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Scared Of Dogs?

Some people are afraid of dogs. I understand this, as I used to be afraid of dogs myself.

Strangely (but not uncommonly) I was scared of being bitten by a dog despite the fact that I’d never been attacked. So I was scared for…well, for no real reason at all. But fear is often irrational, so the fact that my fear was unfounded was not unusual.

If you've read anything on this website, I’m sure you’ve figured out that that’s all in the past and I’m no longer scared of dogs. So the question is: how did I overcome my fear?

Logic Intervention

I started getting past my fear through logic interventions.

In practical terms what this meant was that when I encountered a dog I'd remind myself that, yes, dogs can and do bite, but that in reality it was unlikely I'd be attacked.

I’d continue the self-lecture (mentally, not out loud!) by reminding myself of the fact that I was much more likely to be hurt by another human than by any dog. The point of this wasn’t to replace my fear of dogs with a fear of people, but rather to have a reality check.

Facing The Fear

The second thing I did was to face my fear. In other words, I would actively seek out dogs whenever I could.

So if I saw a person with a dog, I’d approach them and ask if their dog was okay with being patted by a stranger. If the answer was “yes” I’d go ahead and pat the dog. (Note: initially I’d only approach people whose dog was on lead, and worked my way up to approaching people whose dog was off lead. I found that this step-by-step approach was helpful to me.)

A Complete 180!

Between the logic intervention and facing my fear head-on, I finally I got to the point where I could see myself having a dog in my home. And by the time I adopted my first dog, Jake (RIP), I had put my fear of dogs behind me.

In fact, these days I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I now know that dogs are overall more friendly, loving, and loyal than human beings, and I can genuinely say that I would trust the average dog not to hurt me in any way more than I trust the average human not to hurt me in some way.

To people who haven't had much experience with dogs, that might sound misanthropic, but truly it's the reality of things - and I'll show you why.

If you list all the ways a dog can hurt you, the list will include: a light bite that doesn't break the skin, a heavier bite that does break the skin, a bad bite that leaves a scar, and a severe bite that does some serious damage. So, basically, a dog can hurt you by biting you.

On the other hand, if you list all the ways humans can hurt you, the list includes: lying, bullying, cheating, stealing, raping, torturing, murdering...and all the many nuanced variations of the things on that list.

Based on that alone, isn't it reasonable to conclude that humans are infinitely more dangerous than dogs?

Helping Others Overcome Their Fear

Because I successfully overcame my fear, I like to help others do the same.

So when I encounter someone who tells me they’re afraid of dogs, I plant the same seeds of logic that helped me. I also highlight how important it is for them to get over their fear so that it doesn't become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because fear in us ignites fear in dogs, and a scared dog is more likely to bite than a relaxed dog. Saying all this might not completely infiltrate their fear, but it might just put that essential first chink in it.

Professional Help Required

Just one last thought: please be aware that some people’s fear will require more than a logic intervention and experiences with friendly dogs. Some people may require professional help to overcome their fear, so do encourage them to seek it if they feel they need that kind of support.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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