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Canine Behavior/terrified of men


I have a 1 1/2 old female pit bull who I've had since she was 4 weeks old . she is absolutely terrified of men . she hates them she will lower her head and non stop bark while backing up . its took her about 2 months to get used to my boyfriend.  Once she warms up to a guy she still a little iffy about them and will bark and run if they move or stand up . any suggestions

this dog has a VERY GOOD REASON FOR HER FEAR.  Four weeks old is WAY too young to be separated from dam (mother).  This allows me to make the assumption that her dam was dumped into a kill shelter or caught by a (rabies) pole (which is really just a long device with a loop that allows a dog warden to capture a dog and hold it at bay until s/he can determine if the dog is a bite risk).  If this puppy WITNESSED this, and/or her dam had been abused by men IN HER PRESENCE, she obtained a fear of men because her dam was afraid.  Even the calmest dog in a high kill shelter will quickly obtain a fear of men (who are the primary cleaners and "care" givers) and her puppies will observe this and instantly obtain a fear of men.

Lowering her head and barking while backing up is FABULOUS.  The dog is not actively aggressive, she is terrified, threatened, and she has no idea why.  Warming up to a man is never going to be easy for her at her age (it's called response perseverance) UNLESS you can do a great deal of counter conditioning.  This sort of work (which exposes the dog to its feared object under controlled conditions, over and over) can only be taught to you in person by a certified applied animal behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer).  Believe it or not, I have counter conditioned dogs with active fear aggression (attempt to go forward and bite) in two to three sessions to specifically identifiable individuals.  However, there are many men, so this will take a skill I cannot teach you in a text box.  Your CAAB might know of a "growl class" conducted by a CAAB or highly skilled and credentialed trainer where your dog will learn to "work" (FOR POSITIVE REWARD ONLY, NO CHOKER COLLARS, NO CORRECTION, NO PUNISHMENT) in the presence of other dogs some of whom will have male owners.

See if you can find a CAAB in your area:

or call the veterinary college in your geographical area for referral.

MEANWHILE:  tell all men to TOTALLY IGNORE THIS DOG.  No eye contact.  They are not to use her name (they can refer to her as "rover" for conversational purpose with you).  They are never to attempt to make direct contact (go toward her, reach out to pet her head or back, or offer treats of any kind for any reason).  When your BF moves or stands up and your dog reacts, IGNORE IT.  Laugh.  (Dogs know what laughter means, they have been socialized to us as created conspecifics)).  Pay attention only to one another.  Keep a bag of high value food treats in your pocket or pinned to your waistband or belt.  AS SOON AS your dog has settled (laid down, with her back to the man; sat down with her back to the man; lost interest) casually toss a treat to her (casually) just "because".

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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