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Overcoming animal phobias

Updated on October 23, 2013

By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

Overcoming a fear of dogs

“When you explore your fears then you set yourself free.”

Stephen Richards, the author of Releasing You From Fear, states well the need for us to stare our phobias in the face.

And then claim them.

To run is an all too common reaction to fears. I speak of a fear of our animal friends. Being an animal lover, I confess to sometimes getting a tad impatient when such a fear is displayed.

The fear can be overpowering, especially when it is coupled with the usual stresses of pleasantry and having to observe the social norms of small talk, good manners and respectability.

Yes, it is difficult to have a proper conversation when one is aware that the cat or dog that one is afraid of is nearby.I speak from experience of having friends who dare not visit me at home for fear of my two terriers, Misty and Cloudy. I have come across those who would not dare to step out of a house for fear of stray dogs roaming outside.

It is important to overcome any fear of animals, for reasons of social inclusion and simply moving forward, if not emotionally, at least physically!

Animal related phobias

A phobia is defined as “A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.”

Of these phobias, the fear of animals is more common than is realized because of constant exposure to them. A fear of cats,dogs and birds is the most prevalent by virtue of their large numbers.

Here is a list of animal related phobias, some of them unknown and quite surprising. The sheer variety and classification will show us how common these are.

Types of fears and descriptions

Agrizoophobia- A fear of wild animals

Alektorophobia - A fear of chickens

Cynophobia - A fear of dogs or of rabies (from dogs)

Doraphobia - A fear of fur or of animal skins

Felinophobia - A fear of cats

Cynophobia - A fear of dogs

Zoophobia - A fear of zoo animals


How to overcome a fear of animals

Causes of phobias

As mentioned earlier, a common reaction of animal lovers would be to find it queer that others may have an adverse reaction towards them. Conversely, those who have a fear of animals will find those who own them rathyer difficult to relate to.

Herein lies a need for a detailed understanding of phobias. We begin with their causes.

Predatory instinct

A natural fear of animals could have evolved because of the natural predatory instinct of both animals and humans. The knowledge that an animal could be on the prowl and ready for the attack, in itself, contributes to our fears. We live with the wisdom of avoiding unfamiliar animals.


Beware. A lizard has just made its way into the dank recesses of your kitchen cabinet.

Some of us may be familiar with the above scenario. We have an innate fear of reptiles, dogs,birds and cats because of notions of disgust that could have been inculcated in childhood.

We tend to focus on creatures we deem “disgusting.” The thought pattern explains why we would set a butterfly free, but chase after a cockroach with a can of insecticide.


A black cat jumping over a coffin is not a good omen.

Notions like these, especially if constantly expressed, can make others put off cats. Negative allusions to the snake in the tenets of religious philosophy contribute to a fear of these reptiles, though not all of them may be poisonous.

Familiarity with these ideas does breed a little skepticism, in the least, and irrational fear, at the worst, of these creatures.


We all have friends who might have been chased by dogs in their childhood, or been scratched by cats.

It comes as no surprise that being severely bitten or scratched does contribute to one’s cynophobia or felinophobia.

Parental reaction

If a child’s parent has a phobia of dogs and refuses to allow them into the home, it is natural for the child to start having skeptical views of canines.

A parents views can have heavy bearing on a child’s.


Symptoms of animal phobia

A phobia of animals, just like any other fear, is not just a mild disquiet at the thought of little furry creatures or slimy reptiles running around.

Animal phobia would be an automatic, uncontrollable reaction at the thought of animals. If you suspect that someone you know or love has animal phobia, he or she would be displaying the following symptoms.

  • Dread or complete panic at the mere thought of animals

  • Irrational, uncontrollable reactions to animals.

  • rapid heartbeats when animals are near

  • shortness of breath in the presence of a feared animal

  • severe trembling at sight of an animal

  • extreme avoidance of specific animals or creatures.


Treatment of animal phobia

Phobias are psychological in nature and are best left to a mental health professional or behavioral therapist to treat if severe.

However, self help is not impossible. If you have cynophobia or any fear, there are simple steps than can be taken to ease it.


Some therapists recommend the technique of anchoring to clients to help them to overcome their fears.

Anchoring involves understanding focus and how one uses the mind,beliefs and language to describe things to oneself. It also involves physiology, or the way the body is used to express good and bad feelings.

For instance, a fear of animals can be expressed in words such as “What if that huge dog bites me?” The body responds to the words with slumping shoulders, darting eyes and trembling.

Anchor around another focus and form of physiology and the situation changes. Not focusing on how the dog will bite and lifting the shoulders helps in taking some of the strain of the fear off.

Few animals attack unless provoked.

Most dogs or cats will seldom attack unless provoked or in severe pain. They are, in fact, more afraid of humans than they are of them.

Have that thought in mind when running into a dog on the street.

Take a breather.

When faced with a dreaded animal or any other fear, it is good to take a quick breather. Walk quickly away and around the block or street until calm enough, or the source of the phobia leaves.

Feel the fear.

Sometimes it is best to feel the fear of the animal without distraction. Do nothing but breathe deeply. It may take a little time, but the phobia will go away on its own.


Take the time to get used to the source of the fear. In this case, it is an animal. This may be especially pertinent if a family member welcomes an animal as a pet.

It can be debilitating in many ways if no attempt is made to conquer the fear. Taking the step to get used to the pet you are afraid of can help to improve relations.

Constant exposure helps in dealing with the fear each time it strikes.

Get real.

Reality is such that the dog, cat or other animal is far less frightening than thought. It is hard to help thinking about being chased by a dog after it has happened, but the chances of such an incident occurring again is very low.


When a dreaded animal or other fear faces you, visualize a place of safety and calm. Go to a “happy place’ and recall the times of happiness that might have happened with such an animal, or just think about the things that bring joy.

Talk about it.

This might be necessary when the family, especially with a member who is afraid of animals, is in negotiations over bringing a pet into the home.

To come to a compromise, talk about any fear of the animal that you might have. It helps the other parties listening to lend assurance.

Try talking through any other kinds of phobias that might be present.


Phobias seem trivial but can be slightly debilitating when one suffers from them. Imagine a fear of animals preventing the rest of the family from looking after one.

If self help can be achieved, taking simple steps to overcome phobias can make a big difference.

Original work

By Michelle Liew

All Rights Reserved


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    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Hey ho, Crafty! Strange she is! And since his name is Wilbur, does he have a friend named Charlotte?

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      This is a great article! We have a pot-belly pig as a pet. He loves hanging around in the yard, especially under shade trees. Someone came by the other day. Wilbur was outside. He loves people. He loves companionship and attention from humans. He ran so fast, it looked like he was flying through the air. LOL The lady ran so fast. She was very afraid. But yet she has a yard full of horses, goats, dogs, etc.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, My Cook Book!

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 3 years ago from India

      Nice article, helpful and interesting information.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I'm sure that the disgust with animals really heightens our phobias!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Paula! Yup, we need to take positive steps to overcoming our fears. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I am too, Tattuwurn. Those freak me out!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Interesting --I do think disgust plays into it a bit!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Midget......I've had to admit to a phobia or 2.....I most definitely have a morbid fear of heights, always have and don't seem to be able to approach the idea of "overcoming" it.

      As for animals? Being pretty much a lover of "most" animals, I can fear them if and when my common sense tells me that danger is near. Then there are snakes, rats and other "spooky" types......that I'm not certain I FEAR, but I sure as heck don't seek them out, nor want them around me.

      This hub is excellent, midget. You've given us some great facts to think about and for those looking to overcome a phobia. UP++ shared

    • profile image

      tattuwurn 3 years ago

      The only animal I'm really, really afraid of is a cockroach. Especially a flying cockroach. And its antennae moving menacingly... I get goosebumps! I even call someone else to kill it. I don't know if there's a term for that phobia, though. Really great hub btw. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, DDE! They look quite frightening at times, I agree.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Overcoming animal phobias a very interesting and useful on this topic I am not about German Shepherds and don't like being around them, an educational hub indeed.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Dianna! Unsocialized dogs tend to get that way. Thanks for sharing!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I don't really have a phobia of dogs but I prefer not to be around them as they are so unpredictable. I learned something there today about animal phobias.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Snakes are scary, especially those which are poisonous! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Naliah!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I would be too, Janet. Thankfully, we do not have big ones here!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I had one of them sting me when I was younger and doing a science experiment on bark rubbing. Talking through what scares you helps to identify the cause of the fear and ease the psychological burden. Thanks for sharing, mary.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Well, I guess snakes frighten anyone.! I'd stay far away from them too, who.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Good idea....that should distract the potential pit bulls somewhat! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      It's ok, Bill, we all have one of these phobias! My confession-I am slightly afraid of loud noises!

    • denden mangubat profile image

      denden mangubat 3 years ago from liloan, cebu, philippines

      i am scared of snakes.but i am not afraid of frogs and coackroaches.useful and voted up

    • profile image

      Nailah Bone 3 years ago

      Interesting article! :) I have a fear of birds so I can relate. Thanks for posting this!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Very interesting and useful hub, Michelle!

      I don't have a lot of fears.... and most of the time I can control them :-)

      I am slightly afraid of dogs because of a bad experience when I was a kid. When I see a dog with the owner, I ask permission to pet the dog; usually people will tell if their dog is friendly or not :-)

      I am not too crazy about spiders in my home.... but I love to take pictures in their environment! Spiders are an important link in the pyramid!

      Thanks for educating us about the different phobia!

      Have a great week! Joelle

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 3 years ago from Georgia country

      Very useful and interesting information you have here. I'm afraid of spiders. When I was a child I couldn't go into the room where the spider was. Today, I'm able to catch small spiders in a glass and put them outside but I'm still afraid of the bigger ones.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      I don't fear any animals but follow a different track, I am afraid a bees. Regardless, you have made some excellent points and put forth some good ideas. I think feeling the fear and talking about it are a good way to start addressing the fear.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

      I had a phobia of snakes back during the Vietnam War days. I decided to try and overcome this phobia by deliberately going out to a local creek and hunting the poisonous snakes down and shooting them. I removed a dozen or so until I stepped on one's head and luckily escaped being bitten. Although I felt I was getting valuable practice in preparing to enter the war, I realized that the fear still remained, even to this day many years later. You never really know, do you. whonu

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 3 years ago from Florida

      Typo: I meant "defend", not "define"

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 3 years ago from Florida

      I have a terrible fear of Pit Bull dogs after just going through a terrible event. Now when I walk my dog, I carry a spray of Mace! The owners of these dogs will defend them, of course, but now I am scared to death of them! I don't think I will ever overcome this fear.

      Voted UP and shared.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good information Michelle! I was trying to think if I had any; I was going to say no until I realized I don't like there you have it, my confession for the day. LOL

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      On overcoming fear of animals