Dog Is Afraid of Men?

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Rescued dogs come with their own history. Sometimes you may find that your new pet is fearful around men. One possible reason for this fear could be due to past abuse by a man. Read on for some additional thoughts on this topic.

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August 4, 2008

My 10 month old American Bulldog is beginning to act afraid of people, not all people just certain men. Some men he's fine with, but he randomly freaks out when certain men try to pet him. I'm not sure what to do about this. At first I thought he was a good judge of character, but lately he's been acting afraid of almost every man that tries to pet him. He even will growl or bark if the person is persistent. Any advice?

Liz from San Diego

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By Me (Guest Post)
August 5, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

It sounds like he has been abused by someone when you weren't around. Classic symptom. You need to make sure you are with him at all times when other people are around.

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You can have the men you want him to like feed him treats. Make sure he has a safe place to be away from everyone when others are around. If it IS true you need to find out who it is & toss him from your life.

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By (Guest Post)
August 5, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

I'm a dog trainer, so maybe I can offer some advice.

First rule out any health concerns, just to be sure.

Then, monitor the way you react when a) the men approach and b) when your dog reacts. Dogs can "smell" our agitation; it has to do with how our body chemistry changes with our emotions. If he is picking up on your apprehension, then he could be following your reaction.

He could also feel that he is the pack leader and therefore is responsible for protecting you. (He's at the age -- adolescence -- where many dogs often try to establish themselves higher up in the pack.) Do some research on pack order to find some simple (non-violent) ways to signal to your dog that you are the leader, not the dog. One way is to make the dog sit for everything (food, toys, touch, etc.), and to NOT let him pull on the leash during walks. Also, have him sit before entering/exiting doorways and do not let him up on the furniture or bed (except with your permission, if you want to let him continue to do these things). DO NOT PERFORM AN ALPHA ROLL. This is will encourage physical aggression with humans and he will eventually try to challenge you on a physical level at some time when he spots a weakness. I can't believe some trainers still teach this. I'm sorry, but it's a sign of an uneducated and/or abusive trainer.

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Also, consider if he is being rewarded in some way for this behaviour. One common mistake people make is to try to soothe a stressed animal with words and touch. This is a huge mistake. The dog thinks he is being praised for acting unstable, and thus will continue to do it and it will escalate. Instead, remain neutral. Try to remove your attention, eye contact, and touch, and even your presence if you can when your dog is acting unstable (nervous, fearful, aggressive). Obviously, do this safely; don't put anyone at risk -- the dog or the person.

Remove the dog from the stimulus (i.e. man) until the dog has calmed down. Then you need to work on desensitizing and counter-conditioning. This is basically retraining your dog to not be afraid or nervous or aggressive by slowly exposing him to men. Distance and then time. Start with a far distance, as close as your dog is comfortable (look for subtle body language), then give treats when men are around, passing across the dog's path, but not toward the dog. When the dog is comfortable, extend the length of time of the exposure to men. When he is comfortable at, say, several minutes, then you can try decreasing the distance, a few feet at a time. This is a very simplistic explanation. There are lots of great books and websites that can help explain this to you in more detail.

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Oh, and if you can move or ask the men to move so that they are not approaching head-on, that will help. Approaching from the side is less threatening.

For your dog's safety and the men's, don't let the men continue to approach. Tell your dog to sit and then lay down and then have the men walk away. This might teach your dog that if he sits the offending man will leave, and it should discourage aggressive behaviours because laying down is a submissive behaviour. Watch your dog watching the men. When he finally turns his attention calmly to you and looks at you (without you doing or saying anything to make it so), then praise him. He looked to you for guidance and you praised him for it.

Oh, and don't scold his growling and barking in this case. He is giving warning signs and if you teach him to silence them, you'll have a dog that bites without apparent warning (because he's been taught to silence the early warning signals). Acknowledge the signals and deal with the situation that the dog is reacting to.

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I hope this helps.

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August 5, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

We adopted a blue heeler mix pup from the shelter and we have had to work with her to over come her fear of men with hats or caps or any type of hood on their head. Once the hat is removed she is their friend. She even is afraid of my husband until he removes his cap, so our theory is that someone must have swatted her with their cap or hat and she is afraid of being swatted.

We have worked with her by having friends with caps, remove them and be her friend, then place them back on her head while she is looking and still touching her so she can see that it doesn't change them into a bad person. But if she shows fear, the cap is taken back off.

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There has been one man that she took to right away and he never removed his cap. I feel he is an exceptional person and she picked up on it right away. He had no fear of her and she saw how sweet he was and had no fear of him. My husband and I were both happy and astonished. Once we told our friend what we were in awe of, he said, she knows I would not hurt her, I have one at home like her and I love dogs. We agreed she could sense his caring personality.

So work with your bulldog, slowly, give it time to adjust and time to heal, watch all signs and actions of the men that come around. Take notice of their clothing, hats, hair, facial hair, foot wear. everything. And then expose your bulldog to the fear factor slowly and gently. The exposure to the fear will cause it to lessen. I can't think of the scientific wording right now.

Good luck and keep loving that baby dog!
Tina

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March 8, 2015

He is scared of my husband; why?

By Rebekah

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March 9, 20150 found this helpful
Best Answer

Dogs are smart. You might want to consider that you dog has been abused by a man and is now fearful of men in general, or your husband has done something that frightened the dog. If your husband is good to the dog, the dog should get over it in time.

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February 5, 20160 found this helpful
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I agree that the dog probably had negative experience's with men. I had that same issue with a dog I rescued. She absolutely his from men! Now she is fine with my husband, son and any man I introduce her to...after she gets used to them being there. What I also noticed is that dogs sense when the person is uncomfortable around them in anyway. So even if it's just that your husband is worried that the dog disliking him will upset you, the dog will pick up on that negative energy. Has your husband tried spending time alone with the dog? Like if you went to the store and they played in the yard with his pocket full of the best, yummy treats in the world?? You may come home after a few hours to two new best friends! Don't forget to leave the dogs favorite toys too! Best of luck!

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