My rescue dog barks and lunges at men -- but not all men

Richard KramerRichard Kramer Posts: 4Member
edited 5 April, 2012 in Behavior & Training
I have a wonderful bichon boy, a little more than a year, from a great rescue organization. I know he's not "aggressive" (overused, misunderstood term) but I have detected anxiety, most evident when a man -- especially a large one -- comes over. Sometimes it's easy to calm him down with a distracting treat, and sometimes effective when I ask the scary man to give him a treat, too. But it's far from foolproof. I just had a friend visit, who he went crazy at, then calmed down to join us, then when my friend went to the bathroom he went crazy again. I think it's transitional anxiety and I'm not worried about it; he's a deeply sweet, fast-to-learn guy. But if anyone has any notions to throw at me -- I'm all (floppy) ears ...


  • Krista LynnKrista Lynn Posts: 5,021Member
    edited 7 April, 2011
    When I first got Jewel from the shelter she was scared of men too! We did a few different things, she comes to work with me and one of the guys at work also has a tiny dog at home - he used to get right on the floor with Jewel (he'd lay on his belly!) and baby talk to her. She loves him now and he's not allowed to ignore her. :)) Also when we were walking everytime we'd see a man I'd stop and feed her treats. There were a couple men that we'd run into on our walks that would get right down in the grass with her and feed her treats too. But now she expect food and love everytime she sees a man. :?:))
  • JENNIFER BERGERONJENNIFER BERGERON Rockford, IllinoisPosts: 2,125Member
    edited 7 April, 2011
    Lia is still shy around some men, she used to be terribly afraid of them too but has come a long way. What I\'ve noticed is that when a man tries to approach and pet her, she shys away, like it scares her. BUT alot of times she will trot right up and sniff a guy that isn\'t paying any attention to her. Or she will warm up to someone she previously shyed away from- just on her own time, when she is ready. So my advice would be not to \"force\" anything, if she is afraid of someone tell them to ignore her and I bet eventually curiosity will get the best of her and she will approach them for a sniff. Having men give her treats is a good idea too. And Lia loves baby talk but there aren\'t many men willing to talk like that to her (except the \"dog guys\" at the dog park, lol)
  • Sam SmithSam Smith Posts: 1,946Member
    edited 7 April, 2011
    I agree with Lia. When I got Maya, she was very fearful of men. She'd been previously abused by several different men and so when I got her, she would lunge and snap at any strange men, usually on walks and in the house(at the dog park with all the different people AND dogs, she was fine). I find she also shies away from men who approach her first, but now she'll run up to them, fur standing up, head lowered and sniff them before deciding what she thinks of them. It took A LOT of positive reinforcement and men giving her treats and instead of having them pet her on top of the head and back, I had them stroke under her chin, throat, along her chest, places that she felt more relaxed about and didn't make her duck down. She, however, hates baby talk and it makes her more nervous. Occasionally, she'll still see a man and give a small 'woof' or she'll lunge at the end of her leash, but it's FAR easier to get her to relax now than it ever used to be. It took DAILY work, all throughout different times of the day, with all sorts of different men, but we worked up to it. One man, until she trusted him, then we'd add another, have them both over to the house, etc. Out on walks, it was just lots of positive reinforcement and I would ALWAYS tell a person to pet UNDER her chin, rather than reach above her head, cause that made her nervous and I ALWAYS told them to call her by her name, it kind of gave her the illusion that they weren't nearly so bad. She warms up quicker to a person who says her name and welcomes her over with open arms than one who approaches her instead of letting her come to him. Each dog is different for what works with them, but I suggest lots of patience and positive reinforcement.
  • Julie SaundersJulie Saunders Posts: 1,322Member
    edited 7 April, 2011
    Keiko is not a fan of men either, especially strange ones. She does not like them much. This is why I sometimes call her my "boyfriend repellent." :)) There are a few things that always help her, though. One is when the man doesn't approach her first, as some of the other posters mentioned. I can think of exactly one man whom she LOVED IMMEDIATELY, and it was a friend of mine who is really just not a dog person. I mean, he doesn't hate dogs, he just doesn't particularly care about them much. I think he was the first man who came into the house who just didn't approach her at all. She LOVED him - she even tried to jump into his lap :-O which she normally only does with me, not even the other members of the family. It was so strange! :)) He would just sort of give her a pat or something and I'd call her off. But man, she was crazy about him from the start. I'm told he and I also look alike (he looks more like my brother than my real brothers do) so that could be a contributing factor, but still. I think the fact that he was clearly a friend and he didn't approach and intimidate her made the difference. Second, she does NOT like it when people reach over her head. She's very "head-shy" that way. She also doesn't like it when men extend their hands toward her face, which is such a common dog greeting behavior that everyone does it. If they stand with their hands at their sides and let her check them out first, then she won't growl, but if they reach out she will. Then I always have them reach past her head and pet her on the shoulder, back, or chest. She accepts that much more calmly. She also particularly dislikes tall men because they tend to lean down over her to pet her. If they squat down to where they're closer to eye level instead of leaning over, that helps too. She's accepted most of the men in the family now and thinks they're all great, though she does still have trouble with one of my brothers when we forget to keep their relationship up. He doesn't like dogs, so he tends to forget about it, but if he just randomly drops or gives her treats when he walks past her throughout the day, she changes her mind about him. Then he'll forget to give her anything for a while, and then he'll do something that triggers her, and then their relationship goes down a couple of notches. So to sum up, the things that work best for her are: 1) Let her approach first; 2) Never reach male hands over her face or head; and 3) Give random treats when men are near. Treats from or dropped by men work great, but me giving her treats in return for approaching or looking at a man (the "look at that" game, it's sometimes called) can work too, especially with strangers she's meeting for the first time. Another thing - don't push her to meet or hang out with a man when she's clearly uncomfortable. If she just seems tense but can stay in the same room while avoiding him, that's fine, but give her an out. Keiko is always much more comfortable with an escape route to an established safe place. For example, she knows no one will bother her in her crate, so that's where she goes when she's uncomfortable, with my bedroom as a second escape place when I was living there. And if she's already at the point of growling, snarling, lip curling, lunging, etc., then don't let the man come any closer and don't encourage or coax her into doing the same. You don't want her to think that you won't listen to her warnings or you could end up with a dog who bites. You also shouldn't punish her for acting out - just get her away from the situation (do a "time out" if you want to so that everyone gets a chance to calm down), then start over when she's a bit more calm. Right now she thinks that bad things will happen if the man comes near her, and if she gets in trouble for reacting then that just confirms her suspicions. EDIT: Changed pet authors. Also just noticed your dog is a boy...sorry if the all-female pronouns offend you on that score. EDIT2: Also wanted to add that if/when you remove him from a situation that's escalating, try to do it without touching him. Touch can escalate anxiety/reactivity in a lot of dogs, especially when they're already worked up. So avoid the impulse to pick him up and just call/lure him out of the room instead.
  • Mike JacobsenMike Jacobsen Posts: 53Member
    edited 10 April, 2011
    Sounds like "no touch, no talk, no eye contact" at initial meeting might be good advice for men when they FIRST meet dogs who are afraid of men. I'm a human male and I too get a little anxious when some very large male rushes up to me, obviously excited, "yelling," staring intensely into my eyes, and trys to pat my head. And most people think I am large.
  • Nicole KafkaNicole Kafka Posts: 1Member
    edited 5 April, 2012
    My Dog ozzy was a rescue and was confirmed that he was abused by a man before. He is great when meeting men at the dog park, family get togethers, when my boyfriend comes over, but sometimes when were on walks and a man wearing dark clothes walks by he lunges at them but doesnt go to bite he just kinda growls a little and lunges. It doesnt help that he looks like a german shepherd so it scared peoples. Im just wondering if someone has tips to help get him out of doing this? He's a great dog, so loving and a big suck but it seems like hes trying to protect me or something. Anyone have some tips to help with this behavior?
  • Lya AshleyLya Ashley SmethportPosts: 5,878Member
    edited 5 April, 2012
    Understand why there is an issue with men. No offense to any man reading. They are taller, walk in a more direct manner, deeper voices, wear hats, sunglasses, etc. So men, from a dogs point of view seem to be more of a threat to dogs than women. Having the "scary man" walk in, ignoring the dog completely is the first thing to do. If it seems to be too much, remove your dog from the room entirely until the dog is calmer. Once the dog is calm then allow the dog to an area where he can see then man but not get too close. This gives him time to observe the scary man from a safe distance. When the dog is quiet give him praise and even a yummy treat. Work the dog closer and closer over time. Do not push the dog, if the dog starts to get nervous, ie. barking, growling, whale-eyed remove the dog and start over. Once the dog can get close enough to sniff, just ignore him. He needs to go at his pace. Then once the dog is calm in the same room with the scary man have the man drop treats on the floor - never looking or acknowledging the dog. It takes time but can be done. Patience and lots of calming breaths help! =; ETA: If the man enters with sunglasses and a hat have them removed immediately - they change the shape of a man's head - adding to the anxiety...
Sign In or Register to comment.

Welcome to the new Dogster Community!

Introduce the community to your pet with our Pet Profiles and discover how to use the new community with our Getting Started pages!

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!