Bulldog Has Become Afraid Of Men

Category Advice

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 Tracy B (Guest Post)
August 5, 20080 found this helpful

There's a great "catch all" dog book out there called "Caesar's Way" by Caesar Milan. We have a 1 1/2 year old Chocolate Lab and my husband SWEARS by this book! I'm sure it must have something in it about stranger or men anxiety. Couldn't hurt to check it out from the library!

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

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. 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

I adopted a rescued Lhasa Apso who is agressive only toward men-I believe she has been abused by a male and knows men by their scent-dogs can detect pheremones in humans and she may be reacting to a past history of even 1 male abusing her.

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

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.


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.


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.


I hope this helps.

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By CJB. (Guest Post)
August 5, 20080 found this helpful

Several questions: (1) do you think he may have an injury, perhaps caused by a man? Have a vet examine him, especially his head and shoulders and ribs. (2) is it possible that he has been tormented by repairmen when you were not present? (3)is he ever left alone in the yard where a passerby could hurt him?

Sometimes men think it shows their masculinity by kicking or teasing a dog. (NO, not all men!) Friends of ours witnessed a mother cheering as her little boys hit at my friend's restrained large dog. Said it taught their little creatures to be "brave". Dog never forgot. If you can, watch The Dog Whisperer on TV. Cesar (TDW) deals with many dog difficulties. Your bulldog looks like a real sweetheart.

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August 5, 20080 found this helpful

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.

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!

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By Kim from Fort Worth (Guest Post)
August 6, 20080 found this helpful

I don't think it has anything to do with someone abusing him. It sounds to me (and I think Cesar Millan would agree) that he views you as his property and is becoming aggressive to men around you because he sees them as a threat to his claim on you, and his place as alpha male. You need to reprimand him when he does this to let him know it is unacceptable. A sharp "NO!" would probably help, though

Cesar also does a scruff of the neck grab where he grabs at their neck like he's a mama dog nipping her puppy's neck, to get their attention and remind them who's boss. You have to nip this in the bud now because he is a big, strong dog and you don't want him to think it's okay to intimidate people. Hope this helps! Definitely check out Cesar's NEW book (not Cesar's Way....although good, it's a kind of bio, and his new one is focused more on just dog behavior).

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September 8, 20090 found this helpful

We had the same problem when our boxer reached his first birthday; the good news is that by the time he was 2.5 all signs of this behavior were gone.

To share a story, I took 18-mo. Jack to PetsRUs for some "controlled socialization" when a man in his 60s approached Jack with his two grandchildren. One a boy and the other a girl, the two appeared to be roughly the same age and both acted in the same calm, friendly, curious manner to the dog. Jack immediately steered clear of the two males and approached the little girl in a very open, friendly, and sweet manner then turned over on the floor to let her scratch his belly. As both the older and younger males tried to show affection, Jack bared his teeth and acted very aggressive and skittish at the same time. All of this occurred in the matter of two minutes. It was VERY apparent that he wanted no part of anything male.

What we suspected:
1) he had a couple of mildly bad experiences with two different men at two different kennels (one of the two was bad enough that I refused to consider taking him there again) just prior to the onset of the behavior. I do not think that these were the provocations of the behavior, but rather helped to intensify it.

2) I am Jack's primary care giver and my husband is unabashedly afraid of dogs (a fact I couldn't truly believe until AFTER Jack had been with us for 8 months.) So most of Jack's early dealings with men were awkward at best. (My husband's entirely family has an irrational fear of dogs and each of the 5 men and one woman in the family displayed fear and difficulty with the dog.) All of this solidified his distrust for men. I think that boxers are profoundly intuitive and open dogs and it doesn't take much when they are puppies to affect their behavior going forward. Yet, as they are easily affected, they can also be trained and steered out of bad habits.

If I had it to do over again, I might not introduce a dog to my husband (very sad) especially not a big dog like Jack, who frequently showed my better half who was really the boss. Despite the fact that Jack, the dog, is afraid of his own shadow. We did wait it out and everything turned out just fine but it took a year of my running interference for Jack when men were around. This of course took patience and a combination of kindness and tough love directed at the dog. He is an amazing comfort to me now!

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