Fear of dogs: ‘The fear of getting bitten is always in my mind’

Readers’ submissions: ‘I find there’s a lot of ignorance in dog owners’

 

Earlier this week, Gabrielle Cummins wrote in The Irish Times about her 40-year fear of dogs. The powerful piece resonated with many readers, and so we asked for their experiences – how they handled their fear, when and how it began, and were dog owners understanding.

Here are just a few of the submissions.

‘My son recently got a dog and I can’t bring myself to go inside his house’

“I’m a 61-year-old woman with a terrible fear of dogs since I was attacked by two dogs at the age 12. It has impacted on my life so much and other people just don’t get it. It doesn’t matter what size the dog is – once it barks all rational thinking goes out the window. I just think a barking dog is going to attack me.

“I love the outdoors and walking, but this is always fraught with anxiety. I can’t walk past a farmyard as I know there will be a dog . I cross back and forth streets if I see a dog in the distance. My son recently got a dog and I can’t bring myself to go inside his house. And I’m so tired of people saying he/she won’t go near you as their dog who should be on a lead tries to jump all over me.
– Margaret

‘The fear of getting bitten is always in my mind’

“I’ve had a fear of dogs ever since I was bitten by a neighbour’s dog when I was a child. For years I was petrified of dogs, I couldn’t walk past a dog behind a gate or wall without company because of the fear it would jump over and attack me. Once I had to be picked up by my mam just one minute from my house because a neighbour was outside by their gate with their dog who would also run up to people. Dogs of any kind, small or big, terrified me the same way.

“I managed to mostly get over my fear but I still hate when dogs jump on me or start sniffing around me. The fear of getting bitten is always in my mind around dogs. Dog owners are usually understanding with their dogs around me when I tell them I don’t like dogs, but some are just ignorant when their dog, without a leash, jumps on you when out walking. I would like to see dog parks built so dogs do have a space to run off the leash without scaring or bother people with a fear of dogs.”
– David

‘I am always so glad if people ask me to put my dog on a lead’

“As the owner of a very friendly dog, I am always so glad if people ask me to put my dog on a lead if they are scared. I do keep an eye out to see if anyone approaching stops or looks scared and I’ll always put her on the lead. But I can’t always tell, so I am grateful to people who ask.”
– Melanie

‘My sister has every right to enjoy a stress-free walk’

“I am not scared of dogs but I would like to share the story of my younger sister Jenny who is terrified of dogs. Jenny is 44 and has autism and an intellectual disability and lives in residential care in a rural setting. Since a small child Jenny has been terrified of dogs to the extent that she would put herself in danger to get away from a dog. In her mind running out in front of a car to get away from a dog is less harmful than a dog coming near her.

“It doesn’t matter the size or breed of the dog. When she comes home to visit my parents it is hard for them to take her out on a walk given the amount of dogs in parks who are off their leads. She is also anxious in anticipation of going for a walk. Jenny can run fast and will do so in order to run away from a dog especially if it is off it’s lead and it is hard for my elderly parents to catch up with her.

“With establishments now allowing dogs inside (pre pandemic) this means there are less options for my sister and those with fears of dogs to enjoy a coffee or meal somewhere. Myself and my family would ask dog owners and businesses to please be aware of this. We have no issue with guide or working dogs in establishments. For many years people with disabilities have been shut away and my sister has every right to enjoy a stress-free walk in the park or a coffee and cake somewhere. Please keep your dogs on leads, as it’s not only the law, but it allows people like my sister the same enjoyment of a walk as everyone else.”
– Ruth

‘Sure he wouldn’t hurt a fly’

“A fear of dogs is not irrational! Dog owners are generally inconsiderate and rude. Dog poo, dog barking, dogs jumping up on you, dogs nipping at hands, dogs scaring small children . . . these are all unpleasant. But the average dog owner laughs and responds, ‘sure he wouldn’t hurt a fly’. Which is generally what they also say when a dog has savaged someone.”
– Aidan

‘I find there’s a lot of ignorance in dog owners’

“I’ve had a fear of dogs since I was little. I lived in an estate where people were training greyhounds, and would regularly let them out unsupervised, to the point where none of us kids could go out and play at certain times as the dogs would go for you. Couple this with having my head split open by an overeager dog belonging to my cousin, and breaking an arm after a stranger’s dog decided to jump on me while I was on top of a high platform, and I’ve developed a fear of dogs.

“In general, I’ve gotten better, and mostly just experience a strong discomfort around dogs, though I will freeze when confronted with dogs barking up at me. My friends that have dogs are all extremely understanding of this and do their best to accommodate me, so I’m happy with that, but I find there’s a lot of ignorance in dog owners that not everyone is into dogs like they are.

“The best example of this I can think of is from when my sister was a baby and a man walking his dog let the dog right up into her face in the buggy. My sister started crying and he still kept the dog there, even when my mother had asked him to take it away, insisting that, ‘oh, he’s just curious, there’s nothing to worry about’. It was only when my mother finally got angry with him that he decided to leave, and even then, he acted as though my mother was being ungrateful to him. This type of behaviour puts me off dogs more than dogs themselves nowadays.”
– Tom

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