To any dog owner, the idea of being afraid of dogs is as irrational as being scared of spiders. After all, our cuddly little pooch is just being friendly and wouldn’t hurt a fly. But for some people, the fear of dogs is a very real and frightening thing.
Cynophobia, or the fear of dogs, can be a truly terrifying experience. It is estimated that 9% of the population are phobic of something, and of these 36% are afraid of dogs or cats. That means that around one in thirty people share an irrational fear of something that we all take for granted and welcome into our homes.
The symptoms range from mild discomfort around dogs to panic attacks and severe anxiety, leading to rapid heart rate, sweating, breathlessness, trembling and faintness. Even if the person knows that their fear is irrational, and that they are not at risk from your particular pet, these instinctive responses can still kick in.
What causes Cynophobia?
Experts say that there are three routes to cynophobia: direct, observational and informational. Direct experience involves a personal bad experience with a dog, such as a dog bite or other attack, observational means seeing someone else attacked by a dog, even in films or on TV, and informational means hearing or reading about dog attacks. For example, many people have reacted to the regular news reports of dog attacks on toddlers by becoming fearful of dogs in general or certain breeds, such as Pit Bull Terriers and Rottweilers in particular.
What can be done?
With around a quarter of all UK households owning a dog, and a total of 8.9million dogs in the country, cynophobia can be a real problem for some sufferers. It can severely affect their lives, putting whole areas of their neighbourhood, such as the beach or the park, out of bounds, and can leave them in a constant state of anxiety whenever they leave the house. Severe cases can be treated by talking therapies, such as CBT and NLP, and this can help to reduce the response, but as dog owners, we have a responsibility to help these people too.
Training your dog to behave
If your dog jumps up at someone with cynophobia, simply reassuring them that he’s ‘just being friendly’ or ‘just wants to say hello’ is simply not good enough. Given that one in thirty people you meet on your walk could be cynophobic, you need to have enough control over your animal to stop him from jumping up in the first place. A well behaved, well trained dog, under your clear control, will do wonders when it comes to putting other people at their ease. It may even encourage them to approach you and face their fears, rather than turning and hurrying away.
At A&T Trained Dogs, we can provide dog socialisation training to give you the control you need to be a responsible, considerate dog owner. Together we will help you and your dog to become part of the solution to cynophobia, instead of perpetuating the problem. Talk to us today about dog socialisation training today – your cynophobic friends will thank you for it!