Alice, I'm Scared of the Neighborhood Dogs

Alice, I'm Scared of the Neighborhood Dogs

Ask Alice
Apr 28, 2015
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)

Dear Alice,

I do not like dealing with dogs! I’m not deeply cynophobic and I don’t blame the individual animals, however, a friend in another city was recently attacked by a dog and I now feel prompted to address my own discomfort.

I am more of an indoor cat person and, while I don’t begrudge people having the pet of their choice, many of these pets seem to spend the majority of the day outside and I feel surrounded while on my own property or on my walk to work. These are noisy, barking dogs, sometimes big dogs, and to someone who has had bad experiences in the past, often frightening dogs.

Any advice on how I can “introduce myself” to neighborhood dogs? After over five years at my current address I’d have hoped the fenced and leashed animals would recognize me and relax but this is not the case. Can I approach pet owners to say “Hi, I live down the street, your dog freaks me out?" It’s not their fault, but maybe if I learned the dog’s name and gave them the occasional treat they’d calm down? I’m interested in being neighborly and proactive.

With Sincere Thanks,

Lab Experiment

Dear Lab Experiment,

First of all, it sounds like you have a great attitude about your situation; that's key. If you're comfortable doing it, I think introducing yourself to the neighborhood dogs — individually and when they are around their owners (who can help to calm them down) — is a great idea. Dogs usually bark at things they are not used to. If they are get used to you, it will significantly help.

In fact, this is a great strategy for another reason that you may not have thought of: the owners. I'm guessing that most of your dog-owning neighbors don't know that you feel this way and if you take the time to approach them and explain your feelings in a non-judgmental and proactive way, I'm sure they will do all they can to keep their dogs from bothering you.

Finally, even though it doesn't sound like you are paralyzed by fear, it might not be a bad idea to talk to a therapist. Not liking dogs certainly doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you, but you live in a world that is full of pets. I would hate for you to feel limited as to where you could go or what you could do in public because of this fear. A therapist can help you get to the root of why you feel this way in the first place and can give you some strategies for managing the fear so you can feel more comfortable anywhere you go.

Best of luck!



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