Cynophobia Phobia of Dogs

Cynophobia of fear / Phobia of Dogs

Phobias of dogs do occasionally share characteristics with fear of snakes or spiders. Dogs can be violent and dangerous, so it is usually about how the fear is calibrated, from caution through to terror depending on the reality of the situation. It is truly a phobia (or irrational fear) when there is no realistic danger, but extreme fear persists.

Typical reasons for fear of dogs

There can be a primal fear of the predator, and dogs are after all related to wolves, and are potential pack hunters. People also tend to report being more afraid of large dogs, fierce looking dogs and black dogs, all of which are popular dangerous creatures in myth and mythology, and are therefore socially constructed threats.  Certain faiths and ethnicites also have prohibitions about dogs being unclean, which can also strengthen fear responses.  Of course there can also be incidents like being knocked over as a small child or having actually being bitten or attacked.

Unlike with spiders and snakes, it is actually more common for some level of dog attack to occur, or perhaps to be barked at, growled or otherwise threatened by a dog’s behaviour.

How fear of dogs presents

Because dogs are such common animals, a strong phobia can cause real problems around travel, environments and relationships. Usually the fear presents with certain dogs, such as large black dogs, but sometimes it can be more globalised.

Treatment of Dog Phobia

As with most phobias, treatment is around cognition, behaviour and remaining calm. NICE recommend cognitive behavioural psychological therapies for most anxiety related issues since the cognitive part modifies how we perceive things (such as scary or not), behaviour modifies what we do (which can be unhelpful and make it worse), and remaining relaxed may sound obvious but is based in brain chemistry and use. Once we are anxious the frontal lobes where reasoning occurs are reduced in effectiveness, while the fear centre at the rear of the brain goes into overdrive. Meanwhile adrenaline and cortisol flood through the brain and the whole body normally goes into fight and flight mode.  These physiological changes do not only reflect the need to run or combat, they also trap us in that mode of perception and behaviour. Using mindfulness based methods such as those in MBSR helps the sufferer to take back control and halt the panic attack and resultant panicked thinking.

In addition to mindfulness and CBT based methods, hypnotherapy can be used in a variety of ways, including as a cognitive behavioural tool, and as a means of visualisation.

Treatment Options and Outcomes

There are no “quick fixes” for real phobias. Some of the rapid fixes pedalled around the internet can help with very mild fears, but real phobias need a treatment programme that changes both perception and behaviour, teaches the sufferer how to maintain calm, and integrates the changes back into real life, testing and measuring results between sessions. Thus a series of sessions is needed to ensure real, lasting and measurable change.

Key Words
Cynophobia, phobia of dogs, fear of dogs, dog phobia, scared of dogs, fearful of dogs, anxiety response, panic attack, anxiety disorder, mindfulness, MBSR, hypnotherapy, hypnosis, psychotherapy, CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Midlothian, Stirlingshire, Scotland

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