Follow our advice for a step by step guide to help children and adults alike overcome this debilitating fear!
Respect The Fear
Unfortunately we have far too many irresponsible dog owners out there who allow their dog to wander around the streets unsupervised, or other owners who take their dogs for walks in busy parks and are blind to the fact that their dog is running up to groups of strangers causing a menace.
If you are already afraid of dogs then this experience is very upsetting.
Stop telling yourself or your child “There’s nothing to be afraid of” , your body has already begun to panic, so you need to help your brain and nervous system work together.
Tell yourself or your child “The reason you are afraid is because…. it is a black dog, The dog is barking loudly, I am on my own” and so on.
Start spotting what you are afraid of and making mental notes – it will help you to remain that bit more in control of the situation, and validate your fear. Without respecting the fear, you can’t treat the fear.
It happens when dogs who are nervous of traffic are forced to walk along a busy road, and it happens when a person nervous of dogs has that dog run right up in to their face.
While you are overcoming your fear of dogs, you need to AVOID flooding. Don’t go to parks where dogs are off leash, ask friends to put their dog in another room when you visit, PROTECT yourself.
If you are exposed to flooding, you are undoing your good work and reminding your subconscious that dogs=panic, so you need to help yourself to overcome your fear.
Begin Forming Positive Associations
Children… AND adults… Can follow this step.
Start off watching cartoons based on dogs , set yourself up with your favorite treats, turn off your phones, get yourself comfortable, and begin the enjoyable experience. First up, I recommend “All Dogs Go To Heaven”
Next move on to movies that show real dogs in a non-threatening way – again, we recommend “Beverly Hills Chihuahua!”
Watch funny youtube videos under the title “Dogs Do The Funniest Things!”
Gradual Desensitisation and Counter Conditioning
Check with the fearful person, adult or child. How would they feel about working with real dogs, from a safe distance?
Set yourselves up.
You need multiple favourite mini snacks (we’re thinking chocolate buttons) multiple OK treats, and some of your favourite, relaxing music.
Set the car up where you will see dogs passing regularly , In Cork, we suggest parking at the Lee Fields.
Play the relaxing music, and play ‘Spot the Pup’. Every time the fearful person sees a dog, they inform their helper, and the helper hands over a chocolate button!
After several repetitions, if they are beginning to feel more confident, ask them would they be comfortable with getting out of the car. ONLY do this if the location where you are will NOT have dog’s off the leash running at you unexpectedly.
You want to be in a location where dogs are passing on the path on a leash, and you can stand on a grass area.
Slowly but surely get nearer and nearer to the path, rewarding each time the person decides they feel safe enough to move nearer.
Meeting The Beast
Now it’s time to try introduce your child / nervous person to a dog.
You need to ask around, and find a calm, chilled out, but friendly dog.
A little tip? Pop a cute t-shirt on the dog if they will tolerate this and it doesn’t distress them – people find dogs in clothes less intimidating!
DO NOT RUSH THIS!!
Allow the person take baby steps and progress at their own pace – rushing this process will only reinforce the fear.
If this goes well, then you can begin practicing the same exercise with other dogs.