I received a private email from a gal by the name of Jody asking for some help. She’s concerned because her dog is afraid of men. Since fear is the #1 reason a dog bites, she’s right to be concerned and I give her a lot of credit to try to help her dog overcome his fear, which for me is Jody being a good dog Mom! I’m proud of you, Jody!
“We adopted our dog at a year old from a local rescue society. He had an injury on the top of his head and his hair was missing in places. It is unknown what he went through when he was a puppy. He is wonderful around our immediate family, loves to be a 60 pound lap dog and plays well with our 4 year old dog. However, he is afraid of men. Children and women can come into our house with no problems but if a man walks in he barks and keeps a distance.
Over Christmas we had friends over and one man lunged at him to scare him… 3 times. He was drunk. Our dog jumped back and barked at him. I know now I should have put my dog in another room, but I didn’t… the 4th time the man did this my dog jumped up and bit him causing a hospital trip and stitches.
His friends say my dog needs to be shot, my other friend won’t let her children come into my home and my husband is having second thoughts about adopting a dog that, for one reason: is male and another reason: about a year old and not a puppy. I love my dog, but I really don’t know how to help him get over his fear of men. Will I always have to put him away when I have company come to my house? Will he ever get over his fears? Even though there has never been an issue with my 5 year old son will I have problems in the future? I want to be able to give my dog the life he deserves, and I don’t want to be forced to return him to the rescue society where he will either be in a kennel all his life or be put down… Any advice would be appreciated.”
It’s hard when your dog is afraid of something, in particular if they’re afraid of humans. Most people think fear of one human gender or another or fear of a child for example means your dog had an unpleasant experience with that gender or age group. This may very well be the case for some dogs, but not always. In some instances it may simply mean that your dog wasn’t socialized well with men or women or children so they just don’t know what to do or how to behave around them. Two of our dogs were not well socialized with children because we don’t have children in our home. The third one must have been because she does well with all people so far (she’s still rather new to our family) but we have no way of knowing because she’s a rescue. We have to rely on visits from the grand kids and they are busy people with lives of their own. We all know how kids like to be with their friends instead of adults, right? They have things to do and places to go and they’re not usually interested in visiting a lot with the old folks like Gramma and Grampa.
You also need to know (or remember) that younger children are more at eye-level with dogs. Some dogs are very sensitive to direct eye contact and in fact, some are so sensitive that direct eye contact can trigger a bite because these dogs take it as a threat or confrontation. Children have a normal tendency to stare and if that stare just innocently happens to fall on the face of a dog that is sensitive to direct eye contact it can be a trigger for a bite. The child is just being a child and the dog is just being a dog and so in the eyes of the adults on scene who saw nothing out of the ordinary happen to cause the bite they label the dog dangerous or vicious when they’re really not. They’re just protecting themselves to what they perceive to be a threat. Riley is sensitive to direct eye contact and so for this simple reason and that of all-around safety, we do not allow children under the age of about 8 or 10 to come close to him unless it’s children he has been properly introduced to and he knows them, such as our grandchildren for example.
There is no way to know why your dog is afraid of men. It could be either of the above or something else altogether. The reason really doesn’t matter, the fact that he’s afraid is all that does.
We have no use for intoxicated people being around us or our dogs so we just don’t let it happen. If we see that someone is intoxicated we leave the room, walk the other way or whatever it takes to not subject us or our dogs to the actions of an intoxicated individual. There is no getting around the fact that drunk people act stupid and do stupid things which put them and others (including dogs!) in bad situations for which sometimes we (or the dog) winds up paying the price. Your drunk friend did exactly that. He intentionally scared, irritated and provoked your dog.
I’m happy you learned from your experience even though unfortunately your learning came too late in this case, that it’s your job to protect your dog. You are absolutely correct in that you should have removed your dog from the room and put him in a safe place. I’m sure you’ll l do things differently in the future!
Anyway … we don’t even let intoxicated people into our home. If their drinking is more important than visiting us, they are made to leave and may visit us when they are sober. It’s that simple and easy for us to keep our dogs and our home safe from people who’ve been drinking. We avoid having to pay the consequences or the cost of this person doing damage to our property, harassing our dogs or hurting themselves by say falling down the stairs which in our sue-happy society could well be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
We start out with the fact that there’s a party going on, lots of people, lots of commotion. This can make some dogs nervous, anxious or uncomfortable in some way all by itself. The signals from a dog who’s not totally comfortable are not always obvious to humans and so the dog may have been nervous, anxious or in some way uncomfortable to begin with but the owners may not have known this. This could have started things out on the wrong foot for the dog. Then we add:
The Drunk: You have a drunk acting stupid like drunks do. In my opinion your drunk friend literally asked to be bitten. I have not one ounce of pity for him. I seriously doubt he’ll learn from this nor will he ever take responsibility for his actions. In his mind and those of his cohorts who want to see your dog dead, he’s the victim when reality is that his actions pretty much screamed “Bite me, Fido, come on — bite me. I dare ya!” to a dog whether he was uncomfortable to being with or not.
The Dog Owners: If your husband was there, either one of you had the option, the right and the dog-parental duty to remove your dog from this gathering the moment you realized you had a drunk in the house. This didn’t happen and so we then have to then look at how the dog may feel the need to take care of himself.
The Dog: It’s my very strong feeling that your dog felt threatened and protected himself. If some drunk made you or your husband feel threatened, would you not get as far away from him as you could? Perhaps your husband would tell the intoxicated person to leave you/him alone or in his own way stop whatever was going on that was making you/him feel scared or uncomfortable.
Dogs have the mental abilities of about a two to three year old child at most and handle things like fear in fight or flight mode. Could a two to three year old child figure out that if he left the room he could get away from being harassed by the drunk? No, the child would look to his parents to help him and chances are Mommy or Daddy would scoop that child up and away so fast it would make your head spin. Daddy might even punch the drunk right in his schnozzola! Unfortunately, no one helped the dog and so he had to choose between fight or flight. In this case he chose to fight (protection mode) perhaps not only to protect himself but he may have thought that this drunken idiot might just hurt his buddy (your son) or someone else in his family. By the way — if your friend reads this or you share this with him, I don’t really care if he gets mad at me. People that do things like he did to your dog make me extremely angry so as far as I’m concerned, we’re even.
On a side note, if we had a gathering of people at our house we expect that unexpected things can happen in a heartbeat and we as dog owners cannot be everywhere every moment therefore cannot monitor the goings on 100% in every nook and cranny. Our dogs are put in a safe place before anyone arrives and they stay there until they all leave. Do I like it that they can’t join the fun? No, but I would rather my dogs miss the party and not be faced with the potential of being put in a situation where they might bite. They don’t need to be fed goodies by Auntie Hilda or cousin George who are just trying to be dog-friendly but that may contain something harmful to them. My goal is to keep my dogs and people safe so I will always take the “safety first” option. Putting my dogs in a safe place also frees me up to enjoy myself rather than trying to follow my dogs around to make sure nothing happens. Three dogs can go in three different directions, I can only go in one at a time. Better safe than sorry is the key. My sister has three dogs and she does the same thing. To us, it’s just being responsible dog owners.
Your husband is putting blame in the wrong places. We already know the best thing would have been for someone to remove the dog from the presence of the drunk and since the dog lives there and the drunk doesn’t — my choice would have been to remove the drunk from the house. Had this happened, there wouldn’t have been a bite. Hubby’s blaming the dog when the blame belongs to the dog owner. I don’t mean to sound cruel or rude nor do I wish to hurt yours or your husband’s feelings but when someone asks for my feedback on a dog problem, they’re going to get my honest opinion. Neither of you may like my comments but it’s important for me to be honest. Your dog doesn’t have a voice, but I do and I will speak up for him when speaking up for a dog is warranted. My comments here probably come as no surprise to you and I hope you don’t take offense, it’s not my intention to offend.
Blaming rescue dogs and male dogs. Again, wrong place to put the blame. Just because a dog is a rescue does not mean it comes complete with issues or “other people’s problems”. There are many reasons a dog winds up in rescue, many of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the dog itself. You said you didn’t know his history. Maybe your dog’s original owner died and there was no one in the family willing to take him. Rather than put him down, they gave him a chance to find a new home. To blame him because he’s rescue is really unfair. Some of the best dogs in the world are rescues and in case you’re not aware, several of the Michael Vick dogs went on to become some of the best service dogs you could ask for.
It’s also wrong to blame the dog because he’s male. There are many people who think male dogs are more aggressive than females. Think again, there’s no basis for his thought process on this. Female dogs can be just as aggressive as males, sometimes even more-so. Did you know that when two male dogs fight there may be bloodshed but they call it quits on their own when one’s had enough or they’ve determined who the winner is? Two female dogs on the other hand will fight to the death. No, I’m NOT kidding. This is fact, not fiction nor is it anything I made up. Think about it, who’s cattier in the human race? Who fights dirtier? Females do. It works the same with dogs.
The fact that your dog is a rescue means nothing in this. He’s just a dog who behaved like dogs will under stress. This same thing could have happened even if your dog was from the best breeder in the country. You didn’t mention his breed but if he’s a purebred of any breed, he might just be from really good lines.
Neither I nor anyone else can ever give you a guarantee that any dog won’t bite. Read my Understanding Dog Bite Behavior or Don’t Blame the Dog When it Bites for more information on why dogs bite. I can’t guarantee your son or anyone else for that matter is 100% guaranteed to never be bitten. A guarantee is literally impossible and on the other hand just because your dog bit once, doesn’t mean he’ll ever do it again. Look at the circumstances surrounding your bite incident. Your dog was harassed, scared, irritated and provoked. That’s reason enough that some people would smack someone isn’t it? Why should your dog not do something to protect himself? He can’t smack someone so he used the only weapon his has, his teeth. He didn’t attack someone and chew them up making mincemeat of their face. He bit someone and let it go at that.
When a sober man comes into your house your dog reacts by barking and keeping his distance. Ideally, you’d like him to respond the same as when it’s a female or a child. Since nothing in this world is ideal, it sounds like your dog is smart enough to keep a safe distance between him and a man. Maybe you could give him a little credit for his great avoidance behavior? He’s not doing anything harmful, in fact he’s being safe.
There is nothing wrong and everything right about putting your dog in a safe place when he feels threatened or scared. He’s uncomfortable around men. Think of where your dog feels safe, his crate? A bedroom? Instead of letting your dog remain where he’s uncomfortable, take him to where his is comfortable. Other things you can do are:
If you and your husband are basing your decision solely on this bite incident, I see absolutely no reason whatsoever you need to return him. You are correct, he could wind up in a kennel for who knows how long or put down. Unless they have the proper insurance, most rescues cannot take in a dog that has a bite history including taking back dogs that were adopted from their organization.
If this were my dog, there’s no way I would send him back for this. He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just being a dog who did what he felt he needed to do to protect himself and maybe his family. Why make him pay the consequences with his life for human error and drunken stupidity? You have many positive options available to you which allow your dog to live a good life with you and your family.
Good luck and I hope you’ll come back and let us know how things are going!
We're sorry but Riley's Place is Not Accepting Help Requests or Blog Comments at This Time. Help Can be Found by Reading Existing Posts and Comments.