Phobias Types Cynophobia: Fear of Dogs By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 14, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Neti Phunitiphat / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Causes of Cynophobia Symptoms Complications Treatment for Cynophobia Cynophobia, or fear of dogs, is an extremely common specific phobia. Although snake and spider phobias are even more prevalent, the average person is far more likely to encounter dogs in daily life. A phobia of dogs can be devastating, limiting contact with dog-owning friends and relatives, and curtailing normal activities. Causes of Cynophobia Like most animal phobias, fear of dogs is most commonly caused by a negative experience with a dog, especially during childhood. Both children and dogs are naturally curious, and you may have been jumped on by an overexcited puppy or growled at by a large watchdog as you approached a fence. A large dog can make a major impression on a small child, even if no actual attack occurred. The negative experience need not have affected you directly. Many parents warn children about approaching strange dogs. A child's fertile imagination combined with an incomplete or even erroneous understanding of dog behavior could lead to a full-blown phobia of dogs. If a friend or relative was attacked by a dog, or a parent harbored an unhealthy fear, the risk of developing cynophobia is increased. Symptoms Like all phobias, the fear of dogs can vary dramatically in severity from person to person. You might fear only large breeds. You may be uncomfortable around live dogs but be perfectly content to view dogs in photographs or TV shows. Likewise, the symptoms of cynophobia can also vary. Common reactions include: Attempting to hideDisorientationFreezing in terrorNauseaRunning awayShaking You may even begin to cry. Anticipatory anxiety frequently occurs in the days leading up to a known confrontation. Complications Because dogs are so popular as pets and companions, avoiding them can be nearly impossible. You might find yourself limiting contact with dog owners, even to the point of avoiding family gatherings. You may be unable to enjoy outdoor activities such as walking in the park, hiking, or camping since many outdoor enthusiasts bring their dogs. Over time, your normal routine may become extremely restricted as you attempt to prevent any accidental contact with a dog. This increasing isolation can lead to depression and other anxiety disorders. Some people might become more and more unwilling to leave their homes. Treatment for Cynophobia Like all animal phobias, the fear of dogs responds well to treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of treatment that can be effective. Cognitive-behavioral techniques such as systematic desensitization and flooding are designed to help remove the fear and encourage more helpful coping skills. Although these techniques are traditionally performed using live dogs, active-imaginal exposure may be done. If you are given this type of treatment, you will be encouraged to act out positive behaviors such as approaching and petting a dog. Instead of interacting with a live dog, however, you will vividly imagine the dog. If your phobia is severe, medications might be used in conjunction with therapy. Certain medications can significantly reduce your anxiety, allowing you to focus on therapeutic techniques. Although cynophobia can be serious, it is extremely treatable. With a bit of work, there is no reason you must continue to cope with symptoms on your own. How to Face Your Fears Head On 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Taffou M, Viaud-Delmon I. Cynophobic fear adaptively extends peri-personal space. Front Psychiatry. 2014;5:122. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00122 Kozlowska K, Walker P, McLean L, Carrive P. Fear and the defense cascade: clinical implications and management. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2015;23(4):263–287. doi:10.1097/HRP.0000000000000065 Rentz TO, Powers MB, Smits JA, Cougle JR, Telch MJ. Active-imaginal exposure: examination of a new behavioral treatment for cynophobia (dog phobia). Behav Res Ther. 2003 Nov;41(11):1337-1353. Additional Reading American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Fifth edition. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. Jerud AB, Farach FJ, Bedard-Gilligan M, Smith H, Zoellner LA, Feeny NC. Repeated trauma exposure does not impair distress reduction during imaginal exposure for posttraumatic stress disorder. Depress Anxiety. 2017;34(8):671–678. doi:10.1002/da.22582 By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Phobias Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.