Fear of Men
Proper socialization of a puppy is the best solution for preventing and eliminating most fears – including the fear of different types of people, situations and objects.
Unfortunately, you may realize that you have a grown dog that is afraid of children, men, men with beards or people with certain characteristics. The fear may have been caused by just never being exposed before or an event that your dog felt was traumatic. First, you must determine if they are afraid of all men or just men with beards or hats.
Planning is imperative to desensitize your dog. First, determine your dog’s favorite treat; hot dogs, cheese, chicken are good choices. Keep the treats small; you do not want a fat dog. No biscuits or large dog bones.
Assuming your dog does not like men in hats, have a man friend (with the treats) enter the room wearing a hat. If your dog appears fearful, have the man turn sideways and look up or away. This is a very non-threatening pose. Have your friend throw a few treats at a distance. Slowly decrease the distance as the dog becomes more confident and less fearful. Be calm.
Don’t Push or Scold
Careful - do not push your dog. If you are afraid of snakes, you do not want one in your lap right away. If you push, someone may get bitten. Most dog bites are fear related. The dog may also become more fearful and react negatively more quickly next time.
Do not reprimand, scold or tell your dog, “No”. Your dog believes their fear is rational and a “No” is only reinforcing their belief. To a dog, the “No” translates to, “No, do not go near that scary person”, not “No, don’t growl at that perfectly nice person with the hat.”
You’re OK, I’m OK
Your dog is very aware of your emotions. So if you are worried that your dog will be afraid, both of you are fearful and your dog knows this. Your dog will assume you fear the same man with the hat; not just worried about them. So be confident, keep your voice calm and add some laughter. Be relaxed and calm; don’t worry. Tell you dog everything is fine with confidence.
Keep the Focus
If you encounter someone or something fearful on a walk, do not focus on the feared person or object. Turn your back on the feared object and keep your dog’s focus. Turning your back tells your dog, you have no fear. Talk to your dog, give it a treat and ignore the object. One trick is put a treat in your hand and let your dog see it or smell it. Take a few moments before you release the treat. Keep your dog’s attention.