Long ago, in NYC, I had a beautiful, gentle Great Dane. Now and then I would encounter a mother and her 3 or 4 year old daughter in the lift when Calypso and I were going out for one of our daily walks.
The first few encounters the little girl would reach out to pet Calypso, her mother would quickly pull her back. In due course the little girl would recoil in fear when she encountered us in the lift.
She had learned to share her mother’s fear of my lovely dog.
The good news is that what can be learned can be unlearned.
The first step to unlearning a fear of dogs (or any fear for that matter) is an increased awareness of out habitual assumptions and images in the presence if the feared dog. Working with these responses on a multi-sensory, imaginary level, followed by controlled exposure can successfully resolve such fear and allow you the deep pleasure a dog can offer.
Some people need to begin by looking at picture or videos of people playing with the type of dog they fear. When these bo longer elicit a fearful response, controlled exposure can then be done.
In the presence initially of a small dog (or dogs, as in a shelter or on an Adoption Day) progressing to larger breeds. Such an approach can go a long way to resolving the fear, even with people who have been bitten as children and retain an automatic sense of fear in the presence of a similar sized dog, or all dogs.
Some puppies have been mistreated by their owners or foster ‘parents’ and have learned to cautious or fearful of people,
So it is quite possible that in overcoming your fear you may be helping a dog overcome their fear of humans.
Treat a dog kindly and you will be rewarded with the unconditional devotion and loyalty a dog is capable of giving and receiving,
Your comments are most welcome,
Dr Melanie Bryan