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Fear of Dogs

The fear of dogs, known as cynophobia, is a specific phobia, under the subtype ‘’animal phobia’’, characterized by an intense and irrational fear or anxiety when encountering dogs.

What is Fear of Dogs?

The fear of dogs, known as cynophobia, is a specific phobia, under the subtype ‘’animal phobia’’, characterized by an intense and irrational fear or anxiety when encountering dogs. As with other specific phobias, patients with cynophobia may display a wide range of these reactions when confronted with a live dog or even when thinking about or presented with an image (static or filmed) of a dog. This fear can range from mild discomfort to severe panic attacks, and it often stems from negative experiences, such as a past dog bite or an early childhood trauma.

Cynophobia can also be influenced by cultural factors, societal perceptions, or learned behaviors. Individuals with this phobia may exhibit avoidance behaviors, such as crossing the street to avoid a dog or refusing to visit places where dogs may be present. It can significantly impact daily life, restricting individuals from engaging in activities or going to places where dogs may be present.

Treatment for Fear of Dogs

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) offers a highly effective and evidence-based approach for treating fear of dogs, also known as cynophobia. At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists are trained to work with individuals experiencing fear of dogs to address their specific concerns and symptoms.

Through CBT techniques such as exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and relaxation training, clients gradually confront fears in a safe and controlled environment, learn to challenge and reframe negative thoughts and beliefs about dogs, and develop coping strategies to manage anxiety symptoms.

Our therapists provide a supportive and collaborative environment where clients can gain confidence in their ability to cope with dogs, and ultimately overcome their fear to live more fulfilling and anxiety-free lives.


Medication can be a helpful adjunct to therapy in the treatment of fear of dogs, particularly for individuals with severe symptoms or co-occurring conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder.

At Light On Anxiety, our team of psychiatric providers collaborates closely with clients to assess their unique needs and develop personalized medication regimens. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac), are commonly prescribed to reduce anxiety symptoms and improve mood stability, which can help individuals better manage their fear of dogs.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with clients to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms while minimizing side effects.

Integrating CBT + Medication

At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that combine evidence-based therapy with medication management to address both the psychological and physiological aspects of dog phobia. Our therapists and psychiatric providers collaborate closely to tailor treatment plans to each individual’s needs and preferences.

  • CBT helps individuals develop coping skills and address underlying cognitive and behavioral patterns contributing to their fear of dogs,.
  • Medication can provide additional support by reducing anxiety symptoms and enhancing the effectiveness of therapy.

Our approach involves a careful integration of CBT and medication, depending on patient preferences and clinical needs, to address both the biological and psychological aspects of fear of dogs.

  1. Collaborative Treatment Planning: Our experienced team works collaboratively to create an individualized treatment plan that assists you in meeting your treatment goals as effectively and rapidly as possible.  
  2. Patient Empowerment: We believe in empowering you with comprehensive information about fear of dogs treatment options, allowing you to make informed decisions about your treatment journey. 
  3. Monitoring Progress: Regular monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan are made based on your response and progress. This ensures you are obtaining maximum benefits from the time and energy you are putting into the fear of dogs treatment process.  
  4. Ongoing Support:  We offer ongoing support and adjustments to your treatment plan as needed, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized approach to your path to healing.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Fear of Dogs 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Fear of Dogs?

The symptoms of dog phobia, or cynophobia, can vary in intensity and may manifest both emotionally and physically. Common symptoms include:

  • A strong and irrational fear when encountering or even thinking about dogs.
  • Actively avoiding places or situations where dogs may be present, leading to changes in daily routines.
  • Physical manifestations of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, or feeling lightheaded.
  • Negative and catastrophic thoughts about potential dangers or harm associated with dogs.
  • Reacting with excessive fear or panic that is disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the dog.
  • Difficulty concentrating or performing everyday tasks when the fear of encountering a dog is present.
  • Rapid onset of anxiety symptoms when exposed to dog-related stimuli.
  • Experiencing anxiety symptoms merely from seeing images of dogs, hearing barking sounds, or thinking about dogs.
  • Avoiding social situations where dogs may be present, limiting engagement with friends or family who have dogs.
  • Significant interference with daily activities, causing distress and impairment in personal, social, or occupational functioning.

FAQs about Fear of Dogs

The fear of dogs, known as cynophobia, is typically classified as a specific phobia rather than generalized anxiety. A specific phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or animal, and it often leads to avoidance behavior to minimize distress.

Dealing with a child’s fear of dogs involves a patient and gradual approach. Start by providing information about dogs in a positive light, emphasizing their friendly nature. Allow the child to observe dogs from a distance before introducing direct interaction. Encourage them to ask questions and express their feelings. When introducing a dog, choose a calm and well-behaved one, ensuring a controlled and positive environment. Let the child initiate interactions at their pace, offering reassurance and praise for any positive interactions. Consistent exposure to friendly dogs in a controlled manner, coupled with patient support, can help the child gradually overcome their fear and build a more positive perception of dogs.

The fear of dogs is also known as cynophobia.

A fear of dogs can stem from various factors, including past negative experiences like a dog bite or early childhood trauma. Cultural influences, learned behaviors, or exposure to aggressive or intimidating dogs can also contribute to the development of this fear.

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