Sometimes you might experience a bit of anxiety when crossing paths with a big, shaggy dog on a walk. The hairs on the back of your neck might stand on end. You try to stay calm and control your fear as the fight or flight response tries to take over.
While some people may simply feel a small tinge of fear around animals that could potentially bite, in some cases there is more to it than that.
Suffering from a phobia means a natural basic fear turns into an anxiety disorder. And there is even a name for it when it concerns dogs: cynophobia.
Sweaty palms, a racing heart and accelerated breathing can all be signs of the disorder, says psychologist Johannes Rother. Freezing over when a dog is approaching is also quite typical for cynophobia.
The animals themselves are usually unaware of this intense kind of fear. But since dogs react to the behavior and gestures of a person, you should keep in mind a few rules when suffering from the disorder in order not to draw attention to yourself.
When encountering a dog, try to keep breathing normally and do not start screaming. Keeping calm is definitely your best option. If you try to run away, the dog might believe you want to play with it.
Avoid all eye contact, otherwise, the animal might interpret this as an invitation to approach.
Easier said than done, of course, especially when panic has already overwhelmed you.
Therapy specializing in cynophobia is a way to help you to handle the fear through the use of relaxation and calming techniques. The aim of the treatment is to enable you to live your life normally again, as some people even rarely leave the house in order to avoid dogs.
Cynophobia often begins in childhood, with children internalizing their parents’ fears, for example, or observing someone being pushed over by a dog. In very rare instances it could manifest itself as a result of a traumatic experience like being bitten by a dog.