Cynophobia: Fear of Dogs

Cynophobia, also known as fear of dogs, is a common animal phobia along with the fear of cats, snakes and spiders. Fear of canines may be rooted in a past incident or an observational experience that may have created a great impact on the person suffering from the phobia.

Signs of Cynophobia

When exposed to dogs, people with cynophobia may:

  • Express dread
  • Scream
  • Have a panic attack, lasting for up to 5 minutes
  • Have heart murmur
  • Sweat excessively
  • Tremble
  • Faint due to a lack of oxygen in the brain, caused by excessive fear
  • Have nausea and dry mouth
  • Gasp for air
  • Try to run away or hide in a safe place

Adults may recognize that their fear is exaggerated, but they still cannot control it. Children can often develop anxiety that may last for up to 6 months.

A person with a fear of dogs will avoid places where dogs may be, such as parks, or they'll cross the street to avoid a dog. In severe cases of cynophobia, the person will even stay away from looking at an image or footage that displays dogs.

Occurrence of Cynophobia

The fear of dogs is not an innate phobia. Cynophobia can occur in early childhood, triggered by an aggressive episode that involves a dog. This could be a film, story or a real event that has greatly influenced the child. The person suffering from cynophobia might have been bitten or heard a story involving aggressive dogs, or they might have witnessed one. There are cases when the phobia occurs later, when the patient is in her 20s.

Gender of Cynophobia Subjects

Research has revealed that females are more likely to suffer from an irrational fear of dogs. This may be due to the fact that women are more sensitive and develop more fears than men.

Treating Fear of Dogs

As any phobia, the fear of dogs may be treated through therapy. Avoidance is not recommended as a treatment, as it perpetuates the phobia.

There are two main types of therapy:

  • Desensitization therapy. This technique will employ relaxation methods that are applied when the patient imagines a threatening scenario involving a dog. Depending on the level of anxiety created by dogs, the fear of dogs may be reduced in up to 9 months of weekly sessions. Sessions should be continued until the imagined scenario causes no anxiety at all. However, this may not guarantee that the fear won’t occur when the patient meets a live dog.
  • Exposure therapy. This has shown effective results in reducing fear of dogs. This method will involve the patient confronting a live dog. The exposure is short in the beginning, and the duration is gradually increased as the patient gets used to seeing a dog. In the end, the patient is asked to interact with the dog.

Cynophobia is a serious problem that can be treated with exposure therapy. People with a fear of dogs may even get a pet, once the phobia is gone.