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Anna, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 29 years in addictions and mental health.
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My neice has a fear of dogs since my toy poodle launched at

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My neice has a fear of dogs since my toy poodle launched at her when she was younger. How do you think that I can suggest to her parents that avoiding dogs will only confirm her fears and that I suggest that they take her to a therapist at my expense?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Anna replied 7 years ago.
Fear of dogs is quite the different phobia problem to solve, and it goes into a category with flying that seem to really polarize people when its discussed.

Normally to get over a phobia, controlled exposure with coaching does well. The person builds new memories in their brain, which gives the old one some competition and therefor, the person now has some choices they can make. Over time, if the new experiences continue, the fear response decreases.

That said....every dog is different, and when you're trying to convice a person to get over a dog fear, their mind goes to that. They've seen hundreds of good dogs in their's just that one unpredictable one that they're constantly on the watch for. It evokes a powerful fight or flight response in people because dog attacks can be lethal.

Talking to her parents about it straight up is going to be the way to go. Just say what you said here. No amount of fluff is going to change their gut reaction if they're not ready to push her through the fear, because that's what it would take. No one wants to see their child terrified, and you niece facing her dog fears is going to terrify her at first.

So, my advice is to put your offer up on the table and keep it there. Bring it up every so often, but understand that you cannot control how someone parents their child....and we all want to do that at times! When you talk to your niece, calmly tell her that dogs can be fun. Most people get over the dog fear as they age and reason can overcome fantasy in their heads.

I do commend you for trying to help them and your offer is a very kind one. Good for you!

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