It’s often said that a man’s best friend is a dog. They are loyal and can understand human commands and emotions more easily than other animals. While most of us find pleasure in the presence of the dogs, many go to great lengths to avoid being in the same room with a dog. They stop visiting friends who own dogs and exhibit the typical symptoms of anxiety, such as breathlessness, clammy hands, increased sweating and panic attack, in the presence of a dog, no matter how friendly it is.
Individuals who suffer from this mortal fear of dogs – a condition medically known as cynophobia – can show signs of distress even at the mere mention of a dog. Surprisingly, dogs also have the inborn ability to sense stress the same way they sense love and affection of their owners. They are visibly uncomfortable and respond by barking, growling or attacking. It is commonly observed that dogs attack people who display unfamiliar personality traits. They seldom bite a friendly person.
A recent study conducted at the University of Liverpool, U.K. reiterates this. Published in the BMJ journal, it states that anxious and neurotic people are more likely to be bitten by dogs. The more neurotic or emotionally unstable a person is, the greater the risk of his or her being bitten by a dog. The researchers observed that the risk of a lifetime bite rose by 33 percent.
Finding ways to tackle fear of dogs
According to the 2017-18 American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet and 48 percent pets are dogs. Whether as pets or stray animals, it is essential to develop means to get over the anxiety associated with dogs or any other animal for the matter of fact.
The study authors have enumerated ways of getting over the dog-related anxiety, such as adopting a dog with good temperament and conditioning it properly so that it is not scared of strangers to minimize the risks of aggression. Apart from training the dog and making it friendly to strangers, one could also minimize the risk of an attack by taking care of the following:
Avoid running away: Dogs are more likely to pursue someone who tries to run away. As their animal instincts are awakened, they reason that the person running away is a threat to their human family or themselves and show their displeasure by growling and showing teeth. By remaining motionless, one can mitigate the threat to a large extent.
Interact with a puppy first: Puppies can greatly help people overcome their fear or anxiety of adult dogs. They are also used for cognitive therapies to help an individual get over a past trauma. As they are not at all intimidating, even children who are otherwise fearful of big dogs like to pet them. Being friendly with a puppy can be the first step to get rid of fear of dogs forever.
Learn to distinguish between friendly and unfriendly dogs: Not all dogs are aggressive, waiting to sink in their teeth on seeing a stranger. Some are friendly and compassionate too. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between friendly and unfriendly dogs. The wag of the tail and twitch of an ear could be an indication of friendliness. If the fear is deep-rooted based on a traumatic experience, it is better to seek help of a trained psychiatrist or psychologist before befriending a dog.
Get exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is one of the most effective means of getting grip with unrealistic fears and phobias. It includes prolonged exposure to the object of anxiety or fear, the dog in this instance, until the person realizes that his or her fears are misguided.
Finding help for anxiety
Whether it is anxiety in the presence of an animal or due to any other reason, unreasonable fear or excessive worry can interfere with an individual’s daily life. There is no shame in consulting an expert to get the needed help and feel the difference. Anxiety disorders are curable with medications, therapy and counselling.
Sovereign Health runs some of the renowned anxiety treatment centers in California that offer evidence-based programs for anxiety and other mental illnesses for men and women. Our clinicians provide proper care for the overall well-being of patients struggling with a wide range of challenges. Call our 24/7 helpline (866) 954-0529 or chat online to know more about our advanced anxiety disorders treatment centers in California and other parts of the U.S.