Cynophoia is a fear of dogs that can influence your daily activities. This phobia can cause a person to fear the presence of a dog or to feel anxiety by just seeing a photo of a dog. This can cause a person to avoid any place that may have dogs around, which is just about anywhere.
Symptoms often associated with cynophobia are anxiety, heart palpitations, dry mouth, dizziness, and an inability to think clearly, these are just some of the symptoms that someone can experience (allaboutcounseling.com).
Kylie came in today looking for help for her fear of dogs. She cannot go to a park or on a walk without fearing that she will run into a dog. Her goal is to get over her cynophobia and be able to enjoy herself outdoors.
The first thing, was ask Kylie questions to find out if she had a bad experience with a dog, didn’t have experience with dogs or if someone she knows was bitten. Exploring what started her fear will help in finding the right approach for her treatment. I found out that Kylie’s fear for dogs had resulted from seeing her cousin getting bitten when she was around three years of age. We talk about the day her cousin was bit and what he was doing that led up to the dog biting him. He was poking the dog with a stick. Kylie and I discuss how that would have made the dog scared and how dogs bite to protect themselves not to be mean.
I decided I was going to use counterconditioning with exposure therapy by using the form of systematic desensitization as demonstrated below.
First step I asked Kylie what she liked to do when she felt relaxed, she said she enjoys crocheting. I have her sit on a comfortable chair while she crochets. I have her do this for two days.
On the third day I have Kylie sit in the comfortable chair to crochet. But, today I put a dog at the far end of the room. I ask Kylie to concentrate on her crocheting. I have her do this for two more days.
Her next visit, I have her continue to work on her crocheting in her comfortable chair. This time I have the dog half way across the room. We do this for two more days.
When she returns, we continue to have her crochet in the chair and now I have the dog next to the chair. We do this for two days.
On the next visit she sits in her chair to crochet. But today she started petting the dog. We continue this for two more days.
On her final visit Kylie decided to sit in the chair and pet the dog rather than crochet. Kylie appeared more relaxed and comfortable petting the dog. We spent the rest of the session talking about treating the dog with respect and if she respects the dog, the dog should not feel threatened and strike out.
I think this would be a successful approach to helping her desensitize her fear of dogs. However, if she encounters a dog that is hyper and jumps on her, she could revert to fearing dogs. By using only one dog during the desensitization period, she may still exhibit fears with different sized dogs, different breeds or temperaments.