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What is Cynophobia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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Cynophobia can be defined as a persistent and often irrational fear of dogs, of other canines, or of rabies, and sometimes all three. Numerous incidents can cause cynophobia to manifest, but most often, childhood trauma connected with a dog is the underlying cause. A toddler that receives a dog bite might suffer as an adult from cynophobia. Sometimes the person who has the condition can’t remember a specific trauma that triggered the fear, and even a mild incident with a dog like watching a scary movie about a dog or about rabies, or just having a large dog approach a small child could trigger the condition.

The condition of cynophobia, which may also be written as kynophobia, can manifest itself in different ways. Some people may feel a degree of mild anxiety in the presence of dogs, or they can have full-blown panic attacks if they come in contact with dogs, or even see them on the television set or in the movie theater. Middle range symptoms, which may be experienced separately or together can include irritation, sweating, rapid heart rate, feelings of anger, trembling, difficulty catching your breath, or nausea. Since the US tends to be a fairly dog friendly world, it’s hard to venture outside your door without seeing the occasional dog, and this can make people with pronounced cynophobia virtual shut-ins, if the fear of encountering a dog causes an excessive panicked reaction.

Moreover, it can be hard for the cynophobic person to have friends who are dog owners, which can make it difficult to establish relationships with others. It’s a difficult fear to overcome, as with most fears, and even if the causes are not rational, which is true of many phobias, it’s a very serious condition to deal with. Given the likelihood of encountering dogs in various circumstances, many people undergo extensive therapy to help address cynophobia.

In some instances therapy may focus on identifying early causes for the fear, though this isn’t always possible. Other therapies work to help by gradually exposing people with the phobia to stimuli (pictures, movies, and then possibly eventual contact with a dog) to help them overcome their fear. Some people with cynophobia are additionally helped with prescriptions of anti-anxiety medications. Yet until the fear is conquered, it may still be hard for people to be around others who have dogs and their relationships can be limited to folks who don’t have dogs.

A number of therapies exist to help people deal with cynophobia and with other phobias. What people should probably be wary of are websites or books that offer quick fixes to the problem. Unless your degree of fear is relatively mild, treatment with a qualified therapist is normally recommended to help you resume a life that is less dominated by this fear.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon944243 — On Apr 06, 2014

I had a nightmare when I was 2 years old about a dog killing me and I still remember it, so now I have this stupid phobia and can't get over it. Now I can't even go outside if I see a dog.

By anon160771 — On Mar 17, 2011

I have this phobia because I was bitten by a dog when I was seven years old and now as a young grown up I have this. It is not fair I have to suffer this! I wish all dogs would disappear and never return.

I will live with this for the rest of my life! I feel very isolated because of them! So yes, I am afraid of dogs and I don't like them at all!

By anon143510 — On Jan 16, 2011

really good information. It really helped me with my project on cynophobia.

By anon126987 — On Nov 14, 2010

I love this website it helps me a lot with different projects. thanks.plus this gave me everything i needed for one of my sources. i appreciate you all. You all make life a lot easier on a 13 year old.

By anon78665 — On Apr 19, 2010

weird. but good info, i need it for a project.

what happens if you actually come in contact with a dog when you have a phobia like that?

By anon76833 — On Apr 12, 2010

i'm very scared of dogs.

By anon76048 — On Apr 08, 2010

it's a weird fear, but i have it.

By anon69441 — On Mar 08, 2010

wow this is a weird phobia (although most are weird).

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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