Bark About! Blog

A puppy pile of dog information and stories

When Your Dog Dislikes Someone

Unhappy dog

Perhaps you’ve been in this situation. You’re bringing a new friend into your home for the first time. Your dog has always been super friendly to everyone, so you’re not worried at all. She’ll have no problem with a new human entering her abode. So, you bring your new friend inside when — much to your surprise! — your little angel turns into a barking, snarling Kujo! Your loving and happy-go-lucky pup, for whatever reason, does not like this new person. Perhaps guiltily you wonder: Is this a sign? Is there something my dog is trying to tell me?

What gives? Why does your dog seem to love everybody—until they meet a particular person? There are many reasons why dogs respond well to certain people, and, well, not so great to others.

Something Smells Fishy Here

It turns out dogs prioritize the scent of humans above other smells. When a person’s pheromones smell different than what a dog expects, they may become nervous, frightened, or aggressive. They simply don’t know what to make of your new friend! A dog can also pick up when a person is uncomfortable or anxious, which can trigger a negative response from your dog.

Perfumes, colognes, and other body-altering scents can also affect your dog’s perception of someone. If your dog catches a whiff of your friend’s new perfume and it’s just not sitting right with them, it may cause a different reaction than expected.

The Importance of Body Language

When your dog meets your friend and he’s staring directly at them, he may unintentionally be sending an “intimidating” signal to your dog. Dogs interpret body language differently than we do. Direct eye contact, for example, can be threatening and signal a “show-down.”

Dog behavior
Some dogs are intimidated by intense staring. Photo by Charles Deluvio

Your Friend Sounds Like Darth Vader

Dogs do pay close attention to a person’s tone of voice, and it has an effect on their perception of what you’re trying to communicate to them. It’s been found that the reward center in dog’s brains get activated when hearing a higher pitched voice, and they naturally associate higher-pitched sounds as non-threatening, friendly, and even exciting. It doesn’t mean your friend needs to talk like a chipmunk, but an upbeat, friendly voice sound more welcoming than an angry, authoritative voice.

Your Dog Hates Baseball Hats

Sometimes dogs will react negatively to a person if there is a physical attribute that bothers them. It could be as random as someone wearing a hat, a shirt color, if they’re sporting a beard or wearing glasses, and so on. A new person wearing something they haven’t seen before may be unsettling to them. If that’s the case, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to new sights, smells, and places to reduce general anxiety.

Your Dog Has Dealt with Past Abuse

This a key thing to keep in mind when inviting new people into your dog’s life, or when you’re meeting new dogs who own a difficult past. Dogs don’t forget their traumatic experiences, and people who may look similar to those in their abusive past may understandably cause a fearful or nervous reaction.

How to Help Your Dog Meet New People

Before you bring over someone new, you can prep them on how to keep things non-threatening and stress-free for your dog. Initially, have them act nonchalant and keep them from starting a staring contest with your dog. Let your dog decide, on their own terms, whether they would like to come up to your friend for attention or pets. If your friend keeps it friendly, laid-back, and non-threatening, hopefully your dog will warm up to them over time.

Have additional tips on helping dogs around new people, or have any stories about your dog acting different around a friend? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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