03 Mar WHEN YOUR DOG IS AFRAID OF MEN
Dogs who are afraid of men have not necessarily been abused by a man. When people discover that a dog is afraid of men, they very often attribute it to a bad experience. While being abused by a man may cause a lifelong fear of all men, this is not the most likely culprit.
Usually, a fear of men in dogs can be traced to not being exposed to a wide variety of men in early puppyhood. Even a dog who has lived with a man can be fearful of men who are different than the one they are familiar with. Men are usually taller than women or children, have deeper voices, and may have different features, such as facial hair.
When you look at things from the dog’s perspective, it’s easy to see how a lack of socialization with men early on in life can lead to a lifelong fear of men.
Why dogs might fear men?
Although behaviorists have studied the issue, there’s no clear reason why dogs would naturally be more afraid of men than they are of women, but there are some possibilities, the most likely of which is that the dog was not exposed to or socialized with enough men while she was a puppy, so they are still unusual to her.
Men are bigger, taller and have deeper voices. They seem less likely to stoop down when they approach dogs, and may not realize that they hover in a way that dogs find intimidating. Some men have beards or wear hats that dogs can find scary.
Dogs can likely smell the hormones, body colognes and other odors that make a man, but I haven’t found any conclusive data about this. I’m only certain that a dog can tell a man from a woman based on smell, appearance and the sound of their voice, so they would naturally tend to shy away from this energy.
Another possibility is that men’s and women’s scents are very different to a dog, due to both hormones and different kinds of fragrances in personal care products. In the dog world, puppies are raised by their mothers and the father is rarely even around. Therefore, the female smell of estrogen is something that puppies are exposed to from an early age, and this smell is also associated with their first food source — nursing. Their mother’s scent equals safety.
Another difference is the way men and women react to dogs and puppies. Women tend to approach a dog in a very nurturing and comforting way. Meanwhile, men tend to approach a new dog in a more assertive but playful way.
But my dog is afraid of men, so now what?
There are a few things you can do to ease the anxiety of your fearful dog.
Here’s how to proceed.
Determine whether it’s all men or just some attributes.
While it may seem that a dog is afraid of all men, this might not be the case, so you need to figure out the exact cause of the fear first. It could be that your dog is only afraid of men with beards, or men in hats, or men in uniform. It could only be men over a certain height, men with deep voices or, unfortunately, men of a certain ethnic group.
The important part is that you need to forget the general labels and find the specific. This will require assistance from friends, and trial and error.
Once you’ve determined whether it’s all men or just one very specific subset, it’s time to begin the rehabilitation.
Enlist friends and extinguish the fear
The best way to help extinguish a dog’s fear is through exposure to the fearful thing and a lot of positive reinforcement. In order to do this, you’ll need a few strange—to your dog—men to help you, and the scary props, like uniforms or hats. If appropriate to your dog’s situation, enlist a bearded friend or two as well. Men should keep some treats handy while they are around the dog. Any time the fearful dog gets even a little closer than usual, they can very gently toss some treats in the dog’s direction. It may take awhile before the dog accepts the treats, but you may eventually be able to train your dog that good things happen whenever he approaches a man. With some time and patience, the fearful dog will be ready to accept the companionship of the men in the household.
Make yourself a distraction
Train your dog to look at you on command and you’ll have a way to turn her attention away from a fearful stimulus. This command may be referred to as “Look at me” or “Watch me.” There are several methods to teach it and, as with all dog training, you can use whatever word or phrase works for you.
Check your reaction
Since dogs pick up on our energy and emotions, it is possible that he’s learned his fear of men or specific types of men from you. If he still seems to be showing fear despite the methods above, then pay attention to how you react to strange men. For example, do you feel nervous when you see a policeman or anxious when you see a delivery man? Do you become angry when you see a man who resembles your ex or a former boss you didn’t like?
These reactions are out of the norm to your dog and are telling him, “Hey, there’ssomething to watch out for here.” Dogs reflect our energy — so make sure you’re not accidentally telling your dog to be afraid of that man walking down the street!