Canine Creature Comforts
Q: I hate to say this, but my dog Mitzi doesn’t like men. I got her from a shelter, and I asked about her past, but no one there seems to know much about her. I’m guessing she may have been abused by a man before she came into my home. My boyfriend has been over several times and is definitely a dog-lover. Mitzi just growls at him and goes into the other room. As soon as he leaves, she’s back to her affectionate, loveable self with me. She also growls at men who pass us when I walk her. What can I do?
A: We work with many different rescues and rescued dogs. We hear this assumption a lot. ‘My dog is fearful therefore they were probably abused.’ The reality is that most rescue dogs haven’t been physically abused but are severely under socialized. They never learned how to properly greet strangers. A man’s natural body language looks much different to a dog than a woman’s. They stand taller, they have broader shoulders, and they have been trained from a young age to make direct eye contact as they approach someone. All of these items can appear as a threat to a dog in dog language. Many dogs are more wary of a strange man approaching, verses a strange woman. To fix this issue you need to consult with an experienced behavioral expert to help your dog build a more positive association with all strangers, especially men.
In the meantime, do not force your dog to interact with your boyfriend. No petting or direct eye contact. Tell him to basically ignore your dog for the time being. I know it is hard when you love dogs, but in dog language your boyfriend is telling your dog that he is not a threat and you will see your pup start to approach him willingly.
ABOUT the Trainer :
Amy has been training dogs for over 10 years and specializes in pack management and behavioral issues. In addition to managing a daily daycare pack of 60-80 dogs, she lives with her own pack of five dogs at home. She believes that if humans spend a little more time learning how to speak “dog”, our relationships with our canine friends will be much improved.