Cynophobia: Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

It’s a fairly common phobia, along with snake and spider phobias.

Cinophobia is the excessive fear of dogs . Cinophobia can interfere with your daily life, as it is more common to find a dog than most other animals.

Those who have this phobia will often barricade themselves in their homes and will often avoid the great outdoors as much as possible to avoid an encounter with a dog.

Cinophobia is one of the most common phobias among those who are afraid of animals.

Studies show that 36% of people seeking treatment for animal phobia have cynophobia.

Although fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) and spiders (arachnophobia) are more prevalent than cynophobia, this phobia is more influential since dogs are family pets.

It can occur with anyone regardless of age, gender, or any other personal attribute.

Since various zoophobias are the most common type of phobia in the world, it is not surprising that a large percentage of the population suffers from cynophobia or fear of dogs.

With the large number of domestic and street dogs around you, this can be a particularly debilitating fear that may seem trivial when misunderstood, but can be quite crippling in reality.

Causes of cynophobia

Like all irrational fears, cynophobia is a protective mechanism created by the unconscious mind.

A cynophobic is generally afraid of being scratched, bitten, or attacked by a dog, but may have no idea where this fear originated.

Often starting in childhood and then continuing into adulthood, this phobia carries serious risks.

Sometimes all they know is that they have been afraid of dogs for as long as they can remember. However, they may have had a terrifying experience with a dog at a young age, but don’t remember it.

Both children and adults can develop cinophobia after being attacked or bitten by a dog, or seeing someone else have a bad experience with a dog.

Also, parents who have a great fear of dogs can sometimes pass this fear on to their children.

On the other hand, early exposure to well-tempered dogs appears to decrease the likelihood that a person will develop cynophobia in adulthood.

Genetic factors have also been associated with the cause of cynophobia. A person may be more vulnerable to cinophobia if they have a family history.

Fear can be inherited for generations, through genes.


The cynophobic individual will exhibit the classic avoidance techniques that most people with phobia employ, doing everything possible to avoid a dog.

That could mean something like crossing a street to avoid passing a dog or something more significant, like refusing to go to someone’s home if they have a pet dog.

If faced with the object of their fear, they may exhibit signs of panic and distress, with trouble breathing, elevated heart rate, nausea, sweating, among others.

People with extreme kinophobia may even begin to avoid leaving their home for fear that they will run into or confront a dog.

They usually develop behaviors such as:

  • Actively avoiding dogs or any area where dogs may be present.
  • Having a constant worry of running into a dog.
  • Panic and anxiety when faced with a dog.

From a health perspective, Cinophobia poses the same threat as many serious phobias – the everyday nature of its trigger means that many Cinophobics could live in a constant state of fear and dread.

This has a long-term cost to the body and especially to the heart. Socially, this phobia can be surprisingly crippling.

Since people love their pets so much, they tend not to sympathize with those who display irrational fear of their beloved animal friend.

They may view the fear of a cynophobic as insulting.

Treatment for cynophobia

With professional help, the fear of dogs can usually be overcome; however, many cynophobics avoid seeking treatment because they are ashamed to fear an animal that so many people love.

If others make fun of them and don’t understand the debilitating nature of phobias, they may be even more reluctant to seek treatment.

For some, the idea of ​​facing their fear of dogs is as scary as dealing with cynophobia. However, overcoming the fear of dogs can be done, and there are several therapeutic options.

The cognitive behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the belief that the way we think about things affects how we feel emotionally.

Rather than focusing on past experiences, cognitive therapy employs problem solving in the present, for example helping someone change the way they think about dogs.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is totally focused on eliminating the negative thoughts and beliefs associated with the fear of dogs.

The therapist develops unique ways of dealing with these thoughts and turning false beliefs into positive thoughts.

In general, fear may not be directly related to dogs as dangerous animals, but to some other incident or factor related to dogs.

Desensitization and relaxation is a therapy that focuses on lowering the fear level of dogs.

In a controlled setting, usually in a therapist’s office, the patient is taught to visualize a frightening situation (such as meeting a dog).

When this no longer produces intense anxiety, exposure to dogs is introduced in a systematic and structured way, while the person concentrates on staying calm.

This exposure could include looking at photos of dogs, watching videos about dogs, seeing a dog through a window, and finally being in the same room with a dog.

The therapist learns how the person shows fear and analyzes the exact reason.

Depending on the nature of the case, the therapist also teaches different forms of relaxation, such as breath control and visualization technique.

The person needs to use the relaxation technique simultaneously with exposure to the circumstance that is feared.

Eventually this leads to desensitization or making the fear numb or weak. The main goal of this therapy is to strengthen tolerance and weaken fear.

In severe cases, hypnosis can also be used as a form of relaxation for the person. Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants can be used to control fear and distress.

Medications cannot be used indefinitely. However, if the case is really serious, the medications can be prolonged.