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Why Are Some Dogs Scared of Men

I Need Your Help . . . My Dog Is Scared of Men

This post comes from member lilegwene in the Pet Peeves group:

My husband and I adopted a dog from an animal shelter a little over two weeks ago. She's an abandoned, Australian shepherd mix, about six years old, and as sweet as can be. We've named her "Jaida" (pronounced Jay-ida and means "good girl" in Arabic). She is my little shadow and loves to cuddle with me and to play in the snow.

Unfortunately, she is very afraid of men including our vet and my husband. I thought it was something she would get over, and she has to an extent with my husband — she will take food from him now which she would not do for the first week we had her. She still does not come to him when he calls, puts her tail between her legs, looks away from him when he pets her, and darts away from him to hide under my desk especially when he first comes downstairs in the morning or comes home from work.

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Right now he is in the kitchen making some food and we are in the living room, where she is hiding under my desk. If he goes to bed or goes to the gym, she will come out and lay on her bed next to the desk but while he is in the area she likes to stay in her safe zone.

I know it will take time, and my husband has been just talking to her nicely, petting her when she lets him, and giving her treats, but we could really use some tips from anyone who has had a similar situation. We'd love to speed along the process! I thought that two weeks in we'd start to see some more improvements, but little has changed. Also, are her actions caused by former abuse from a man or are some dogs just naturally wired to dislike a man's big frame and deep, loud voice?

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Ellenora Ellenora 7 years
lilegwene--Oh, I'm so sorry she has heartworm. Cheese is okay in small doses because cheese is very salty and can cause pancreatitis (which means $$$$$$ vet bill). Zena loves cheese (and I do mean LOVES CHEESE) but she's only allowed a teensy bit because cheese is naturally so salty! Plain, skinless and boneless cooked chicken breast in small pieces is the best. The other option is cooked hot dog, but be warned, cooked hot dog is considered the highest level treat and should be used sparingly. Animal Planet should have a clip about what I was talking about in the previous comment. Just go to It's More or the Dog section and click videos. It's a great resource. I go there all the time.
sarasonne sarasonne 7 years
Most likely due to past abuse. I had a similar situation and it just took time. Glad your husband is making such a great effort. In my situation, took almost a year for my animal to get used to men.
lilegwene lilegwene 7 years
I can't thank you all enough for the responses. She has been doing about the same... though there are good days and bad days. Some days she won't come out of her "safe zone" even to get food from him, and last night as my husband and I were watching a movie she voluntarily jumped onto the couch. She was by me, not by him, but she was very close to him and he could reach over and pet her. A lot of great suggestions that we will implement, and I will look into what the suggested trainers and books say. We will try some things out and see what she loves (start with your suggestions of chicken and cheese) so maybe there's a treat that she can't resist and will always accept from my husband. Someone suggested a therapist, and we had talked about that, but what I failed to mention is that she is heartworm positive. She got the first shot of the treatment to get rid of them on February 2nd, and she gets the 2nd round on March 2nd. Anyone familiar with this procedure (we weren't!) knows that you have to keep the dog as quiet as possible for 30 days after the shot. So, we've kept her from meeting new dogs, places, and people unless it is necessary. Again, thank you for the encouragement and advice. It makes me feel a lot better and we will try out a lot of your suggestions. We really love her, and just want her to be happy and comfortable with us at all times!
Ellenora Ellenora 7 years
Praise her for being able to take food from your husband. As Victoria Stilwell would say, that's a huge step! It may seem small to you, but that is huge with a dog with a phobia of men. There was an episode of It's Me or the Dog dealing with a dog with a phobia of men. Stilwell suggested a "pleasure bag" (or something to that effect). Get a little lunchbag (a plastic one preferably) and put in a small bits of chicken or her favorite food (chicken or small treats are okay). When your male friends come over, put the bag outside and explain that when they come in, have them drop a piece of food so she learns that men are okay. Make men "the giver of all things good." Praise is huge! She'll slowly come out of her shell. Give her time!
fuzzles fuzzles 7 years
My very first Persian was of the same behavior. She didn't come around to anyone but me (men in particular) until she had been at home with me for a good year in time. But within that period of time, she became a completely different cat! Give your pup time, and as others have suggested, let her come around on her own terms. You will be amazed, and rewarded in countless ways. Best of luck!
deanna024 deanna024 7 years
As many others have said, it just takes time. It's been 2 weeks and that's not a lot of time for a dog to make a complete turnaround. You have to be patient and do things as much on her time as your own. Great about your husband giving her treats. Make sure when he pets her that it is not forced -- i.e. that she's sitting still and is showing signs she wants to be petted by him. He should not just go up and start petting her any time he pleases at this stage, as that can reinforce her fears. Bottom line, just give it time. Keep at it and she'll see that she doesn't have anything to fear any more. And all dogs usually hate the vet, whether they don't like men or women or don't hate anyone. Our loving little terrier is afraid of no one put pees on the floor at the vet.
wakeupandora wakeupandora 7 years
Another thing that might help - finding interviews with Temple Grandin, and listening to how she believes fear responses work in animals. She recently had an interview recap on Fresh Air (NPR) where she talked about dogs afraid of black hats, and how you will never know why, but you have to find a positive method of getting them to reassociate something good with the black hat. Interesting stuff. I too have what some might call a 'damaged' dog. Two years after his adoption, and he's the best darn dog we could ask for. He was afraid of anything new - new leaves on the sidewalk, new garbage cans in our way on garbage day, new people coming up to him. We still tackle things when he finds something to fear, positively re-associating with cheese ;) You can do it!
Smacks83 Smacks83 7 years
Oh, and I really don't appreciate JoyFull's "damaged dog" comment. My "damaged" dog went on to have a very normal, happy life (and she started out as fear-aggressive, peeing herself and crying all the time). Old dogs can always learn new tricks!
Smacks83 Smacks83 7 years
My last rescue dog was the same way (female lab/shepard mix, about 3 yrs old). She would scream and pee herself anytime a man went anywhere near her. What we did is to first do associations. For example, instead of having men come up to her with treats (which she could percieve as scary), I had men just walk by her not looking at her, and toss the treats on the ground near her. That way she would start seeing that men walking by doesn't equal equals yummy! Then i would have men walk near her (not looking or talking to her) drop treats on the floor near them and walk away (forcing the dog to get up to get the treats). You slowly build up to dropping treats on the floor and not walking away, until you reach holding out treats. Another trick to make these treats (what I called "men-only treats") somethng very special that she gets at no other time (like hot dog bits, or bits of chicken breast). The key is to not try and force her too fast to like your hubby (or men in general). Trust me this works, it got to the point my lab mix would follow my dad around happily, or try to climb into my bf's lap for cuddles. Good luck!!
wakeupandora wakeupandora 7 years
I think the fact that she's taking food from him is a really big improvement already! Any men that you can have give her something she can't resist (cheese, hot dogs) will help, non threatening - like getting down to her level and not facing her and slowly working up to standing and treating her. Do you have the means to hire a behaviorist? Someone who will only use a positive reinforcement method to counter condition her fear responses? That will help, no telling how long it will take, but its evident you are committed - and I think a kind hand and consistency will go very far with this dog! Another good sight to help find a positive trainer is trulydogfriendly . com Some books that might help - cautious canine by Dr. Patricia McConnell. - help for your fearful dog by Nicole Wilde - calming signals by Turid Rugaas I think It's Me or The Dog had an episode with a reactive poodle mix who was afraid of the husband in the family, and the trainer had the husband start walking the poodle and giving her treats as they went along, until he could pet her and hold her. Clicker training might also help. Google Karen Pryor for more info.
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