Last Updated on July 4, 2022 by The Puppy Mag
Is there anything more heartbreaking than your dog being or becoming fearful of you? We work hard to nurture a bond with our beloved pets and it can be truly devastating when the love we have for them is not reciprocated.
If you have an anxious dog who is scared of you, you are not alone. The important thing is to determine why this has happened so that we can address the underlying issue and work on creating a strong connection between you two.
Knowing If Your Dog Is Fearful Of You
Dogs show fear in different ways and it’s not always easy to know when they are anxious. Signs differ from dog to dog and even the same dog can exhibit different traits on different days. Watch out for the following:
- Hiding away when you arrive in the room
- A lack of eye contact or constant eye contact (staring)
- Becoming very quiet
- Refusing food and treats in your presence
- Snapping, growling, or aggression
- Excessive barking
- Refusing to listen to your commands or completely ignoring you
- Becoming possessive of furniture and items in your presence
Interesting topic: Why does my dog always hump after eating?
7 Reasons Your Dog Is Afraid of You But Not Your Wife
- Previous negative experience with males
- An event that happened while you were present
- Your physical presence
- Your voice or tone of voice
- Not being the primary care-giver
- Those little “extras”
- Your smell
If your dog is anxious in your presence alone, you will undoubtedly take this personally. What have you done to deserve this? Often, the reasons are not what you are expecting and it can be something out of your control entirely.
Figuring out what triggers the anxiety in your dog is key. Look to the interactions your dog has with the people he is most comfortable. What are these people doing that you’re not?
Take a look at the following possible triggers and consider if they may apply to you:
1. Previous negative experiences with males
Dogs generally have excellent memories. They tend to hold on to bad experiences and any previous trauma or abuse will be carried with them for years to come. If your dog suffered at the hands of another male, they may hold this against all men.
Importantly, most dogs who fear men have not had bad experiences in the past. Owners tend to always assume that prior abuse is the reason for fear of men, but we see this in dogs who have been in the same house since purchased as a puppy and have never experienced trauma.
Those dogs who have been abused or neglected will typically have other behavioral issues and signs of anxiety. It is important that, in these cases, a canine behaviorist is consulted to work alongside you with your dog and help them heal from any previous negative experiences.
Helpful read: 8 Reasons why puppies may not want to come out of their crate
2. An event that happened while you were present
Dogs are very instinctive creatures. If something shocks them, the adrenaline surge and negative emotions will come rushing in. If you’re with them when this happens, it is possible that they will associate the bad feelings with you.
Dogs who suffer with fireworks phobia may struggle to cope with the loud bangs and flashes. If it is you who is with them at this time, they may worry the fireworks will begin again when they see you.
Another example of this is when a dog is attacked while on the lead with their owner. The next time that owner brings them out, they may panic that the same thing will happen again.
It is hard to reason with a dog and they are not always logical, especially when it comes to their deepest fears.
3. Your physical presence
Most men are naturally larger than their female counterparts. They may move more abruptly and can take up more space. For a very nervous dog, seeing a large person walk through the door may be enough to raise their hackles.
Of course, your stature is not something you can change. However, you can work on not walking rapidly towards your dog or crowding them. Be sure to give them space and to allow them to approach you, rather than you going over to them for affection.
When in the room with them, ensure they always have the option of walking away or leaving the room. An anxious dog will become even more on edge if they feel they are ‘trapped’ and cannot move or leave.
Recommended: Should you cover a dog crate? Does it help?
4. Your voice or tone of voice
Most dogs respond best to a voice that is soft and gentle. A deep or loud voice can put them on edge. Similarly, any shouting or bellowing isn’t likely to go down well. Remember, if you’re cheering on your favorite football team on TV, your dog is not going to understand that your yelling is not aimed at them.
Be mindful of how you speak when your dog is around. Try to keep your voice even and refrain from raising your voice when possible.
When speaking directly to your dog, make an effort to keep the volume low. There is no need to change your voice or put on a false voice, but just try to ensure you don’t get over-excited or too loud if it upsets your pet.
5. Not being the primary care-giver
Many dogs form their strongest attachment to one person in particular. This is especially true for certain breeds that value loyalty such as the Chow Chow, Akita and German Shepherd. They may not show loyalty to other people and might even be fearful of them and aggressive around them.
The person they dedicate themselves to is usually the primary caregiver. This is the owner who feeds them, walks them, trains them and play with them. While you may share these responsibilities with your wife, if she is more proactive, this could be the issue.
When possible, try to share the errands and be sure to dedicate plenty of time to your pet. It may be worth your wife taking a back seat for a few weeks, so your pet learns to appreciate you and understands that you care for them too.
Dogs crave consistent care. Try to stick to a schedule so your dog knows they can rely on you and isn’t kept guessing when it comes to their daily routine.
6. Those little “extras”
As odd as it may seem, your dog may get spooked at certain clothing items. This can include hats, large coats, and glasses. In fact, some dogs are even scared of facial hair.
This is generally the case when puppies were poorly socialized in their first months and not exposed to a range of people in a calm and happy environment.
Try to take note of any time your dog seems especially worried. Are you wearing anything in particular? Have you shaved recently? It can be worth keeping a little diary, seeing if there is a trend in your appearance and how your dog reacts to you.
If you find your dog is afraid of a certain item of clothing or hairstyle, try to be mindful of this.
Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can be driven by their nose. If you have been around other dogs or animals when out of the house, they may pick up on this and hold it against you.
Similarly, if you use a particular deodorant, aftershave or soap, your dog might dislike it. For example, dogs have a strong distaste for citrus scents.
Dogs are instinctual beings and if your smell makes them uncomfortable, this can contribute to anxiety. It is sensible to smell ‘neutral’ around your dog, so they are not unsettled by any scents.
Read more: Why is my puppy so hyper in the mornings?
The Bottom Line
There is usually an explanation why your dog is fearful of you. They won’t take against you without good reason. Your job is to get to the bottom of their fear and to try and reassure them that you pose no threat.
Once your dog is not nervous around you, you can work on building that strong bond you deserve to have with them.
Oakland Animal Services Fearful Behavior