If your rescue dog is showing some fear towards men, know that it isn’t uncommon. There are lots of different factors that could contribute to this behaviour, including:
- Previous traumatic experiences with men
- Little to no exposure to men
- Behaviour and/or appearance—potentially taller, deeper voice, facial hair, etc.
No matter the reason your dog is feeling nervous, anxious, or uncomfortable around a specific person, there are a few things you can do to help them overcome the fear.
Don’t force your dog beyond its comfort zone
Avoid pushing your dog to accept attention from the man they fear—this can actually make things worse. Let the dog decide how and when to approach the man. Keep your energy calm to help convey to the dog that their fear is irrational and they are safe.
Desensitization involves using treats and praise to let the dog know that it’s safe to approach men. Keep the dog at a safe distance from the man while you give treats and praise. Over time, work towards closing the distance without the dog becoming fearful or anxious.
Some dogs never feel completely comfortable with men, but desensitizing them to the presence of men can go a long way.
Make positive associations
Having the ‘scary’ person in charge of feeding and treats can help the dog make positive associations with them.
The man should keep treats handy. Whenever the dog gets a little closer than usual, he can gently toss a couple of treats in the dog’s direction. Progress might seem slow, but eventually, the dog will come to expect good things when it approaches the man. Ultimately, work up to the dog accepting treats directly from his hand.
Hire a trainer
In some cases, your best bet might be to hire a professional who can help you understand your dog’s comfort level with men and help you move forward with desensitization.
And the better trained your dog is, the more you’ll be able to get its focus on you in stressful situations. Make obedience training a regular part of your dog’s routine and you’ll likely see progress.
If your dog is showing signs of fear-based aggression, it’s best to take proactive measures to protect both the dog and the person. Muzzles and crate training can both be helpful. If you use a muzzle, be sure it’s one that the dog can pant easily while wearing (like a Baskerville).
Be an advocate for your dog. If someone approaches and it’s making your dog uncomfortable, let the person know that they need to move back. Your dog should look to you to address the situation rather than reacting.