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Online Therapy for Fear of Dogs

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Mar 26, 2022
  • 5 min read
dog in a ghost costume on the porch

Have you ever heard the saying “a dog is a man’s best friend”? Well, for many people, this is not the case. The fear of dogs, better known as cynophobia, is quite common. This phobia, like many others, has a great influence on the lives of many people, and this “great” influence is not necessarily great. 

Since this fear can be experienced quite frequently in everyday encounters, seeking professional help can be extremely beneficial for overcoming your fear of dogs, and online therapy is a comfortable and convenient way to get help. 

The Benefits of Online Therapy

In most recent times, the internet has opened up new avenues for mental health treatment. With that being said, online therapy refers to counseling services conducted over the internet. 

In contrast to in-person therapy, online therapy enables you to connect with licensed therapists or counselors using any device that has a strong internet connection. This is a convenient form of therapy that will likely help with your fear of dogs. Here we list some of the benefits of this form of therapy

  • Good option for remote areas
  • No travel required 
  • Convenient 
  • Affordable
  • Takes place in a comfortable environment 
  • Has proven to be as effective as face-to-face sessions in most cases 
  • Beneficial for those with physical limitations

Do You Have Cynophobia?

Before you can answer this question accurately, it is important to know the difference between the terms fear and phobia. Fears are our natural response to a potential threat. Examples of this could be running away from a dangerous animal or completely avoiding areas with high crime rates. A phobia, on the other hand, produces a fear response, even when you are not in danger. 

Thus, to help you in determining whether you have cynophobia, a fear of dogs, we will provide you with some of the underlying causes and symptoms. 

Causes of cynophobia

Some phobias often appear in one’s childhood; however, some adults are prone to developing them as well. It is important to note that there is no simple way of pinpointing what makes someone develop a phobia; however, some of the potential causes of cynophobia include but are not limited to: 

  • Past traumatic experiences: Perhaps you were bitten by a dog, you might have had to get stitches or maybe you were admitted into a hospital. Whatever the experience was, these traumatic experiences often lead to the development of phobias.
  • ‌Family tendencies: Did you know that either your genetics or environment can play a key role in the development of phobias? It is not unusual to find that, if your family member has a phobia, you are more likely to develop one as well.
  • ‌‌A change in brain function: Interestingly, research has shown that some people develop phobias as a result of physical trauma or neurological disorders. 
  • Negative information: You may have heard negative information about dogs that may have caused your fear of dogs. For instance, you may have heard of someone being seriously injured by a dog.

Symptoms of cynophobia

  • Tight chest
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Sweating 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Dizziness 
  • Anxiety of excessive avoidance 
  • Fear of dying 
  • Fear of losing control 
  • Feelings of danger 
  • Nausea 
  • Trembling 
  • Detachment
  • A sense of things being unreal

If you experience some or all of the above-mentioned symptoms related to cynophobia or the fear of dogs, we strongly recommend contacting a professional as soon as possible for help.

Should You Start Treatment?

In the technologically driven world, people often turn to the internet to seek answers to a variety of questions, including medical diagnosis for fear of dogs. However, with phobias, particularly cynophobia, it is essential that a qualified professional provides you with an accurate diagnosis. 


In order to be formally diagnosed with cynophobia, you must have experienced some or all of the above-mentioned symptoms for a period of six months or more. If you have noticed that your fear of dogs is having a negative impact on your day-to-day life, you might want to consider keeping a personal journal that you can present to your doctor during your visit. 

Diagnostic screening questions

  1. Do you excessively anticipate situations where you will be around dogs? 
  2. Do you immediately have feelings of fear or have panic attacks when being around dogs? 
  3. Is your fear of dogs severe and irrational? 
  4. Do you avoid situations where you might encounter dogs?

If you have answered yes to these questions, there is a huge chance that you might fit the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia. Your doctor can help you by asking questions regarding the symptoms you are experiencing. They may also ask questions regarding the onset of your fear of dogs, social and psychiatric history. 

Above all else, it is important to seek help as untreated phobias can lead to more psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts. 

Treatment for Dog Phobia

Research has shown that various forms of therapy have helped treat people with the fear of dogs. By consulting a licensed mental health professional, you can find the most suitable treatment or combination of dog phobia therapy treatments that are best suited for you. Here are some therapies used to treat dog phobia. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy treats specific phobias and often includes exposure therapy. The overall aim of cognitive behavioral therapy is to develop a sense of control over your own emotions and thoughts. Thus, the therapist aims to help you gain overall confidence in your ability to handle difficult situations, particularly relating to your fear of dogs. 

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy, also called desensitization, is the most common treatment for phobias. This type of therapy encourages patients to interact with the objects that they have the most fear of, in this case, a fear of dogs. Therefore, in an attempt to treat cynophobia, many therapists suggest gradually increasing the closeness and length of a patient's exposure while in a safe and controlled environment. This includes: 

  • Learning more about dogs
  • Watching shows that include dogs
  • Watching dogs from a distance
  • Later spending periods of time with dogs in person

Please note that exposure therapy cannot be directly applied online unless in the form of virtual reality. This point then leads us to active-imaginal exposure therapy. 

Active-imaginal exposure therapy is another successful form of exposure therapy. This form of therapy involves vividly imagining interacting with dogs and using certain techniques to manage a patient's responses in the situation. 

Many therapists have had positive results with virtual reality exposure, where sight and sound elements are often combined in a virtual reality experience. This then gives the person ample practice being around dogs within a safe and controlled environment. That of which has proven to help with the fear of dogs. 


The use of medication to treat the fear of dogs is most successful when used with exposure therapy rather than in isolation. Therefore, one has to go through therapy and use medication to deal with their responses once exposed to their fear of dogs. 

Notably, some anxiety medications and sedatives do help with treating the physical symptoms of severe attacks. Researchers have recently discovered that glucocorticoid, a steroid, can successfully decrease the physical symptoms associated with the anxiety connected to specific phobias, fear of dogs also.

Bottom Line

It is common for people to love dogs, but it is also common to fear them. The fear or phobia of dogs evidently has a negative impact on the lives of many people. 

However, there are various forms of dog phobia therapies that exist. 

Don't hesitate to ask for help because ignoring the symptoms associated with the fear of dogs often leads to additional serious complications such as mood disorders, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy does help with the fear of dogs, but exposure therapy is the most effective dog phobia treatment. Whatever signs and symptoms you may be experiencing, considering online counseling would serve as your first step to recovery. 

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