Terrified of Men

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by brenda taulbee, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. brenda taulbee New Member

    Hello again,
    So Kenzii has been settling in nicely except for one problem: She is terrified of men. Since we found her as a stray we don't really know what her history with men has been. Whenever we are walking her she will always be very friendly with women, giving them the full-body wriggle and begging for attention, but when a man walks by her hackles go up, and she starts barking. Now she is small enough that she only barks, but we're afraid it may lead to aggression when she gets more confident.

    She seems to do it everywhere. She barks at the next door neighbor when he is in his yard, she barks at men walking down the street when she is in the backseat of the parked car, she absolutely HATES the mailman... It seems like the behavior is worse when she is at home than when we are off the property, like it's a territorial issue. Any advice?

  2. shastakiradog New Member

    When i first got my dog dixie she was very problemed...she was VERY VERY scared of men, water, and loud noises!! So what I did was I took her problems one at a time. Since she was so scared of boys I had some willing men come over......I put a bag of my dogs FAVORITE treats outside and had one man come in. He would kneel down and hold the treat to her. When she took it I would tell her good girl.....She eventually related yummy treats with men.....I did this for a couple days for bout 30 minutes each day! If your dog is more play motivated then have a favorite toy outside and have your guests play with her....she will eventually see that men wont hurt her and will start trusting them.....If your dog does something wrong make sure you or another WOMAN punishes her or else all the progress maybe lost! I hope this can help.....if not, use the basic idea of rewarding when she goes up to them or near them.....if she NEVER goes up to them then take it in littler steps by rewarding parts of treats when she goes by(or little bit of play time) and increase treat size and play time the closer she gets! Hope this helps! Good luck! please keep me posted if you have time!
  3. szecsuani Experienced Member

    Pami was scared of men too, but not this badly...

    Just adding to shastakiradog's post:
    Maybe you could also try asking a few friends of yours (who are men) to go into one room of your house or into the garden to separate places, so the dog will only see one at a time, and sit on the floor. (lock your dog into another room until they are all settled down.) Give them all a handful of treats, and put your dog on a leash. Start going around the place, and when she sees one of the men, he gives her a treat, pets him, and hides. Then you go to the next one, same thing.

    But maybe this is too complicated... :LOL:
  4. fickla Experienced Member

    first off, if you have any reason to believe that she might hurt somebody while you're working on this, I would seek the help of a local behaviorist.

    But if you can find a way to keep her and the men in her life safe, I would start by getting the book Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell. But it's basically what some people mentioned above- a program of desensitizing and counter conditioning. Teaching Kenzi that men are a great predictor of food and fun, there's no reason to be afraid. If having them give treats from thier hand is to hard, have them throw treats to her. And make sure the treats are amazing, something she only gets when she sees men. Be prepared for it to take a minimum of 6 weeks of constant work for her to really start to get better.
  5. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Another suggestion quite similar to the one above--
    Find her comfort zone. This is wherever she will accept men---6 feet away, 10 feet away, whatever. Just find it by having a willing man start far away and slowly come in. When she becomes uncomfortable, he's too close. Have him go back to her comfort zone and you start working. Have her simply do a few commands maybe. Pet her, play with her, have lots of fun. As she relaxes, let him come closer in small increments. He will probably not be able to come 3 feet closer---just a small bit closer at first. Keep playing with her like normal, and keep letting him come closer. The first day, don't let him come right up to her. Take things slow and keep it at her pace. This may take a few days, a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, depending on how bad she is. The key to this method is changing her comfort zone. If for the first few days Kenzii is uncomfortable with him at 10 ft, then that's okay. Let him stay 11 feet away. Be patient and keep working with her. If she doesn't already know the "watch"/"look at me" command, teach it. If she starts eyeballing him while you are playing or working with her, immediately use the command and reward her heavily when she does. If she starts barking, etc, spin around and walk the other way, and when she quiets, give the "watch" command.
    The more you work with this method, the more she will improve, and eventually her comfort zone will allow men anywhere and everywhere. ^^ Right now it sounds like she is not ready to take food from men, so right now that should be your goal. Eventually she will be able to. =)
  6. brenda taulbee New Member

    Update: She is getting much better dealing with men we stumble across on our walks. We took her on-leash to the university campus, and wwalked her past individual men, men in groups, men on bikes, men on skateboards, men sitting still, basically any variety we could find. Now our biggest issue appears to home/car related. Perhaps it's a security/dominance thing? She seems to be the most defensive in her "home" settings. I am not sure anymore if she is feeling threatened, or just protective.

    I guess my biggest question is how should I react when she has her outbursts? I can't exactly predict every man who is going to walk down the street in front of the house, or pass our car at a red light. I read somewhere that if I soothe her when she has the outburst I may accidentally be reinforcing the bad behavior. Any thoughts, theories, suggestions?

    Thanks again everybody
  7. makakoa New Member

    when LuLu first came to live with us (at about 4 months of age), she was actually phobic about strange dogs. If she saw one she became very afraid, and if she thought they were actually approaching, she would literally run to the end of the leash (opposite direction, of course) and scream.

    I couldn't take her anywhere, I couldn't take her to training class or get her CGC or therapy dog registration.

    I consulted a canine behavioral therapist, and the basic plan was to get a big supply of really terrific treats, a couple of types of something with a super high value, and go where we were likely to see dogs in the distance. Every time we saw a dog, I would give her a treat. The closer the dog came, the bigger and better the treat. Gradually, we started going places where dogs would be closer, like the pet store. We just walked around, or stood in one place while dogs passed by, and I gave her treats. After about 4 to 6 weeks, she was acting pretty blase about any dog, even barky ones.

    At one year of age, she completed her therapy dog work and goes to events and classes with other dogs. She doesn't run up to strange dogs to solicit play, but she can sit next to one, walk past one, work around one without vocalization or fear, and she is able to get to know them and then will play with and enjoy them.

    Anyhow, my point being that maybe you could utilize this method with your dog in her home and in the car. Just sit there with her and some super treats (treats that she never gets otherwise, something she adores!) and when a man comes past, try to distract her so she isn't barking and give her a treat for silence. Make her think that the appearance of a man on the horizon is really good news! Even if she is barking at first, make her think that the man means a treat, and should be a good thing, not a bad thing. The advantage of this is that you don't need any cooperation from a male helper, you don't need them to be coming close and giving the treats, they just have to be visible. Maybe later you can enlist some help from men to actually come the the door or approach the car, but not until she has calmed down a lot and isn't feeling as threatened. In fact, I would suggest that initially, any male helpers you get should basically ignore her and just walk past and toss a treat in her direction. No eye contact, no conversation, nothing she can construe as threatening.

    I don't know that this sort of thing will help your dog, but I have seen it work with a couple of dogs for bicycles and for children. (In the case of the kids, I found a couple of great dog-oriented 5 and 7 year olds, set them up at a table with craft stuff and a bowl of baloney strips, and instructed them to play and to totally ignore the dogs but periodically toss baloney on the floor. After 3 visits, the formerly barky dogs went wild with happiness upon seeing any kid! No more fear or threatening barks from them!

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
  8. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    What Makakoa has described is almost exactly what I do with most problems. This is how I have been working with Rusty's dog aggression for a year or so now, and he is improving in leaps and bounds. If you try to start up close you may not make any progress at all, and it causes a lot more stress on her. If you stick to her comfort zone and gradually improve it, everyone wins. Less stress on her, you, and your male counterparts.
  9. fickla Experienced Member

    I'm glad to hear that she is getting better! You have to remember that dogs don't generalize very well at all, so it's not uncommon for dogs to do really good somewhere and do horrible somewhere else. You just have to practice a ton in all sorts of different locations. As for her possibly being protective/dominant I don't think I would call it that. A confident dog has no reason to go off at every single man she sees, even if it is her property. It is only insecure fearful dogs who would see everyone as a threat.

    I would try to manage the situation as much as possible when you are not "training." Maybe close the blinds to your house, and when you're in the car kennel her. That why she doesn't have the opportunity to be reinforced by her aggression. Then when you are training and she has those "outbursts" when you weren't prepared, try to just start shoveling food into her mouth. If you're doing classical conditioning (men=treats) it always overrides operant conditioning (focusing on a behavior). So even if she is aggressing, her attitude will still start to change towards men, she is not being rewarded for the aggressive part. That being said, you obviously want to still manage it so she will not be over her threshold. If you spot it before she reacts, but you are trapped, try running away excitedly and maybe go in between some parked cars, behind a fence, or anywhere where you can get distance. Then try and ask for a watch me, sit, etc. as you get far enough away where she can focus back on you.
  10. snooks Experienced Member

    how about having men from outside her comfortable distance toss great treats near her and ignore her and keep going. never acknowledge her until she starts to think hmmmm men = meat raining. this is slightly less pressure than having them look at her. Tell all men she is exposed to to ignore her for a while, being off center stage sometimes helps.

    if that is still too far to toss treats u can go to a huge parking lot and clict treat like mad for every man she sees. go very slow, if she stops taking treats increase distance.

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