Your dog might hide, shake, bark, or tuck their tail when a man walks by, and you may wonder why. When a dog is scared of men, it’s usually one of two reasons: they either had a previous negative experience with a man or because of the lack of socialization.

Maybe your dog had a bad experience with someone who just happened to be a man. Just one negative experience can make them anxious whenever they meet someone new with a deep voice or a tall shadow. 

Sometimes the cause is less obvious, and it’s a lack of socialization and they weren’t around enough men when they were a puppy. Dogs need to be exposed to a variety of people to make sure they don’t develop a fear of people. 

a man grabbing a small dog's collar and pulling away and showing teeth.

Signs of Fear in Dogs

If a dog is scared of men, you might see them doing things like hiding or trying to run away when a man is nearby. They might also stay really still, almost like they’re hoping no one will notice them—this is known as freezing. Sometimes, the dog will put their ears back and their tail down, which is another sign they’re not feeling great about the situation. 

If they’re really worried, they might pee a little without meaning to. It’s kind of embarrassing for everyone involved, but it can happen when they’re scared or excited.

Dogs with a strong fear might even bark or growl at men. Some dogs might even try to snap or nip if they feel like the man is getting too close. They’re not aggressive dogs; but if provoked, it could turn into fear aggression

A fearful dog may show one or many of these signs:

  • Trembling or Shaking: Fear can cause a dog to tremble or shake.
  • Tail Tucking: A fearful dog may tuck its tail between its legs.
  • Ears Back: When a dog is afraid, it may pin its ears back against its head.
  • Panting Excessively: Excessive panting, especially when not related to physical exertion, can be a sign of anxiety.
  • Avoidance: Dogs may try to avoid eye contact or physical contact when they are scared.
  • Barking: Vocalizations such as barking, whining, or yelping can indicate fear.
  • Hiding: Dogs may seek out hiding spots when they are afraid.
  • Lip Licking: Excessive lip licking can be a sign of nervousness or fear.
  • Drooling: Some dogs may drool more than usual when they are anxious.
  • Pacing: Restlessness and pacing back and forth may be a sign of fear.

Remember, all these signs mean the dog is having a rough time. It’s up to us to notice these signs and help them feel safe again. By understanding their body language, you can start to help your anxious dog get over their fear of men and feel happier and more comfortable around everyone.

scared dog looking at a man outside.

How to Help a Dog with a Fear of Men

If your dog is afraid of men, you will want to work on desensitization. This means slowly getting your dog used to men in a way that feels comfortable for them. Picture it like dipping a toe in the water rather than jumping right in! 

Start with your dog seeing a man from a distance that does not create stress or anxiety. Make sure this experience is positive and nothing scary happens. Little by little, inch by inch, you can let your dog get closer to men, but only if they’re ready. Remember, no rush! You want your dog to learn that being around men is no big deal, but this learning takes time.

The goal here is for your dog to associate men with fun. Think treats, toys, or a happy voice. Eventually, your dog should think, “Hey, when that guy comes around, it’s treat time!” Not, “Oh no, here comes trouble!” 

First steps to help your fearful dog

  1. Distance: You need to figure out at what distance your dog starts to show signs of fear. Look for the smallest symptom, like turning away or avoiding eye contact. Keep a notepad handy and mark down this distance. 
  2. Trigger: Figuring out what the initial bad thing that triggers your dog’s fear will help you determine what you need to work on. It may not be just the presence of men. Is there something that leads up to the fear?
  3. Quiet space: Pick a room where your dog feels safe and comfortable. You want them to be relaxed, without any scary noises or new things happening.
  4. Act normal: Dogs can tell how you’re feeling. If you’re tense, they know it and get tense too. So be your usual, happy self so your dog feels that everything’s good.
  5. Introduce a man: Pick someone who gets dogs and can stay calm. Let them know they should ignore your pup at first – no staring or going right up to them, just hanging out and being quiet. Have the man sit on the floor at a distance that does not scare your dog. 
  6. Treats: Find high-value treats, ones that your dog loves. While the man is sitting on the floor have them toss treats towards your dog. Your dog should not be barking or hiding or showing any signs of stress. If they are then increase the distance between the man and your dog. 
  7. Keep it short: Short sessions are best. Start with a few seconds and increase the time as your dog shows signs of confidence. Don’t rush things. Having the man come by often for just a bit each time is better than a big, long visit that could freak your dog out.
  8. Different locations: Once your dog starts to become more comfortable around men, add train in different locations and around more unfamiliar men. 
  9. Be patient: These things take time. Every dog’s different, so even if it seems like it’s going slow, just keep at it. Small wins, like your dog not running away when a guy comes in, are a big deal. You’ve got this!

Think of this process as fun and your dog will begin to create a connection between good things and the men in your life. You want to continue these exercises with a wide variety of men.

If your dog is not food-motivated, then it’s important to find your dog’s love language. You can use praise, toys, and a comforting touch too. You want your dog to feel like they’ve just won the lottery for not barking or hiding when around unfamiliar people.

Remember, your dog takes cues from you, they can feel your energy. Stay relaxed and smile a lot during these training moments. Your dog will notice your calm energy and start to think, “Hey, if you’re good with this guy, maybe I can be too.” Once your dog links men with all the love, treats, and happy words, they’ll be on their way to making new two-legged friends.

anxious dog with a man holding leash.

Why Do Dogs Like Women More?

The perception that dogs may prefer women over men is subjective and can vary from one dog to another. Dogs form attachments based on individual experiences, socialization, and positive interactions. 

Our dog, Wizard, LOVES my husband, and the other three dogs gravitate towards me more. 

In general, I also feel that most women are more nurturing than most men and our dogs sense that in our energy.

Here are some factors that might contribute to why dogs like female owners more:

  1. Tone of Voice: Dogs are sensitive to the tone of voice, and women’s voices might sometimes be perceived as gentler or higher-pitched, which some dogs may find more soothing.
  2. Body Language: Dogs are highly attuned to body language. Women often exhibit different body language compared to men, and some dogs may find certain movements or postures more approachable or comforting.
  3. Socialization: Dogs that are more frequently exposed to women during their early socialization period may develop a preference for women. This could be influenced by the dog’s experiences and interactions during puppyhood.
  4. Individual Preferences: Dogs, like people, have individual preferences. Some dogs may simply feel more comfortable or have better experiences with women, while others may prefer the company of men.

Men have some traits that can set off alarm bells for dogs. For starters, different features such as facial hair on men can be odd to dogs who aren’t used to it. It changes the way a man’s face looks and hides a lot of those facial expressions dogs are great at reading. This can make it hard for them to figure out if they’re friendly or not.

Then there are those deep voices that ring out from men, which can come off a bit more startling to a timid dog than the generally higher-pitched tones in women. It’s not about the words, but how deep and booming the sound is that might scare them. 

In general, men often have broader shoulders and bigger chests, making them seem like giants from your dog’s view down on the ground. This isn’t to say dogs think all men are scary, just that these features can take some getting used to if they haven’t been exposed to enough men.

It’s important to note that generalizations about dogs preferring one gender over another may not hold true for all dogs. Dogs are individuals with unique personalities and experiences, and their preferences can vary widely.

When to Seek Help for Serious Cases

If your dog snarls, snaps, or tries to bite men, it’s time to seek help from a certified professional dog trainer or behaviorist. These are signs of serious fear-based behavior that need expert attention. A professional can create a safe plan to manage and change these actions. A dog acting aggressively out of fear can be a risk to others and to itself.

Another clue is if tried-and-true methods at home don’t bring any change. No shift in your dog’s fearful behavior after months of gentle training means it’s time to call in extra support. 

If you just brought home a rescue dog that’s scared of men, then check out my program, Rescue to Home, Learning to Trust Again.

large white and black dog playing tug with a man outside

A Tail of Success: Ending the Fear

You’ve been through the thick of it with your dog, trying to get them comfortable around men. It feels like a long road, but don’t give up! Your patience and commitment make all the difference. Picture this: one day, your once-anxious pup might strut right up to a stranger for a friendly pat on the head. Amazing, right?

Keep up those positive experiences and remember every small step forward is a victory. With every positive encounter, your dog learns that men can bring good things too. Patience and consistency are key in this journey.

Your dog might not become an overnight social butterfly, and that’s perfectly OK. Gradual changes will lead to big results over time. Your dog’s trust in men will grow, transforming fear into friendship. Just think about the tail wags and loving licks that are waiting down the road! 

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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