5 Strategies to Overcome Phobia in Dogs

Phobias are irrational and psychopathological fears that some people develop when faced with very different situations: fear of the dark, fear of flying, fear of confined spaces, fear of needles, insects, etc. What all of these experiences have in common is that there is nothing that presents an objective danger to the person who has developed the phobia.

Dog phobia is one of the most common animal phobias in our society, but luckily today we have a set of very useful therapeutic strategies to overcome it successfully and not let it affect us and condition our daily routines.

What is dog phobia?

Canine phobia or kynophobia (from the Greek “kynós”, meaning “dog”) is an anxiety disorder corresponding to the category of specific phobias which consists of an irrational fear felt towards this animal in any situation where the person is confronted with these canines. , or even when they think about it.

It is one of the most common phobias associated with animals in our society and one of the most problematic, since the dog is one of the two most widespread pets in all human societies and it is difficult not to come across one on the street in any country .

This type of specific phobia can have as its main cause a negative or traumatic experience in childhood related to the attack of a dog, but there is not always a triggering and well-defined event in the past of the person. ; Sometimes this disorder simply occurs without it being possible to establish a precise situation that caused it. It can also be facilitated by the appearance of a phobia of having overprotective parents during childhood who warned too much of the dangers of one of these pets, generating an intense and unjustified fear that the person internalizes as soon as his first years of life.

Like any other phobia, the phobia of dogs decisively affects the life of the person who suffers from it, even affecting their lifestyle, their mental health and their relationships with the people around them, especially if they own dogs. In particular, it is worth noting a behavior model based on avoiding situations in which the person believes they may encounter these animals.

For example, you can try to take very long detours so as not to pass through streets where houses with gardens predominate, just so as not to encounter someone barking at you or even trying to jump the fence (something these animals very rarely do, although the mentality that the person with the phobia adopts has a distinct pessimistic bias that exaggerates the chances of something bad happening).

This trouble it generates in the person a series of symptoms of both physical and emotional discomfortall always triggered by the sight of any type of dog or simply anticipating that one may approach.

Symptoms

Symptoms of dog phobia are similar to those of most specific phobias triggered by any other animal and its symptoms appear both physically, cognitively and behaviorally.

Among the physical changes we can highlight: excessive sweating, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, excessive agitation, dry mouth, chest tightness and tremors.

Some of the symptoms associated with cognitive changes are: intense fear, anxiety, panic, helplessness, nervousness or stress.

Finally, among the main behavioral symptoms, we find avoidance behaviors, the urge to run away from the source of fear or the urge to cry.

Main Strategies We Can Follow To Overcome Dog Phobia

Of course, the most effective and safest way to overcome a phobia is through psychotherapy, and in fact, in most cases, this should be the first priority for the person with the phobia. But beyond the therapeutic framework, there are certain strategies that can be considered by the person as general advice. Let’s see what they are.

1. Write an emotion diary

One of the many therapeutic habits that we can put into practice on a daily basis, in addition to consulting a qualified professional, is to write a diary in which you write down everything you feel during the day, in relation to the phobia of dogs.

The emotion diary is one of the most useful tools that exist to know ourselves and helps us to work in detail on any psychological problem that we want to overcome. Indeed, through what is called “emotional labelling”, we know that putting our fears and worries into words makes it possible to put their importance into perspective and to delimit the objective and real effects that these forms of discomfort have on us.

Thus, writing down the emotions and experiences we have had on a daily basis will help us better understand how we feel at any given moment and allow us to distinguish experiences such as anxiety from certain similar feelings that we may experience; and more they will pull us out of this loop for fear of seeing phobia as a problemwhich is a first step to overcoming it.

2. Set Short-Term Goals When Facing Fear

Setting short-term goals is another strategy we can follow to gradually overcome our fears, and it’s about tackling our fears whenever possible. set aside avoidance strategies.

This means, for example, committing to not taking the longest route to work just to avoid walking past a house where a dog barks at you every day. Of course, it is important not to set very difficult challenges as your first goals; we have to follow an ascending difficulty curve adjusted to our level of fear in each part of this process.

3. Sleep well

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule in our daily lives that allows us to sleep enough hours to rest. Going to bed and waking up at around the same time will also help us improve our mental health and feel better about ourselves, while not getting enough sleep makes us much more vulnerable to stress and anxiety. .

Resting the necessary hours at night will also help us have the strength to overcome any daily challenge and make us less vulnerable to the anxiety and stress that our phobia can cause us. In this way, we will be in the best possible conditions to face the fear of dogs and not be discouraged from the start.

4. Share our feelings

Another good way to overcome the fear of dogs can be to share our feelings with someone you trust, something that is always very useful when someone is having a bad time.

Talking frequently with close friends and family is a great therapeutic help (again, this is related to emotional labeling) and in many cases we can gain valuable advice on how to overcome our problem. In addition, it predisposes others to take an interest in our progress in overcoming the fear, which will give us more sources of motivation by having regular reminders that we have set out to overcome the phobia.

5. It’s important for you to know when to seek professional help.

If after a few weeks of trying to overcome dog phobia you do not notice any progress, It is important that you do not delay and go to psychotherapy. The sooner you solve your problem, the more time you will enjoy.

Are you looking for psychotherapeutic support services?

If you would like to undergo psychological therapy to learn how to manage and overcome your most irrational fears, I invite you to contact me.

Soy Ignacio Garciaclinical psychologist with a consultation in Almería, and works from cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy to help adults, adolescents and families in person or online.

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