Cynophobia (Fear Of Dogs)

Meta Description: Cynophobia refers to the intense fear of dogs and can cause individuals to have an extreme reaction if they come into contact with a canine.

Intro Sentence: Cynophobia (fear of dogs) is a common phobia and is often caused by a prior negative experience, such as being bitten by a dog.

What is Cynophobia?

Cynophobia (fear of dogs) is one of the most common phobias but it affects people in very different ways. Some people with Cynophobia may be scared of all dogs, in any situation, whereas other people may be frightened of dogs they are unfamiliar with.

Although Cynophobia is characterized by a fear of dogs, the condition is more serious than a simple fear. People with phobias, such as Cynophobia, have an irrational and exaggerated fear of a particular stimulus. In this case, people with Cynophobia are likely to feel intense fear if presented with dogs, even if the canines pose no real threat to them.

If a non-aggressive dog is secured in a garden, for example, people with a dislike or slight fear of dogs are not likely to exhibit any particular reaction. Someone with Cynophobia, however, is still likely to experience intense fear, despite not being in any danger.

For people with severe Cynophobia, the mere thought of dogs can be enough to trigger a panic response and they may struggle to engage in conversation about dogs or view pictures or videos of the animals.

What are the symptoms of Cynophobia?

Cynophobia is defined as the intense and on-going fear of dogs. In reality, individuals with Cynophobia may go to extreme lengths to avoid dogs. They may refuse to visit the homes of acquaintances in case that person has a dog, for example. Alternatively, people with Cynophobia may refuse to walk in parks, open spaces or in residential areas, in case they come into contact with a dog of any kind.

As many people own dogs, people with Cynophobia can live a very isolated life. If their fear continues to grow, they are likely to avoid any situation in which a dog could be present. Whilst dog parks and open spaces may be obvious places to avoid for a person with Cynophobia, individuals may also avoid public spaces, sidewalks and even restaurants, bars and shops if they fear coming into contact with a service dog.

People with Cynophobia have different triggers. Individuals with a relatively mild phobia may be able to see pictures of dogs without experiencing increased anxiety, whilst other people may begin to panic the moment they begin thinking of canines.

Once the person’s fear has been triggered, their phobic response will cause a sudden increase in their anxiety levels. As well as being psychologically distressing, this response causes a variety of physical symptoms, including:

• Difficulty breathing
• Choking sensation
• Sweating
• Tightness of the chest
• Shaking
• Nausea
• Trembling
• Feelings of weakness or faintness
• Dizziness
• Lightheadedness
• Vomiting

In addition to this, people may experience feelings of panic, despair and terror when their phobic response is triggered. Due to the severity of their fear, people with Cynophobia may begin to fear the panic response caused by exposure to dogs and engage in further avoidance behavior.

What causes Cynophobia?

There are many forms of specific phobias and people can be intensely scared of almost any object. Although inanimate objects, such as buttons or mirrors, may not routinely pose a risk to individuals, their fear is completely real to them. With dogs, however, there can be a risk of genuine injury occurring and this is what often causes an individual to develop Cynophobia.

Some of the most common causes of this phobia include:

• Previous injury caused by a dog
• Witnessing a traumatic incident involving a dog
• Learned behavior

If someone is bitten by a dog, it’s not unusual for them to develop a fear of the animal. Indeed, dog bites can cause serious injuries and may be fatal in some cases. Whilst it’s understandable that someone who has been bitten will want to avoid dogs in the future, patients with Cynophobia have an exaggerated fear of canines.

For example, their uncontrollable fear may result in them obsessing over the possibility of encountering a dog, rather than simply taking rational steps to avoid them in the future.

If an individual has been bitten by an aggressive dog and they go on to develop Cynophobia, it’s only fairly clear where their phobia has originated. However, friendly, non-aggressive dogs can also cause injuries which may result in Cynophobia.

Often, over-friendly dogs bound over to people and may jump up at them. Although the dog does not intend to cause harm, this action could knock someone over or injure them in some way. This is particularly common in children and young people. Whilst the dog may be attempting to play, they can easily knock a child or young person down and this can instill a long-term fear in the person who has been affected.

Similarly, witnessing a traumatic event involving a canine can cause Cynophobia in later life. If a person sees someone else being bitten, is exposed to a dog fight or witnesses dogs behaving in an uncontrolled manner, their fear may result in Cynophobia occurring.

Alternatively, people can develop phobias due to learned behavior. If they are routinely around someone who is afraid of dogs, they may learn to be afraid too and this can cause Cynophobia to develop. If a parent is scared of dogs, for example, they may pass their fear on to their child. Similarly, if a caregiver avoids dogs or animals, a child may pick up on this behavior and mirror the caregiver’s actions, possibly leading to Cynophobia.

How is Cynophobia treated?

If patients with Cynophobia seek help, their condition can often be treated successfully. It’s estimated, however, that only 15-30% of people with specific phobias obtain professional help for their condition. In some cases, the thought of obtaining help for their phobia is enough to trigger the patient’s fear response, thus leading to a cycle of fear and avoidance.

When patients with Cynophobia do seek treatment, the following forms of therapy are often used:

• Systematic desensitization therapy
• Exposure therapy
• Hypnotherapy

When engaging in systematic desensitization therapy, patients are taught calming techniques and asked to visualize potentially scary scenarios, such as being near to a dog. By using calming techniques in the safety of a therapist’s office, patients often feel more able to visualize themselves in a potentially frightening situation. Once the patient becomes accustomed to doing this, they are able to visualize positive scenarios involving dogs and can incorporate calming techniques in real-life situations.

Exposure therapy involves the gradual exposure of the patient to their feared object, in this case, dogs. Treatment focuses on exposing the patient to a dog but this happens gradually and may begin with the individual talking about dogs, viewing pictures of dogs or simply thinking about dogs.

Although hypnotherapy is often considered to be an alternative or complementary form of therapy, it has been shown to be successful in the treatment of phobias. As our fear resides in our subconscious mind, rather than our conscious mind, proponents of hypnotherapy maintain that we need to access our subconscious in order to reduce the fear.

By helping patients achieve a state of trance, hypnotherapists encourage the individual to build their confidence, reduce their fear of dogs and identify the original cause of their phobia. If the patient is unaware why they are afraid of dogs, this can be particularly helpful in eliminating their fears.

As Cynophobia can have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life, treatment is highly recommended. Often conducted over a period of weeks or months, these therapies can be carried out at the patient’s own pace in order to effectively reduce their fear, without overwhelming the individual.

Preventing Cynophobia (fear of dogs)

It may not always be possible to avoid Cynophobia but steps can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the condition. If parents are fearful of dogs, for example, they can intentionally avoid passing this fear on to their child by not showing fear or discomfort whilst in their presence.

In addition to this, parents may want to allow their child to interact with a friendly and calm dog in a safe setting. This enables the child to become familiar with dogs and view them in a positive light. Similarly, parents and caregivers may wish to teach children and young people how to respond to a boisterous or lively dog, so that they do not respond in fear.

Taking these steps can encourage other people to develop a healthy outlook in relation to dogs and can prevent them from developing Cynophobia at a later stage in their life.


Fear of Dogs Phobia – Cynophobia

Last Reviewed:
June 22, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018