This is the fear of dogs and in a way can be quite understandable. Dogs do bite sometimes and we all come into contact with them at various stages of our lives. We all know that if a dog should bite us, then we would be hurt and perhaps in pain. So the avoidance of caution displayed around dogs is rational and sensible to a degree. However, to suffer from a phobia one has to go to extremes of avoidance in order to stay safe.
Most of us know that if we see a dog which is loose, we would approach it with caution “just in case”. Having found the dog is friendly and playful, we may then decide to befriend the animal. This is a natural reaction unless you really dislike dogs.
However, I have had countless clients who are phobic and take great pains to avoid even seeing a dog or puppy.
Take Sarah (as I shall call her). She came to me at 21 years of age with the hope that I could cure her. If she even saw a dog on the other side of the road she would immediately panic and run to hide away so she could not even see the dog. If she was invited to a friend’s house she would telephone first to ascertain if there were dogs in the house. Clearly she did not wish to go through the rest of her life in such a state of panic.
This can be a problem with phobias. Nearly always they stay with a person unless the irrational fears are removed therapeutically.
When she was three years old, a dog had bitten her mother and Sarah had witnessed this and heard her mother scream in pain. A natural reaction. Whilst her mother recovered, Sarah was traumatised and her subconscious mind fought to get her to avoid all dogs in the future, so each time the subconscious mind saw a dog, it induced instant panic and so Sarah ran away quickly with adrenaline coursing through her body.
I took detailed notes of the first dog incident and a few others. Then using Hypnotherapy I removed the trauma of several incidents with dogs. As Sarah became calmer, I then used CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) wherein Sarah recorded any time she saw a dog and gave herself a 1-10 award: 1 terrified, 10 really calm and cured.
Eventually, the day came when I introduced her to my Golden Retriever Sally who befriended Sarah and lay down at her feet and they remained friends thereafter.
Then six months later, Sarah’s parents bought her a Labrador puppy and the two are now inseparable. A happy conclusion from a terrifying ordeal for many years.