As far as Zoophobia (fear of animals) is concerned, the fear of dogs or Cynophobia is not as common as the fear of snakes or spiders. However, it is important to note that people who fear dogs are also highly likely to encounter them in their day to day lives. This makes the phobic avoid all kinds of situations involving dogs. As a result, his/her social, familial or occupational activities can be negatively impacted.
Causes of fear of dogs
The fear of dogs is known to be quite common owing to the historic association between dogs and wolves. As a result, most Cynophobics generally fear large and vicious looking dogs, though, in extreme cases, one might even fear small or aggressive puppies.
In reality, dogs are considered loyal and faithful companions that are capable of forming close ties with humans. However, to a phobic, owing to a prior bad experience with dogs, all canines appear dangerous or evil.
Parents might unknowingly instill a fear of dogs in their child by warning them against petting or approaching dogs. Thus, the negative experience one has had with a dog in the past might not necessarily be a direct one: having watched a sibling or a close friend getting attacked or barked at by a dog can also sometimes result in an excessive fear of dogs.
Cynophobic individuals are often afraid of the bark or the growling sound made by dogs rather than just their bites.
Symptoms of Cynophobia
As with most other phobias, Cynophobia can cause the sufferers to feel terribly anxious and frightened. This can lead to different physical and psychological symptoms such as:
- Dizziness and feeling faint, disoriented
- Excess sweating
- Shaking and trembling
- Nausea and gastrointestinal distress
- Dry mouth, feeling of choking or difficulty in swallowing
- Running away
- Having thoughts of dying
- Feeling like losing control or going crazy
- Inability to distinguish between reality and unreality
- Trying to avoid situations which bring confrontation with a dog
These symptoms might be present days before an actual confrontation with a dog and the individual might go to great lengths to avoid it.
Diagnosis and treatment of Cynophobia
Many people are afraid of dogs; hence diagnosis of Cynophobia includes determining if the fear is persistent or triggers an immediate anxiety response. To be categorized as Cynophobia, one’s fear of dogs would also be required to interfere with social, familial or occupational activities.
Therapy and self help techniques can be used for treating Cynophobia.
- The most popular and effective technique for treating phobias is the systematic desensitization technique developed by Joseph Wolpe in 1958. It involves having the patient imagine being in the same room with a dog while employing specific breathing and relaxation techniques to reduce one’s anxiety.
- In-vivo or exposure therapy can also help one get rid of one’s fear of dogs. This therapy involves a prolonged exposure to a dog until the patient can have a normal response to the animal.
- Exposure therapy can also be utilized in the form of self-help technique wherein the patient gradually exposes himself to canines, looks at photos, and progresses gradually to petting a dog etc. This type of gradual exposure can help one realize that his/her fears are unfounded.
We hope this brief guide will help you understand your fear of dogs in order to deal with it better and overcome the anxiety experienced.