This article is my personal experience with cynophobia.
I have two dogs, a Labrador and a pug. I like my pets more than most humans. They might not have an expansive wardrobe or elaborate birthday parties, but they hold a very important place in my life. I know when they look at me with those eyes — Come on! How could I resist those expressions! Yes! I would do anything for my sweet pals. Protect my best friends from anything unpredictable. I and my two lovely dear dogs have our dream world, and we are happy in each other’s company.
So it is pretty obvious now how much I love my pets. As a dog walker whenever you come across those people, who would usually start conversation with you with typical curious questions like, “what are their names,” “how old are they,” “are they friendly,” etc., aren’t you happy and pleased?
So far so good! Being a pet-owner is also a challenge and sometimes it can be pretty embarrassing, especially when you reside in a gated housing society in India with around 200 flats there. Unlike the dog-lovers mentioned above, gait and mannerism of some residents clearly conveys you that they are not happy in the company of your loved fluffy puppies. Some just overreact even when your pet is leashed and at a far safer distance from them. At times it goes notch worse when one of them goes on to complain to the housing management citing the question of residents’ overall safety. I would admit that I have always found such people judgmental about animal behavior and thought they were ignorant. I wanted to know more about them. Why they are like that?
And then I came across a term called cynophobia. I admit that I was surprised to learn about that terminology. On further research, I learned that it was a well-categorized medical terminology for those who fear dogs. In his blog, Bismee Taskin has tried to explain cynophobia and why the dog lovers should not misjudge cynophobic people like Taskin. After reading it, I absolutely understand and sympathize with all the people in this world who are scared of dogs or other pets. I now know they do not do it without a reason. They have a deep-rooted “crippling fear of dogs,” which we all should acknowledge.
Having said that Merriam-Webster defines “cynophobia” as “pathological fear or loathing of dogs.”
Healthline’s online portal describes cynophobia as, “Cynophobia comes from the Greek words that mean “dog” (cyno) and “fear” (phobia). A person who has cynophobia experiences a fear of dogs that’s both irrational and persistent.” I must say that healthline.com is a very reputed portal and holds Alexa Traffic Rank of 185. The article itself is “Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Ashley Marcin.” https://www.healthline.com/health/cynophobia#treatment
My point is that, based on the above definitions, this fear of dogs is “irrational” and cynophobia is a “pathological condition.” So shouldn’t we try to overcome this irrational fear? If this fear is a pathological condition, then like many other medial ailments/illnesses shouldn’t we see advice/counseling/treatment? Well seeking counseling or therapy for cynophobia is anybody’s own prerogative but there are reasons why one should.
There can be any reason as to why someone is so scared of dogs. Maybe some overprotective and themselves-phobic parents or elderlies might have transferred on their phobia to you as a child when you were growing up or maybe you or some of your close associate might have had some traumatic experience at some point in their lives. Whatever might be the reason for this irrational and judgmental fear of dogs, it should be addressed at some point in time.
Having cynophobia can make your life potentially very challenging. The anticipatory fear of running into a dog can make you unsocial and you many end up cutting off ties with your friends and relatives who pet a dog. As said above, due to the population of dogs, you are highly likely to encounter them anywhere, running, jogging, cycling, hiking, camping, walking down the street. This phobic situation can be highly stressful for you.
5 reasons why you should love dogs
- They are unavoidable. Dogs have been human’s best friends for many centuries now. Like humans, dogs are also the creation of God. Both humans and dogs have co-existed for such a long time, and they are surely not going anywhere, and this constant fear of dogs may make your life miserable because you are very likely to unexpectedly encounter a dog anywhere anytime, on the way to work, at a relative’s house, and this makes it all the more very important that we learn coping/living together with them without fear and misunderstandings.
- Dogs are therapeutic and mood-boosting. Whenever you come home after a long day of stressful work, companionship of pets, especially dogs, reduces stress and anxiety. They encourage playfulness and thus take the edge of depression and ease sadness. Studies have proved people who own pets have comparatively stable blood pressure levels even during stressful situations. Serotonin and dopamine have relaxing and calming effects, and playing with your pets improves these two neurotransmitters.
- If that is not enough, there are evidences that pet therapy works wonders for people with homesickness, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, patients undergoing chemotherapy, older people who are lonely, and patients working on fine their fine motor skills.
- Loyalty and True Friendship. “A true friend leaves paw prints on your heart.” Those wagging tails and wiggling bodies do not always mean that they are excited for food; this is their display of love and happiness on seeing us. Dog is one friend who never judges you, who is happiest to see you returning home. Will give you unconditional love, which no other creature in this world will ever do for you.
- Forgiveness. Like humans, while some dogs are just born fortunate, some just have rotten luck. Try to notice that incredible physical and emotional resilience in an abandoned puppy who has somehow managed to reach safe harbors? You won’t get to know that he has been ill-treated and abused. Such forgiveness to people who have wronged them! Well according to Discovery Magazine dogs don’t harbor grudges or hold revengeful attitude, and that is the reason for their amazing emotional spectrum. Companions for Elderlies. For the overlooked, underserved, and often lonely section of our society, they have company in dogs. Dogs can be a great company to our senior citizens whose children have left them, or who have outlived their spouses, who are on the mercy of assisted living facilities or old age homes.
How to treat cynophobia
Accepting that the fear is irrational
The treatment of cynophobia starts with accepting that your fear of dogs is irrational and is a pathological condition and agreeing to adopt an unbiased approach towards the whole issue. If in your mind you have prepared yourself to conquer this fear, you have already won half of the battle.
Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
You might have heard or read about exposure therapy, which means facing the fear head-on, and there are mainly two ways of doing that: in vivo exposure therapy where a phobic person fights fear by being around dogs and getting familiar to dog behavior where the pet can be leashed or unleashed. The other form of exposure therapy is active imaginal exposure (AIE) where you try to overcome this fear by imagining yourself in the company of dogs.
Researches have proved active imaginal exposure to be a great first step on the way of fighting cynophobia.
Beta-blockers: To be used only under the supervision and recommendation of a physician only, beta blockers can help prevent elevated blood pressure, shaking, or racing heartbeats in fearful situations.
Sedatives: Judicious and under-supervision use of sedatives also helps calm down your anxiety in such situations.
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