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Friday, August 14, 2020

Cynophobia: The Fear of Dogs

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Do you hate dogs, or do you just find yourself in a state of panic whenever you see a dog or think of one? If this describes you, then you probably are dealing with a phobia called cynophobia.

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The word cynophobia stems from two Greek words, “Cyno,” which means dog and “phobia,” which means fear. A person dealing with cynophobia experiences an intense fear of a dog that is not only irrational but persistent.

The fear is not only triggered when the person sees a dog or Hears a dog barking the sort of dogs, or even the sight of them on television could trigger the phobia. The phobia for dogs may interfere with daily life and also cause symptoms such as dizziness headaches, and sometimes fainting.

Cynophobia is a specific phobia, and studies haven’t that specific phobias effects between 7 to 9% of the world’s population. Specific phobias are common enough that they have been formally recognized in the diagnostics and statistical manual of mental disorders 5th edition (DSM-5).

As for xenophobia being a specific phobia, it falls under the animal specifier. About a third of individuals who seek help for particular phobias have an irrational fear of either cats or dogs.

Symptoms of Cynophobia

According to researchers, there are an estimated 62,400,000 dogs living in the United States of America. This means that you have a very high chance of running into at least one dog on a daily basis.

With cynophobia you may deal with symptoms that make you feel uncomfortable when you think about dogs or when you are around dogs.

The symptoms that are associated with cynophobia and specific phobias are usually very individual. What this means is that no two individuals may experience the fear of dogs or whatever for barely have in the same way.

The symptoms you experience may be emotional physical or even both.

Physical symptoms of cynophobia include:

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  • Shaking or trembling
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Pain or tightness in your chest
  • Hot or cold flashes

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Loss of control
  • Feeling you may pass out or die
  • Panic or anxiety attacks
  • Feeling powerless over your fear
  • An intense need to escape situations that trigger fear
  • The detached feeling from self

Children also have specific symptoms. When exposed to the thing or animal, the child fears they may:

  • Cling to their caregiver
  • Have a tantrum
  • Cry
  • For instance, a child may refuse to leave the side of a caregiver when a dog is around.

Risk factors

You may or may not be able to trace precisely when your fear began, or what triggered it in the first place. You may develop the intense fear for dogs after an attack, or it may gradually build up over time.

Also, certain predispositions or situations like genetics may increase your risk of dealing with cynophobia.

Specific risk factors may include;

Experience: Have you ever had a bad experience with a dog that may be in your childhood or even as a grown-up? Perhaps you were attacked or chased by a dog or even beaten by one. Such traumatic situations can put you at risk of having a cynophobia.

Age: Phobias can affect both adults and children. In some cases, people may develop specific phobias by age 10. They can begin later in life as well.

  • Genetics: If you have a close relative that is dealing with anxiety or phobia, you are also likely to develop the same irrational fear. There are cases where it is inherited genetically or can become learned over time.
  • Disposition: You may stand a higher risk of developing specific or any other phobias if you have a more sensitive temperament.
  • Information: You may also be at risk for developing cynophobia if you have been exposed to negative information about being around dogs. For instance, if you have read about a dog attack, you may likely develop a phobia in response to the information you heard.


To get a formal diagnosis for a specific phobia such as cynophobia, you need to have experienced the symptoms for at least six months or longer.

If you have noticed that your phobia for dogs is beginning to affect your daily life, you may consider keeping a personal journal that will be shared with your doctor.

Ask yourself:

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  • Do I anticipate situations in which I will be around dogs excessively?
  • Do I have a panic attack or immediately feel fear while I’m around dogs, see dogs on TV, or think about being around dogs?
  • Do I recognize that my intense fear of dogs is irrational and severe?
  • Do I avoid all situations in which I am likely to encounter dogs?

If your answer to these questions is yes, you may fit the diagnostic criteria set by the DSM-5 for all specific phobias. Your doctor can help.

Once you book an appointment with your doctor, he will likely ask you questions about the symptoms you’re dealing with, as well as questions about your social and psychiatric history.


Not all phobias, whether specific or not, require treatment by your doctor. When your fear for dogs becomes so intense that you stay away from parks or other situations where you will likely encounter dogs, there is an available range of options.

Treatment for specific phobias include things like therapy or the use of certain medications.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an incredibly useful treatment option for specific phobias. Some individuals with specific phobias report results in as little as 1 to 4 sessions with their therapist.

Exposure therapy is a type of CBT where those with a phobia are made to face fears head-on.

While some people may benefit from trying in vivo exposure therapy or being in the same place as dogs in real life, others may enjoy a similar benefit from what is called active imaginal exposure (AIE), or imagining themselves playing or even performing tasks with a dog.

In a study carried out in 2003, 82 people who had cynophobia went through either imaginal exposure or in vivo therapies.

Some people were asked to try treatment where they were made to interact with dogs on leashes, while others were asked to imagine doing different activities or tasks with dogs while acting them out.

All of the participants showed significant improvement after the exposure therapy, whether imagined or real. The rate of improvement for in vivo therapy were recorded at 73.1 percent. The rate of improvement for AIE therapy was recorded at 62.1 percent.

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The researchers concluded that AIE is an excellent alternative to in vivo therapy.


Psychotherapy is a generally useful method for the treatment of specific phobias such as cynophobia. For cases that are more severe, medications are an option that may be combined with therapy or used short-term if there is a situation where you have to be around dogs.

Types of medications for the treatment of phobias may include;

  • Beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are a kind of medication used to block adrenaline from triggering symptoms such as racing pulse, shaking, or elevated blood pressure.
  • Sedatives. These drugs work together to reduce anxiety so that you may relax in situations that cause fear.


If your case of cynophobia is mild, then you may benefit from many lifestyle choices that can help to alleviate symptoms that are triggered by your fears. Try a range of relaxation techniques if you feel anxious, like practicing yoga or engaging in deep breathing exercises.

Regular exercise has also been found to be another useful tool that may help people dealing with phobias better in the long term. For more severe cases, see your medical doctor immediately.

Treatments such as behavioral therapy are usually more effective the sooner you begin. Without any treatment, phobias may trigger more severe complications, such as substance abuse, mood disorders, or even suicide.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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