014
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Why Are You Afraid of Dogs? Photo by Raquel Cervera

I still get surprised when I see or hear a person saying that he or she is afraid of animals for no apparent reason.

There is, of course, a psychological category into which this fear falls: phobias. You are probably familiar with this term, but perhaps not so much with the one which really places those fears in place, that is, cynophobia. That sounds a little more complicated, right? Well, all it does is place in a sub category within the phobias the one specifically related to the fear of dogs.

It is incredible that there are over 62 million dogs in the US alone, according to the 2003 statistics, which number has probably increased since then, so this alone is enough to think about how many people who suffer from this condition face quite commonly in their lives.

We have heard much more frequently about those who are afraid of spiders, snakes and other insects, but the foundation for anyone fearing dogs, which are considered “man’s best friend”, is definitely different.
Although the scientific terms include direct personal experience, observational experience and informational or instructional experience as the basis for the creation of the cynophobia, we may simplify this by using the two following: real or created.

If a person is bitten by a dog at any time, but especially during the early years of his or her life and that experience is not treated correctly with the use of psychological treatment, the fear has a real basis. On the other hand, if the exposure has been through somebody else’s experience, be that a member of the family, friend or neighbor who is attacked in the presence of this same person, we are talking here of a created fear, since the origin of the same is not a personal encounter with the dog. Finally, the fear can be acquired by a story heard of dogs’ attacks, reading about it in books, watching a movie or television program in which these attacks are depicted or even “inheriting” from parents who suffer from the phobia themselves and create that fear in their children.

Dogs do not attack humans just because. In fact, animals in general only attack or kill when in need of food. Humans are the ones to kill without a valid reason to do so. This has to make us think then that when a dog attacks a person, the provoking stimulus should be immediately investigated instead of just ordering the animal to be euthanized, as happens to be the case in most instances. The dog may have a physical or medical condition that does not help it behave adequately (brain tumors, for example). The hateful practice of abusing the dog by keeping it chained or by submitting it to all other kinds of cruelty could be another of the basis for it to attack. When animals in general, and in this case dogs, are eating, one has to respect that moment and not try to either take it away or go into its “zone” at that moment if you are not the owner and have trained the dog to allow you to even take its plate away without repercussions. I don’t want to go deeper into this, but history is full of stories of abused children who become abusers themselves or simply channel their rage against others who remind them of their abusers or circumstances similar to the ones they had to endure.  If you try to take something the child loves away from him, think of the typical behavior he will definitely present and we all agree it will not be a pleasant one. Why not animals?

It is completely wrong to teach a child to fear dogs. On the contrary, the most important thing to do in this case is to help them achieve confidence and knowledge of what dogs really are and all the joy they can bring to the child’s life. Even if you, as a parent, have suffered an unpleasant experience with a dog before, do not transmit this to your child. Treatment is available to everybody in the form of psychotherapy; in this case the one typically being used is the systematic desensitization therapy. Conducted by the well prepared professional, this therapy is highly effective in helping patients get rid of phobias of different origins, and cynophobia is no exception.

Running away, avoiding or simply not doing anything to solve the problem will not be the answer.
Dogs are one of the most lovable and loving creatures humans have the privilege of encountering on this planet, so fearing them will only lead us to not be able to enjoy all the beautiful experiences they provide to us every single day if we learn about them and adopt the right attitude towards them as they deserve.

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The author is running a site and a blog related to dog training,grooming and dog care. For more information about dog training and dog care, pay them a visit.

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