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Woman Developing Fear of Dogs at Park

  1. #1
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    Question Woman Developing Fear of Dogs at Park

    I saw a lady at the dog park the other day, that I hadn't seen in a long time. She owns a very mellow older Beagle female. When I said hello to her and 'long time, no see'...she told me that she doesn't come to the park much anymore.



    She's a nice woman, and an animal lover. She said that she was never afraid of dogs in her life, but her visits to the park for the last couple of years have lessened and become stressful, as opposed to relaxing.

    She said that dog started coming to her, not attacking her physically, but either growling or barking at her. She said it didn't matter the size of the dog, it's been from a small Jack Russell terrier, to larger Labs, etc. She tried to ignore it, and not take it personally, but after awhile she found herself waiting for it to happen, and not enjoying her walks.

    She said her dog was usually a small distance away from her, just sniffing and enjoying the park as usual...not even acknowledging that any dogs were barking at her mom. She doesn't wear any hats, or carry a cane or anything, and she's confused about what's happening with her and the strange dogs.

    She asked me what I thought it was, because she wanted to come to the park and enjoy it, like she did for so many years. I told her that maybe they sensed that she was tense or fearful, and were reacting to that. But, I really doubt that's the case, as these dogs in the park are usually busy having fun, and they are around people all the time.

    I don't know if I'll even see her again, but any thoughts on this? Why would dogs be drawn to her, and start barking or growling?

  2. #2
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    I've no idea why it would have started, or why the first dog would have done it, but sometimes some dogs just take a dislike to some people. I'm a total animal lover, but when I met my new boss' working lab for the first time he just did not like me one bit, he circled me growling and woofing and was clearly not happy with me!

    I'll bet after the first dog did it to her, whether she was aware of it or maybe subconsciously, she tensed up and felt nervous around unknown dogs at the park & the other dogs are sensing that she's unsure of them and responding to that. It's amazing what these clever things pick up and fear or unease is the first thing they sense.

    It's very sad though, that it's such an issue both her and her dog are missing out on something they obviously love.

  3. #3
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    It is sad, and the dog is overweight also, so those long walks in the park were very healthy for her. I've had dogs bark at me in the past, but didn't think anything of it or feel threatened. Once a Bassett Hound started barking at me, and it startled me, with that deep throaty bark they have, LOL. But as I watched him, he was doing that to everyone and other dogs too.

  4. #4
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    I guess some dogs just voice their excitement through barking & lots of the time they're just saying please come and play with me! Can be easily misinterpreted though and can feel very threatening some times. My current foster is a fatty little Bichon and his bark is something else - I reckon the post man thinks I've got an Alsatian in here not a little fluff ball!

    There's a large staffy/bull type cross bread in the kennels I work at (he's an unclaimed stray serving his time in the council pound) and he barks very viciously whenever anyone walks into the kennel block. But then, as soon as you step into his kennel, he gets into his bed, stays quiet and literally wriggles and squirms with excitement at the prospect of a cuddle, bless him.

    Massive shame for the lady and her dog, I hope she braves the park again or finds somewhere else she's comfortable walking him. The poor dog shouldn't have to suffer for it.

  5. #5
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    I saw that lady again today, only this time she was with her husband. He's accompanying her on the walks whenever he can, and at this point, she won't go there without him.

    Seems she was actually bitten on the hand by a small dog at the park. She said that she was just trying to overcome her fear, and be friendly, making light of the dog's barking and charging toward her. She said she talked to the dog, and said something like "what is it little guy, it's okay"...that's when she reached down with her hand (palm down) to greet the dog. She was nipped, nothing serious, and she told the owner who was very apologetic that it was okay. She just went home and disinfected it with hydrogen peroxide, and bandaged it up.

    Her husband said he was with her to observe the dogs at the park, and try to see what was going on there. Luckily my Hans made her feel good, by going up to her for a friendly pet. Still don't know why this gal's having such an issue.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpha1 View Post
    I saw that lady again today, only this time she was with her husband. He's accompanying her on the walks whenever he can, and at this point, she won't go there without him.

    Seems she was actually bitten on the hand by a small dog at the park. She said that she was just trying to overcome her fear, and be friendly, making light of the dog's barking and charging toward her. She said she talked to the dog, and said something like "what is it little guy, it's okay"...that's when she reached down with her hand (palm down) to greet the dog. She was nipped, nothing serious, and she told the owner who was very apologetic that it was okay. She just went home and disinfected it with hydrogen peroxide, and bandaged it up.

    Her husband said he was with her to observe the dogs at the park, and try to see what was going on there. Luckily my Hans made her feel good, by going up to her for a friendly pet. Still don't know why this gal's having such an issue.
    Hi, Alpha. This is sad. Unfortunately, this lady's consistent behavior is now embedded in her consciousness. It is difficult fight off once you anticipate it. And even if she has the resolve to fix it, sometimes it's her physical self that projects how dogs will react to her.

    Have you ever been bitten before? I mean, seriously bitten where the dog wanted to maul your extremities. The first time Buchi bit me because I was teaching him to stop being food possessive, he really bit me bad. Even when my mind was saying I had to go forward, my body was hesitant to do the act as if remembering what had happened in my previous encounter. That must be how she feels. The more she decides to stop visiting the park, the more it will become harder for her to break what the body is accustomed to. That is why even when she wants to stop feeling that way, it will be difficult for her.

    Fortunately, there's a simple solution to her problem. It will be hard but she will have to do it. And that's to desensitize herself from the anticipation and fear that a dog will approach her, bark at her and growl at her. So a couple dogs have done it to her... it's normal if they feel tension in the body. As I've said, the body may not follow what the brain dictates. The more she is exposed to such an environment, the more she will feel less threatened of it.

    It's just like working in a highly demanding job. You won't get through your first paycheck if you don't stay to get a hang of it first.

  7. #7
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    Well, this is going to sound really silly, but it did work for me.
    I used to be an insurance agent for a company where we had to go to a lot of houses, and sometimes there were mean looking dogs in the yards. If the dog came at me aggressively , I didn't go through the gate, and came back when someone was for sure home to control the dog.
    But sometimes, the dog would not be visible, and I would be knocking on the door, and that would bring him running and barking , and then I had to manage to get past him, and back out of the yard.

    I read that if you imagine a dog that you love, and yourself petting and loving this dog, then the other dog will sense this feeling coming from you, instead of the fear. So, I would imagine my Dobie, and myself hugging and petting him, and usually, the other strange dog would then let me slowly back away from him and down the sidewalk and out the gate.
    Even though I love dogs, once I was trapped by one, and thought I might be spending the rest of the day cowering on that porch, I am sure that I was also putting out fear when ever one surprised me that way.
    So maybe your friend can try petting her dog profusely, and thinking how much she loves her dog, and it will help her to not be putting out fear for the other dogs.
    It is a really sad thing if she can't enjoy taking her dog out for walks, and maybe just having the security of her husband along will help out.

  8. #8
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    Good thoughts shared there Haopee and Happyflowerlady, thanks. I've never been bitten by a dog myself before, but I was fearful of them at times. I haven't seen that lady for awhile now, but will update if I do.

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