I hate dogs.
Cynophobia: An abnormal and persistent fear of dogs.
Sufferers from cynophobia experience anxiety
even though they realize that most dogs pose no threat.
To avoid dogs, they may barricade yards
or refuse to travel except in an enclosed vehicle.
"Cynophobia" is derived from the Greek "kyon" (dog) and "phobos" (fear). 1
If people can be divided between those who like dogs, and those who like cats, I am definitely a cat person. My family has a cat – variously known as "buttons" (my mother's choice), "hellspawn" (my brother's) or simply "the cat" (myself, and my mother's husband – unusually agreeing on something). He is not particularly friendly, not particularly bright; after we had a pond dug, he fell in it three times, then stood on the edge looking at the water as if the ground had somehow betrayed him. He is also quite lazy and can be quite greedy. Nevertheless, he can also be extremely affectionate; he seems to understand when we are ill or stressed... I could bore you for hours with stories about him. But my fondness for felines is not what this writeup is about. This writeup is about dogs.
A 1992 research of fear of dogs among children and adults reported
that actual dog attacks do not make any difference for a person to be fearful of dogs.
On the other hand, early harmless exposure to dogs
seems to hamper the conditioning which can lead to cynophobia.2
I have, as far as I remember, always been slightly afraid of dogs. My immediate family never had one, and I have never actually been bitten, so I suspect my fear is derived from my grandfather's dog Pola. She was a beautiful and loyal Alsatian, as familiar around the fishing town he lived in as my grandfather himself was – very few of the fishermen on the quayside and the old soldiers in the British Legion did not know him, he was one of those people, and, until she died, when I was about five, he was almost always accompanied by Pola. Nevertheless, lovely though she was, as a toddler, I was scared of Pola. I distinctly remember her admitting a low growl once when I came downstairs for a glass of water. This may seem timid, but do not forget, she was considerably larger than I was then. She never harmed me, nor as far as I am aware was any more than slightly wary around me as an unfamiliar visitor. Nevertheless, she left me with a lingering fear of dogs.
A boisterous dog of adequate size can knock down a person and possibly cause
serious injury despite there being no malicious intent on the part of the animal.
A single large dog, or a group of medium-sized dogs,
is capable of seriously injuring or killing an adult human. 3
A fear of dogs is no reason to hate them though. I have been scared by a lot of things, but never actually come to hate them. What causes me to hate them, for the most part, is not the dogs themselves, but the attitudes of their owners. This may seem unfair, but I know some dog owners who are otherwise charming people, and hating them would be extremely difficult.
For example, next door to my mother's house live a family who keep a pair of large and energetic boxers. They are not, presumably, dangerous (though there is a "beware of the dog" sign on the gate). Quite often the neighbours take them for walks on a large grassy hill behind the houses. At the end of these walks, the dogs come bounding enthusiastically down the hill. If anyone happens to be nearby they will run up to the person and leap at them – according the owner – playfully, wanting to wrestle as they do with the older children of their household. As you will understand, to me, this is absolutely terrifying. My pulse quickens, I break out in a cold sweat and it is all I can do not to scream like a six year old girl. Irrational – probably – but not something I can help. The owner is usually ambling slowly down the hill some hundreds of yards away. So I'm stranded, unable to move for two barking, jumping dogs. All I can do is try and bear it until the owner calls them off and informs me reproachfully that they are only playing – as if somehow I have done something wrong.
This attitude of dog-owners strikes me as deeply unsympathetic, and borders on irresponsible. Just because "Fluffy," "Jasper" "Butch" or "Spike" is their little baby and has never ever bitten anyone, it does not mean that I am not going to be nervous around him. The mere fact that "Molly," "Tracy," "Cuddles," or "Lucretia" is "only playing" when she jumps up at me and barks in my face, does not mean I am not going to be fighting the urge to run like hell. The words "his bark is worse than his bite" fill me with hate – I am already bloody scared of his bite and you're telling me his bark is worse?! It is not so bad of course if I know the dog; I am still anxious, but at least I can rationally tell myself I have nothing to fear. If the dog is one I have never seen before, especially if I am somewhere enclosed such as the canal path on my route to work, it can be absolutely horrible. My feelings are then compounded by a slightly embarrassed, but unsympathetic owner who despite apparently knowing their dog jumps up at people (how else could they be so certain it is unthreatening behaviour?), does not keep it on a leash.
Police have warned of a growing street culture of owning dangerous dogs
and their increasing use as weapons in crime.4
I could still, just about, merely dislike dogs. Perhaps with a degree of intensity usually only reserved for FOX News, Monday mornings, stab wounds, and anything else that might slightly worsen my day. The reason for this is that ultimately, dogs are usually pets, and psychotic killer beasts are not usually considered to be ideal animals to have around the house. But times change...
A new phenomenon has emerged however in which thugs, muggers,, and other such ASBO'd types have begun buying dangerously violent dogs and training them to respond to commands such as "kill". I can imagine few things as terrifying as a snarling dog that will, on the command of its owner, seriously injure me unless I give up my property – something that in the circumstances I would readily do, presumably funding yet more of these dogs. Even more worrying is the fact that since "gangsta" types have started using them for petty theft, dangerous dogs have acquired status as this year's coolest fashion accessory! Not only that, but I know from somewhat painful experience that these are the sort of people who would be most unsympathetic if their dog attacked me, in fact they would probably be amused. It is this knowledge, ultimately, that causes me to hate dogs.
I cannot even find solace in the canines controlled by the right side of the law. Even customs sniffer-dogs at airports make me nervous (something which the officers may well notice, and believing I may be nervous because I am carrying some contraband, bring the dogs closer). I know the dogs are only performing a function, and quite an important one at that, but they still worry me in a way I can barely describe. It is not even as if those in charge of working dogs are always responsible. If I was ever put in the position of some of the poor inmates of Abu Ghraib, who were psychologically tortured by soldiers with barking snarling dogs, straining on their leashes, I am convinced I would be unable to cope. Of course in that situation, intimidation and fear was the intention.
Michelle Beattie of the Blue Cross Animal Hospital said that the most vicious small dogs
- cocker spaniels, chihuahuas and yorkshire terriers -
bite because they are poorly trained.
She said the main problem is that people who choose a small dog over a big one
often do so because they see such ownership as less responsibility.5
Even when the dog is safe, I will still be scared. Yes, this does include small harmless-looking dogs. How exactly my subconscious mind manages to forge the link between Spike the Pit-bull and Fluffy the Pekingese, I have no idea, but it has. Certain celebrities have not helped me here. For some unknown reason they have popularised the idea that it is acceptable, even cute, to carry around a small yapping dog in a handbag. These people have almost never trained their "little hunny-bunny" to do anything more than leave their presence when defecating, and are universally critical of anyone who is filled with anything other than sparkly pink love for the creature. They even take their high-pitched pets on trains with them! It is quite possible I hate these people more than I hate dogs.
If a person has already developed a cynophobia,
this may be treated by various methods common for many specific phobias6
Perhaps I am being over dramatic. There are some dogs I get on fine with. They tend to be dogs owned by people I trust, or dogs that know me well enough to know that jumping up at me is a bad idea. I am not so bad a cynophobe that I cannot be in the same room as a dog, and it does not put me off going to other people's houses or anything like that. Nevertheless, unknown dogs met randomly in the street, or enthusiastic hounds that jump up at me should I near them, any dog that growls at me, any dog that bares its teeth, large or small... I really hate them.
6Wikipedia op. cit. n.2