Posted by: Runner | 2009/07/13

Scared if dogs

Dear CyberShrink,

I enjoy running as a sport and belong to a running club. My problem is I' m petrified of dogs as I was bitten as a child. This is holding me back so much, I hyperventilate at the sight of open gates fearing a dog could appear any minute. It also happens every training day that dogs either attack or bark at me. I often have to use pepper spray to keep them away as owners arriving home after work just open gates before looking around if anyonie is approaching. My hubby runs with me but this is not a permenant solution as I freak him out with my behaviour and hold him back as he is a much faster runner than me. Have you got advise how to overcome this fear without seeking proffesional help?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Such persistent fears after a bad experience are not at all uncommon And somehow dogs seem to sense when one is fearful, and at least get more interested even if not necessarily more aggressive.
Now clearly, I know most a bout professional help, and behaviour therapy ( as it was in the old days ) or Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ( CBT ) as it is nowadays, can be extremely effective in enabling oneto overcome such excesive fears.
As Zexeon wisely emphasizes, to a certain extent such fears keep us usefully cautious, so that we avoid unnecessary risks. But when the fears become exaggerated, as in the situation you describe, it is worth learning to modify them. CBT helps one to asess such risks more accueately and usefully, and to control one's response helpfully, because sometimes excessive precautions can themselves cause risks. CBT would probably not require many sessions to help you get a better grip on this fear. As in the example Zexeon describes, one can gradually learn to tell which dogs are safe, and to assess them better, and without the unpleasant and painful sense of fear described, when even thinking of the wrong sort opf dogs causes anxiety, at times when there is no risk at all.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Zexeon | 2009/07/13

I' m also careful around dogs at times cause I was also bitten and chased many times by diffrent dogs. But sometimes I' m so affriad that I have to tell my friends to keep there dogs tight as I want to leave and I only trust my dogs, my sister' s dog, my mother' s dog, my brother' s dog, poedels, cindy, ushi and pablo not to bite me (my tummy muscles pain ... just thinking about dogs I' m scared of). But sometimes fearing something makes us prudent and keeps as save so my friends can laugh at me I don' t care at least I' m not going to be bitten again.

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