• Liam Tracey

Living with Cynophobia

Updated: Oct 7

First of all, let’s be clear about what cynophobia actually is - the fear of dogs. The crippling discomfort of being in the presence of the furry four legged creatures which partner up with humans in all different shapes, sizes and appearances. This seemingly oddly named phobia actually comes from the Greek word cyno, which means dog. 


To many people, this fear may not make sense, particularly when we can all be reduced to an “aww” at the sight of a puppy. But it is very real and more common than you would expect. For our neighbors across the Tasman, it is actually one of the top 5 phobias, with one in twenty sharing their feelings of distress towards dogs.


From beagles to border terriers, and all the breeds in between, many believe that the mantra that dogs are a man’s best friend is true for us all. That expectation is far from the truth. So what is it in particular that brings about such doggy dread? This will vary from person to person, but for many the size of the dog isn’t a factor. Dogs are (for the most part) trained to behave and act in specific ways; however there remains an unpredictability in what they may do next. They are quick, intelligent and often more in tune with human emotions and behaviours than we are ourselves. Therefore, their behaviours will often respond to what is happening around them. So if you are in the presence of a dog and demonstrate fearful behaviours, they will recognise and often focus on that, leading to a downward spiral of experience. 


While there are no definitive answers as to why cynophobia takes hold, there are a combination of possibilities based on individual experiences which lead to levels of crippling canine fear. A common reason is a traumatic experience with a dog in the past; being exposed to negative or frightening information about dogs, such as attacks; or even a more sensitive disposition. Another factor may be a genetic one, where a family member may have a fear of dogs which increases the likelihood of others developing similar feelings. Each or any of these may take hold suddenly, but they can also develop gradually, leading to a phobia which can arise at any age. Think you might have Cynophobia? Take the free Cynophobia test and receive a free customised report with actionable tips for your severity level.


In its most severe cases, cynophobia can be debilitating, with feelings of fright and fear, and an overriding sense that your life may be in danger. For many, this is the breaking point, where instinct will kick in and the desire to get as far away from the dog as possible is the only focus they might have. 


Other symptoms that may be present may be a racing heart rate, trembling, dizziness and profuse sweating. There is even a risk of difficulty breathing and panic attacks, so this is not a fear which should be readily judged by others. Each of these would cause anyone to feel a degree of discomfort, at least, but for those suffering from cynophobia, they can be a nearly daily occurrence. 


Some fairly significant misconceptions exist about those who live with a fear of dogs. When dog owners are met by a cynophobia sufferer, they are quick to assume that they hate dogs; this is not the case. Having a fear of dogs and not liking dogs is not the same thing, and many sufferers will gladly explain that to those who will listen. Then there is the consideration that their dog shouldn’t be feared “because they don’t bite”. This statement will do little to allay the concerns, as mentioned previously, which vary from their unpredictability to their mere presence and proximity. Those with cynophobia will, for the most part, be keen to share the specifics which are true for them, if they know they will be met about a supportive ear.


Living with cynophobia can be challenging, but it can also be a positive reality. It is possible to minimise the effects of cynophobia, it is possible to rid the phobia from your life, with support and guidance it is possible to begin to feel more at ease around our canine counterparts. So if learning more about the work that Ovrcome is doing around cynophobia is of interest to you, why not reach out using the Contact Us section of the website.


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