I hear this issue more often than you’d expect. Whether it’s a new dog or an established one, the results are the same; frustration when the two are together. Sometimes it manifests with the dog barking constantly when the guy moves or going after his feet. Other times a man begins feeling like he’s unwelcome in his own home or ganged up on by the softies in the family.
Now first it should be said that I trust dogs and use them as guideposts. If my dog doesn’t like my boyfriend first I’m going to take a look at my dog and determine if he’s a good judge of character (in this situation). Is he a solid dog who doesn’t show a lot of jealousy? If so then I’m going to take a closer look at the guy and make sure everything checks out. But if my dog is neurotic or anxious then chances are they’re reacting to the changes in the environment and voicing their displeasure (stress).
Why it happens
I believe there’s a couple of reasons behind dogs not trusting men. First, men naturally get respect from dogs. Most of us have witnessed a woman asking a dog to sit ten-times without the dog obliging, then a man says the same thing one-time and the dog immediately complies. But the opposite side of the respect coin is trust. While dogs naturally respect men they naturally trust women.
Shy, nervous, scared dogs bond much quicker to women. Woman typically speak softer, talk in baby-talk to dogs, give them deep-tissue massages and really see them. Dogs tend to trust women while respecting men, as a general rule until they get to know us.
The second reason I believe dogs don’t trust men is because these dogs crave a low-chaos and a predictable environment. Men tend to be less aware of their actions and how those actions impact the dogs around them. Think about a Sunday morning in many houses, dad wakes up in a good mood, hangs in bed a bit longer than usual and seems great. But just a few hours later dad is throwing beer cans at the TV and screaming at someone named Brady – unpredictable (at least to a scared/nervous dog).
How to fix it
There are a couple of things you can do to help your dog get over their issue. First, know you’re going to be into this for a while. Issues like this don’t often going away immediately, they take time and trust building. Your dog needs to get used to him and how he moves and talks and carries himself.
Only he gives the best treats. What are your dog’s favorite treats? Have them handy so he can easily grab them. Since we’re building trust and a relationship here the guy needs to be generous and not demand a lot of behaviors. This isn’t about getting the dog to sit for a treat but instead teaching the dog that guy = tasty treats.
Have him hand feed the dog. Put the food in the dogs’ bowl but then have the guy sit on the floor (important – standing and hovering over the dog is NOT good) or in a chair and take a handful of food out of the bowl and let the dog eat it out of his hand. This gives the dog the opportunity to smell him and associate his smells with food (an awesome thing J). If the dog refuses, try again after a few minutes and be sure to get on the floor. Typically, after 3 repetitions the dog will get what’s going on.
Watch body language. Often guys are larger than women and tower over dogs. Men can go a long way to building trust with dogs by getting smaller – down on one knee is great or sitting down and facing off to the side of the dog (not directly toward the dog). Most dogs will easily approach men if they’re lying on the couch or on the floor.
Have him walk the dog. A walk can go a long way to building trust since the dog needs to rely on the individual during the walk. Once they’ve done this a bit you can expand their world a bring them to places that are a bit busier. The chaos will cause them to rely on him more and more.
Fear doesn’t always make a lot of sense but it can dictate what we do – or don’t do. I believe the same to be true for dogs. Take the time to work them through their issues so they’re not ruled by fear. And be sure to watch your responses, we don’t want to reward a dog who is acting out but we do want to support a dog who’s stressed.