Picture this: While walking down the sidewalk, you see a dog on a leash coming your way. Are you quick to cross the street?
If a stray dog in your neighborhood approaches you, do you completely lose your nerve, start shaking, or sweating?
If you have a serious, unshakeable fear of dogs, you may suffer from cynophobia.
Do you want to be able to pet a friendly dog or even own a dog in the future? Or are you simply hoping to act clam and composed in social situations where dogs are present?
The first step to help alleviate your fear of dogs is to understand why you have it and where cynophobia comes from. We hope to help you with the basics, read on.
What Is the Fear of Dogs?
There are several “fear of animals” that top the list for most common. The fear of bugs, snakes, and the granddaddy of all animal fears: the fear of spiders. The fear of dogs, who of course are supposed to be man’s best friend, would not figure to be on this list. With over 60 million dogs in the U.S. alone, you can see where this phobia may become almost impossible to ignore.
Most people suffering from cynophobia fear large aggressive-type dogs such as Dobermans , German shepherds, or pit bulls. Some however shiver at the site of puppies or even fluffy poodles. This level of fear is rare but still occurs.
Origins of the Fear of Dogs
Now, of course it is natural to be cautious or afraid of a growling, snarling, aggressive canines. But somewhere in the past it was instilled in your psyche that all dogs are a danger or will rear up and bite you without warning. This may have been simple well-meant words from your parents, or maybe you had a serious incident in your younger days involving a dog which is imprinted in your memory.
Another potential cause could be witnessing another person being attacked by a dog. This could be your trigger for a lifetime of fear.
For the most, domesticated dogs are friendly, loyal companions that deserve simple respect. There is no need for deep rooted fear.
Symptoms of Cynophobia
Some of the Most Common Physical Symptoms
- Shaking uncontrollably
- Dry mouth, hard to swallow
- Screaming and crying
- Uncontrollable urge or need to run away
- In serious cases, fainting or dizziness
Mental or Psychological Symptoms
- Thoughts of dread
- Seeing an incident completely out of proportion, exaggeration
- Lying or misleading to avoid any contact with dogs
- Loss of control in your mind
People suffering from cynophobia may exhibit these symptoms, among others, when coming into contact with dogs or even at the thought of dealing with dogs. If the simple notion of interacting with a dog causes any of these symptoms, it may be time for self- or professional help as serious irrational fears can cause other related issues.
Do you suffer from the fear of dogs or cynophobia? These questions may help you understand your fear:
- If I know there will be a dog around, do I aggressively try to alter the plans?
- Do I completely avoid any potential situations where dogs may be present?
- Do I jump and run at the site of even a small or lap-size dog?
- Is a severe panic attack possible when dogs are present?
Help for Cynophobia
Standard phobia treatment plans can help with the fear of dogs.
- Vivo exposure therapy, which is a type of CBT that uses exposure to the triggers. This may seem counterintuitive, but results have been positive.
- CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy may be the key, and you may have success in only a few sessions.
- Psychotherapy with medications such as beta blockers, or in severe cases, sedatives. This process is to be carried out by a licensed mental health professional only.
- Practice meditation or breathing exercises to help control the anxiety that occurs due to dog contact.
- Learn more about dogs, and how useful and loving they can be. Use rationality to help ease your fear.
- A big self-help step may be to visit an animal shelter and slowly ease your way into interacting with dogs.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand that man’s best friend could someday be your best friend as well.