What is the phobia or fear of dogs called? The fear of dogs is known as cynophobiaCynophobia occurs when a person, adult or child, experiences anxiety symptoms that make them want to get out of the situation or become paralyzed in the presence of a dog.

The origin of the fear of dogs

Classical conditioning and associative learning

Classical conditioning occurs when the body’s involuntary response occurs to a stimulus—for example, feeling afraid in the presence of a dog. 

An association can then be produced in our brain between the sensation of fear and the dog’s presence. This is known as associative learning.

Associative learning is responsible for our fear of the following dogs appearing.

Therefore, the fear response to dogs is generalized. Even just imagining a dog can produce a fear response in our bodies.

Transmission of the information and vicarious learning

It can be learned through observing the behavior of other individuals and their experiences. Social culture is an essential source of learning.

Differences in fear of dogs in children and adults

  • There are a more significant number of children with a fear of dogs than adults with cynophobia. 
  • Adults who are afraid of dogs today were afraid of dogs when they were children.
  • Fearful children say adult warnings about dogs have conditioned them. 
  • Children who fear dogs can recognize their curiosity toward dogs that seem friendly.
  • Adults with a fear of dogs have different fears that have nothing to do with dogs. 
  • A high percentage of children afraid of dogs outgrow it as adults, while another percentage maintains it.

Why do some kids with a fear of dogs outgrow it and others don’t?

This is the question researchers are trying to answer. 

It seems that associative learning by classical conditioning would not be the leading cause of fear of dogs, as occurs in most phobias.

In the case of cynophobia, learning by transmission and vicariousness occupies an integral part of its development. In this regard, it is not surprising that the news on TV about attacks by dogs of certain breeds classified as potentially dangerous (PPP) has generated a worse public image and greater fear of this type of dog.

But in addition, behind the phobia of dogs, more factors have yet to be determined. In the case of adults, there could be certain personality factors, finding that, in general, adults with cynophobia have other additional fears.

How to prevent my son from being afraid of dogs?

It has been proven that early contact with dogs calmly and without the appearance of situations that could condition a phobia prevents fear of dogs in children. In other words, good experiences with dogs when we are slight are essential.

Many children fear dogs precisely because they lack knowledge of the species.

What to do to overcome the fear of dogs?

  • Knowing the species: the lack of knowledge of the canine language makes children and adults unable to differentiate between when a dog comes with a play intention and when it is an attack.
  • Respect the dog’s language: knowing how you should interact with a dog and respecting the signs of discomfort or tension that it may show will avoid significant scares.
  • Good experiences: having fun with a dog and experiencing emotions other than fear in his presence are the best medicine. Look for dogs that go with your personality and learn to play and share time with them. 
  • Don’t be in a hurry: no one overcomes fear overnight. Be patient.
  • Work with a professional: asking for help from a professional to guide you is always the best decision you can make to overcome your fears.