Helping Dogs Overcome Fear
It is often disheartening to discover that your beloved pup doesn’t seem to like everyone they meet. There can be a few reasons why this may happen, but with patience and understanding, you can help them build positive relationships with people.
One potential reason why your dog may not like some people is because of their previous experiences. If they had a bad experience with someone in the past, it could cause them to be more wary of strangers and not take well to meeting new people. It is also possible that your pup simply has preferences when it comes to people; some may be more comfortable with certain genders, ages, or sizes than others.
Some dogs don't take well to meeting men because, in the eyes of a canine, they may appear more intimidating. Men are usually physically bigger than women and often have deeper voices, which can make them appear more threatening in the eyes of a pup. Additionally, due to their size and strength, men may tend to move more quickly and use harsher tones, which can be unnerving for some dogs. If you have a dog who seems to shy away from men, it is important that they are given the time and space to adjust at their own pace. Encourage familiar people to speak gently and move slowly, rewarding them with treats when appropriate. Over time, your pup should learn to become more comfortable with people of all genders.
Another factor may be that they simply need more time to warm up. Dogs cannot always tell if a person is friendly or not right away, so it can take some time before they relax around someone new. It helps if the person speaks in a calm and gentle tone, avoids sudden movements, and starts with offering a few treats—all of which will show your pup that the person is trustworthy and help them get more comfortable.
When it comes to new interactions, always be sure to observe your dog and take cues from them. If they appear uncomfortable or scared, give them space and don’t force the interaction—you want them to feel safe. However, we do not recommend you coddle, pet, or reassure a puppy that is acting afraid, as it can reinforce fearful behavior.
When dogs are afraid, it’s important to recognize that they have feelings too. Take steps to ensure that both you and the unfamiliar person respect their boundaries and give them time to acclimate. With patience and understanding for your pup, soon enough they may be wagging their tail at every new friend they meet!
At America's VetDogs, our puppy raisers use these skills to train future service dogs when they show fear or timidity. Service dogs must be confident, no matter whose presence they are in. Learn more about how we partner with everyday people like you to help us raise these animal heroes!