Mike's Q&A

An interactive question and answer forum with expert dog trainer Michael Wombacher for all of your most pressing dog behavior and dog training-related questions.

My Dog doesn't like Men - Now What?

Q: We just rescued our dog Mochi two months ago. He's a 6 year old Silky Terrier, and this is his 5th home in the past 6 months. We love him to death and he's doing great in our home, but he's really nervous around men and often times when they walk past him he sometimes "plunges" at them and tries to bite on their leg (he's never actually bitten someone, but he often catches their jeans and it freaks me out, so I try to keep him close when men are around. This never happens on walks, but normally when we're in a closed environment.). It took him a while to get used to my fiance, but they're best friends now. 

We think he used to be abused from a past owner by a man :( Is there anything we can do to make him more comfortable around guys and have him trust them more? We try letting them give him treats, but he's still pretty nervous. Thank you for any help!


Hi Gina,

Thanks for your inquiry. There are two approaches that I would use simultaneously. The first is pretty obvious: have any and all men give him as many treats as he'll take. You cannot do too much of this. Over time this should help to relax him around men. But this takes time so you have to be patient, consistent and persistent. It could take six months to a year to see lasting and dramatic changes. The second thing is that he has to learn that no matter how fearful he might be, he simply CANNOT lunge at anyone. That means he has to be reprimanded for doing this - not by the men, but by you. This is important! Any reprimands coming from the guys will just freak him out more. You have to do it so that he associates this with your authority. 

Only having men give him treats without effectively reprimanding the behavior will never teach him that shows of aggression are always inappropriate. Some ways to reprimand him would include a Pet Corrector, a canister of compressed air available at good pet shops, a snappy leash correction if he's on a leash, a squirt on the nose with a water bottle - whatever works for your dog.

Putting these two items together should, with patience, resolve the behavior reliably.