By Nancy Cope
What do you do when you have a dog that hates people of one sex or the other?
If you acquired the dog when it was older and it is possible to investigate his early history, do so. It may be that the dog was initially raised by a stern or abusive member of the sex for which he expresses hatred.
If there is no evidence of such treatment, or if you’ve had the dog since it was a puppy, it might be a good idea to investigate your own behavior and your personal attitude toward the sex that is so disliked by your dog.
Dogs are gifted at sensing the moods of their owners. Some say that we give off an aura that is visible to some animals. Maybe that’s true, maybe not. Regardless, dogs do have an uncanny ability not only to sense an owner’s mood, but to be affected by it enough to undergo a behavioral change in response.
Ask yourself, do you have an open hostility to members of one sex? Since you have owned your dog have you gone through a difficult relationship or divorce that exposed the dog to angry behavior between you and a member of the opposite sex? Did you express that general dislike in your moods, tone, and behavior around the dog? If this is the case, it really makes no difference what has caused your behavior. The dog cannot comprehend your history; it only senses your mood and reacts to it. His behavior is not so much to share your dislike, but to exhibit negative behavior in commiseration with your behavior.
The particular event or experience that caused this behavioral crisis in you, may no longer be a problem for you. You may have moved on, and once again are seeking out new relationships with the previously opposite sex. Your dog, however, has been acclimated to the mood you expressed as he was bonding with you. He continues to express the bias with which he matured. He learned to behave in that manner through your behavior.
It is now your responsibility to do whatever is necessary to change his behavior. If not, you will have great difficulty in normal relationships with both sexes as long as the dog continues to reflect the previously acceptable hatred.
It took a long time for the dog to acquire and nurture this negative behavior. Your new accepting mood will have a positive effect, but it could take equally as long to alter the behavior by example only, as it took to develop the behavior in the first place. You’ll need to become pro-active.
Before you bring a new friend of the opposite sex into your home, explain that your dog, for some unknown reason, is uncomfortable around women or men as is the case. Introduce the person to the dog. Don’t force the person on the dog, but throughout the visit give the guest the opportunity to give the dog a special treat and to speak gently to the dog.
After several of these visits, the dog will learn to accept this particular person. When this is done with a number of different guests, the dog will learn to accept members of that sex without his previous dislike.
If the dog’s dislike has been expressed with viciousness in the past, muzzling the dog during these visits would be prudent. One excellent way to change the dog’s behavior is to have the currently disliked guest take the muzzled dog for a short walk alone, followed by a special snack upon the return to the house. Very quickly the dog will learn to associate the guest with fun and food, and exhibit a positive behavioral change.
When the day comes that the dog’s tail actually wags upon seeing the guest, you’ll know that his hatred of that sex is on the mend.
Nancy Cope is the owner of four rescue dogs and Pampered Dog Gifts.