Sunday, 8 April 2018

How I Overcame My Fear Of Dogs

I have always been surround by dogs, however, my relationship with dogs wasn't what it is now...

Growing up dogs were always present, my dad worked as a farmer alongside his own business in the gundog training industry. He would have many dogs in for training and boarding as well as a large group of his own dogs, sometimes there would be up to 30 dogs in the kennels so dogs were always about but there was one thing holding me back.... I was terrified of them.

My bad experience wasn't as terrifying or horrific as you may think, what caused my phobia was actually our own dog.  When I was about 4/5 years old my Grandma wanted a dog so they bought a lovely Jack Russel named Casper. At the same time, my dad purchased us a girl from the same litter, we called her Jasmine. 
What triggered my fear of dogs was that Jasmine was extremely playful and nippy, as all puppies are. I remember her chasing me up the stairs, I was absolutely terrified I wouldn't come out until she was put away, from then on my fear of dogs grew. 

I would avoid dogs in all situations, from friends houses to even out walking, I would want to cross the road. I was terrified I would be attacked and jumped on, one huge fear stemmed from the tiniest little incident. 

As I got older the desire to overcome my fear was great, I really wanted to own my own dogs at some point in life but until I got over my fear I wouldn't be able to. Little by little, I did overcome that fear and most of that was down to one dog.... the dog who I will never forget, Sam. 

Sam was my dad's beautiful black lab bitch, she was gentle and kind and extremely well trained whatever was asked of her she obeyed. She was the perfect dog to help me overcome my fear. 
I remember starting at the kennel door, the door was left open where Sam sat in her bed, she didn't move, I stood in the door then left. Gradually I was able to walk in and stroke her, give her food and even walk her on a lead.  I remember sneaking her into the house whilst my dad was at work so she could be in the house with my sister and me. She would lie in bed with us, watch tv and even let us dress her up there was nothing she wouldn't do for us and in return, all she wanted was love and lots of fuss. 

In my teens my fear was more on the cautious side instead of being terrified, I was fine with dogs that I knew but extremely cautious of dogs that I didn't. At the same time, I had my first dealings with anxiety. The little voice in my head (anxiety) made me over think every new situation with dogs to the point I would work out how I would stand, how I would touch the dog and what would I do if it jumped up or attacked me. Everything you could imagine I was thinking about. 

It has taken me a long time to deal with my fear and even now I still have little moments of panic in certain situations. Honey and I have had a couple bad incidents with aggressive dogs but I'm not terrified anymore. I put most of this down to Sam, she was the perfect dog for someone who was absolutely terrified, all she wanted was your love and a lot of cuddles. 

Sam was put to sleep when I was 14 years old, I was absolutely devastated I never knew how much one dog could change my life and it takes an extremely special dog to do so. 

However, 13 years later I now have my own Sam. Honey reminds me so much of my old girl from her temperament to the way she responds to me when I'm feeling anxious.  I know Honey is with me for a special reason from the first time I saw her my eyes were drawn to her I never even looked at the others. 

            First steps to take on overcoming your fear

1. Work out what your fear is, are you scared of small dogs? jumping up? biting? etc. 
What is it that makes you afraid?

2. Find a very placid but friendly dog to help you with your fear.  I wouldn't recommend puppies due to their hyperactiveness. 

3. Start Slowly and work up only when you feel 100% happy and confident. 

For example: Start off by being in the same area with the dog (on lead), move closer and closer to the dog. Let the dog sniff you, then work up to touching the dog, to walking the dog and lastly have the dog off lead and able to roam freely around you without fear, 

4. If at any time you feel uncomfortable go back to the step you feel happiest at and keep reinforcing that until you can move on to the next step. 

5. One tip that I find extremely important is the basics of being able to read a dog. There are certain behaviours/ body language that can tell you if dogs are happy, afraid and unwanting of your touch and interaction. I believe learning the basics is key to having a good relationship with dogs and especially with children!  Both my boys are learning the importance of how both our dogs display their behaviour through body language in order to have the best relationship with them. 

I hope you enjoyed our post and if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below! See you in our next post! 


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