How to Stop a Fear of Men in Dogs

Scared Yorkshire terrier dog hiding under bed.

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Some very well-behaved dogs are afraid of men. Your dog may be perfectly calm and have no behavior problems around women and children, but it may become a completely different dog when a man enters the room or tries to approach. Some dogs will cower, shake, or urinate out of nervousness, or try to hide. Others will become anxious and show signs of aggression like growling or baring their teeth. In some cases, dogs may even attack or bite a man unexpectedly.

A fear of men is actually a relatively common phobia in dogs. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your dog get over this fear and learn to accept the men it encounters.

Why Do Dogs Fear Men?

When people discover that a dog is afraid of men, they very often attribute it to a bad experience. However, there are a variety of reasons why your dog may fear men in general or only those that are not part of your family.

  • Being abused by a man may cause a lifelong fear of all men. For the majority of dogs, this is not the most likely culprit, though.
  • In many cases, this fear can be traced to a lack of socialization with men when the dog was a puppy. Even a dog who has lived with a man can be fearful of unfamiliar men.
  • Men can be more intimidating. They are usually taller and bigger than women and children, have deeper voices, and may have different features, such as facial hair. From a dog's perspective, these things might be rather scary.

How to Stop Your Dog's Fear of Men

The difficulty of correcting this behavior will depend on the severity of your dog's fear of men. Some have only a mild fear while others are more severe cases. No matter what, remember to be patient because it can take a lot of time for a dog to overcome any phobia. In the meantime, keep things as positive as possible and try a few things to help ease your dog's anxiety.

Stay in the Dog's Comfort Zone

First of all, it's important that you don't force your dog beyond its comfort zone. If there are men in your household or who visit frequently, avoid pushing your dog into accepting their attention. Your attempts can backfire and actually strengthen the fear. In the worse case scenario, it may lead to the dog biting either you or the man if it's prevented from escaping its fear.

Let Your Dog Approach

Allow your dog to approach men on its own. This can be hard for male dog lovers, but the best thing they can do is ignore the fearful dog. Trying to make friends with the dog may have the opposite effect than what they hope for and intensify the dog's fear. Allow your dog to decide how close it wants to approach any man.

Offer Treats for Encouragement

When trying to break this fear, men should keep treats handy while they are around your dog. Any time the fearful dog gets even a little closer than usual, they can very gently toss a couple treats in the dog's direction.

It can take a while for the dog to accept the treats, but eventually you may be able to train your dog that good things happen whenever it approaches a man. With some time and patience, the fearful dog will be ready to accept the companionship of the men in the household.

Dog putting paw on man?s hand
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Desensitize Your Dog

Desensitization is the process of using treats and praise to gradually let the dog know that it is safe to approach men. In severe cases, you won't want to start with the dog and a man in the same room. Instead, try and keep your dog a safe distance from the man, and give it treats and praise.

Over time, you may be able to slowly close the distance between the dog and men without the dog succumbing to its fear. While your dog may never feel completely comfortable with men, it may be able to be in the same room without showing aggression.

Father holds family pet Chihuahua dog at home. Children.
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Work With a Dog Trainer

In severe cases, it is beneficial to have the help of an experienced dog trainer or behaviorist. A professional will be able to gauge your dog's comfort level to the proximity of men and can help you move ahead safely in the process of desensitization.

Work on Obedience Training

The more well-trained your dog, the more likely you'll be able to get it to focus on you in stressful situations. Make obedience training part of your daily routine with your fearful dog and you should begin to see signs of progress.

Use Safety Precautions

If a fearful dog is successful in chasing a man away by biting him, it is more likely to bite again. Rather than escalate your dog's fear-based aggression, your best bet is to take precautions to prevent a bite. Keep the dog in a different room or in its crate when men are visiting. If you meet men on walks, a muzzle might be a good idea.