From the mail bag:
I've heard of dogs not liking certain people and different theories about this.
Is it visual (skin/hair/eye color)? Olfactory (different people have different
diets and different scents, e.g. vegetarians will have a different scent than
Last year, Puddin and I were in a training class where some of the dogs were barking. In an effort to suppress the barking, the trainer sprayed some dogs in the face with vinegar water. One dog, a Rottweiler looked especially frightened and dejected when he was sprayed in the face.
I said to myself, "that dog is probably going to start being afraid of all men with beards.. or all men with deep voices, or men in general." Hopefully, I was wrong and the dog forgot all about the incident.
But sometimes when dogs seem to have an irrational fear of certain genders, certain races, certain physical attributes, it can be because of a trauma. The dog decides what is traumatizing. The Rottie might become afraid of the smell of vinegar, or all plastic spray bottles, or all men with deep voices, all Caucasian men, even all men. The list is endless.
So what might seem like prejudice in dogs - is actually "generalization." A dog might have a bad experience with a man, then all men become frightening.
Sometimes it depends on how many good experiences the dog has had. If this dog has had a lot of positive experiences with men in beards, then that one bad incident probably wouldn't make the dog fear men with beards.
Writer and Behaviorist Turid Rugaas writes about a lady who brought home a new Basenji puppy. As the husband was walking out to greet the new family member, a broom fell out of the broom closet and hit the puppy. Two and half years later (when the couple went to see Turid), the puppy was still afraid of the husband. Based on the story, the puppy didn't actually generalize. He didn't become afraid of all men or all brooms, but he did form a negative association with the frightening broom and the male caregiver.
Even though dogs can generalize because of a trauma (as in the above two examples), most dogs are probably fearful because of lack of exposure.
So when we see dogs who are fearful of men, the reason might not be abuse. It might be that when the dogs were young, they didn't get enough exposure to men - A lot of shelter workers and shelter volunteers are women. A lot of vet techs and boarding facility workers are female.
Does your pet have any unusual fears? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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