Cynophobia – The Fear of Dogs


Warning – If you are a dog lover and can’t understand why some people don’t like them then leave now and do not read this post!

If you ignore this and read on and then comment and tell me how lovely dogs are then I will not respond!


“Dogs don’t like me. It is a simple law of the universe, like gravity. I am not exaggerating when I say that dogs that have not moved from the sofa in years will, at the sniff of me passing outside, rise in fury and hurl themselves at shut windows. I have seen tiny dogs, no bigger than a fluffy slipper, jerk little old ladies off their feet and drag them over open ground in a quest to get at my blood and sinew. Every dog on the face of the earth wants me dead.”                 Bill Bryson – ‘In a Sunburned Country’

On 12th August 1991 Parliament passed the Dangerous Dogs Act and that was one piece of legislation that I fully approved of.  It made it an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place or in a private place where it is not allowed to be.  In addition, the ownership of certain types of dog, such as the Pit Bull Terrier was prohibited and also an offence to breed from, sell or exchange (even as a gift) a prohibited type of a dog.

Personally I would have gone a whole lot further – I would have reintroduced the dog licence fee at a minimum of £1,000 per year for all dogs(guide dogs etc. exempt of course) and I would have made people who want to keep a dog pass an exam something equivalent to the driving test just to be sure that they were competent to own one and were aware of their responsibilities!

Apologies here to my canine loving friends (I told you not to read the post) but I really don’t like dogs, I suffer from Cynophobia – I am scared of them, and this isn’t completely irrational because they really don’t like me either – but they are not frightened of me!  As soon as people with dogs realise that I have an unnatural and unexplainable fear of them then they seem to take sadistic delight in subjecting me to the terror of their company.

I did not inherit this dislike/fear from my parents:

Ivan with Dog 1936

Joan petcher

My dislike for them started as a boy when I was taken one day for a walk by my granddad and on a piece of waste land opposite my parent’s house in Leicester an Alsatian dog knocked me to the ground, pinned me down and stood on my chest.  The inconsiderate owner had let it off its leash and I was absolutely terrified.  Lucky for me that granddad was able to shoo it off and chase it away or else I was sure to have been a 1958, child chewed to death by a dog, statistic.

The next detestable canine that I remember loathing was my friend David Newman’s Boxer because although, admittedly, it was almost certainly soft and harmless, it always did that other thing that I hate most about dogs (after biting me of course) and sniffed my groin and left a smudge of dribble on my trousers, which until it dried made it look as if I had a nasty little bathroom accident.  I really do hate that groin snuffling business.

The reason that I don’t want to be bitten (other than it is painful) is that I have always had a fear of rabies!

Rabies is a very serious viral infection that targets the brain and nervous system and once the symptoms of rabies have developed the condition is always fatal.  It begins with feeling a bit unwell, a bit like a severe cold but soon after, the symptoms expand to slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, terror, hallucinations and finally progressing to full delirium and death.

So, I think I have established that it is not very nice and even though there have only been twenty-five cases reported in the United Kingdom since the end of World War Two (and all of these were imported cases from abroad) it still scares the shit out of me!

Although preferable to death, if you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a rabid dog then precautionary treatment isn’t very pleasant either and involves one immediate dose of vaccine and five more over a twenty-eight day period.  Half of the vaccine is injected in the region of the bite with a great big needle so that’s obviously not great news if you have been bitten in the arse!  Even this is better than it used to be however because in the past it was all injected into nerve city central in the solar plexus with a large needle inserted through the abdominal wall, which was apparently extraordinarily painful.

And for those people who say that a dog won’t attack without warning, you are wrong!

Once out with my mother, when I was about nine or ten, she stopped to chat to a neighbour, Mrs Gamble, who was the local Freeman’s mail order catalogue agent, and who just happened to be walking her mangy black mongrel dog, unimaginatively called Blackie, past the house where we lived.  I kept a safe distance  but the woman assured me that it was perfectly harmless and that it wouldn’t hurt me so in a moment of total rashness I extended a hand of friendship to pat the thing kindly on the head and thirty minutes later I was sitting in St Cross casualty department waiting for a handful of stitches in a hand scarred for life and a painful anti-tetanus injection.

Since that day I have never again been taken in by an owner’s reassurance that a dog ‘is only trying to be friendly’ and the estimated four-thousand postmen and women who are bitten each year will probably agree with me.

And I have to say that I agree with Bill Bryson:

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.” 

I didn’t always dislike dogs however:


8 responses to “Cynophobia – The Fear of Dogs

  1. I’m a gide dog owner, but please don’t delete until you’ve read further. I wouldn’t dream of telling you that my dog would never attack you, because like everyone else I don’t know that for sure. Dogs are descended from wolves, after all, and are not so far off wild animals, so let’s be realistic. My dog is highly trained and on the face of it very good natured, but he’s still a dog. His unpredictable reactions to other dogs are enough to tell you that this isn’t a simple issue. He’s fine with most people, but if he met you, he may smell the fear in you and go for you – I wouldn’t expect it, but it’s possible.

    Nor would I tell you that all dogs are lovely and you should not be afraid of them. You are, and that’s that, and you’re hardly alone. I had something of a phobia of them myself when I was a lad, and would never tell anyone that there’s nothing to fear. As it happens, work has brought me into contact with people who have phobias, and the answer is not to tell them, “Don’t be silly, there’s nothing to fear.” There are techniques that often work, such as CBT, but to pursue that takes commitment, not loose talk.

    • Thank you for the positive comment. I understand that people like dogs I only ask that they respect the fact that some people don’t and some people are afraid of them! I once had a cat – some people don’t like cats and I understood that.

  2. dogs are a fact of life, such is spiders and water and people have serious phobias of them to, if your phobia is making a huge impact on your life, get help. there is lots of therapies out there..

    • Thanks for the unhelpful advice. Dogs are a menace but it is often the owners who are worse. They are the ones that let them run off their leash, foul the pavements and irritate people.

  3. When I was a small child, I was mauled and violently dragged around by my friend’s dog, when it was chained up outside and started to freak out because it couldn’t escape. It didn’t spoil me on the idea of owning a dog, though. One errant squirrel, or one hoodie-wearer too many and dogs can be off like a bolt, which makes sense, because they evolved to be excellent at doing so. Outdoor events are the #1 trigger for dogs to completely spaz out on you, because they are apt to revert completely to their wild selves, but for the time that a dog is indoors, it can be lead into falling into a pattern of subservience and goofy tranquility. My dog bit me once, because I grabbed his fur roughly when he ran into the night to piss on a neighbors hedge; he struggled like a mother and became incensed, but I wrastled him indoors, and he knew to calm the hell down. He only ever made “that” face to me on this one occasion, and it lingered at the back of my mind as something to watch out for, but his neutral state is so inescapably friendly, that he doesn’t cause me on-going concern. I did pull his fur, after all.

    • Kind of proves my point – they are unpredictable and can turn on you in an instant and if it is a child a dog attack can be fatal. I fail to see any reason for keeping one in a house!

  4. I’m so sorry you have to deal with dog owners who seem to find your fear amusing. I have myself been chased with lit candles or sparklers because of my fear of fire…

    The thing is though, I’m probably going to get a service dog. While this would greatly increase my quality of life, I don’t want to frighten anyone in the process.

    If you are okay with answering, do you have any ideas that might make being near one more comfortable? This is including things that I could do or train the dog to do.

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