Favoritism sucks. Unless you’re the favorite, of course.
But in this case, you’re not.
Very far from it, actually.
It stings knowing your dog is more fond of your wife. But you can live with that. What you can’t live with is them being scared of you.
You’re desperate to know why and how you can fix it.
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
Read on to find out:
- 9 reasons why your dog is scared of you.
- Why they don’t have this problem with your wife.
- 5 tips for building a healthy relationship with your canine.
- And more…
Table of contents
- Why is my dog scared of me but not my wife?
- 9 reasons why your dog is scared of you but not your wife
- How do I make my dog not scared of me? 5 tips
Why is my dog scared of me but not my wife?
Your dog is scared of you due to internal issues such as fear of men, a troubled history, anxiety, or shyness. External factors include your size, smell, and different energies. They’re also not used to you, or your role as a disciplinarian is why they’re comfortable with your wife but not with you.
9 reasons why your dog is scared of you but not your wife
#1: You’re the disciplinarian
It’s something often seen in conspecies (of the same species) parenthood. The dynamics of the relationships between human parents and children.
The favorite is usually the cool one. You know. The one that lets the kid have a third helping of dessert. Or lets them have those endless “5 more minutes” on the PlayStation.
Meanwhile, the kids regard the disciplinarian carefully. That’s because they’re the ones who establish rules to follow – for the kid’s own good, of course. But it’s hardly ever seen that way.
To the kid, their life with that parent is a page from the Communism chapter in their history textbook.
Dogs can perceive their fur parents in a similar manner. And if you’re the disciplinarian, that solves the mystery of why your dog is scared of you.
You don’t necessarily have horns. You don’t hit your dog, raise your voice, or use shock collars on them.
But compared to angelic fur mom, well… Let’s just say you’re not in the running for the best fur dad award.
With fur mom, it rains treats. She also lets them have a bit of her steak. She buys them all those clothes and accessories. And she lets them snuggle with her on the couch or bed.
Yes, fur mom spoils them rotten. And to top it all off, she smells of that nice, female hormone – estrogen. How can you compete with that? Especially when…
Check out also: Why Does My Dog Follow Me And Not My Husband? 13 Reasons
#2: They don’t like men
We talk of pup phobias. And we often think of fireworks or lightning and thunderstorms. But did you know dogs can have a fear of men?
It’s a very real phobia for them.
Dogs react in certain ways when confronted with their fears. The AKC describes some:
- Exhibit signs of fear reactivity.
Adrienne Farricelli also notes acting defensively. Such as:
- Growling displays.
And a dog with such a phobia will not take it well when a man approaches. Experts haven’t yet determined why some dogs have this fear. It’s most likely they lack exposure to men.
But some educated guesses throw up other suggestions:
- Their size.
- Their sound.
- Their more assertive approach.
All these may come off as menacing to a dog. But women are generally smaller and have a softer tone of voice. They also tend to approach dogs in a more maternal way.
By comparison, they don’t pose any perceived threat to a dog. This could be why pooches are more comfortable with the fair sex.
So there’s no need to be suspicious of your wife. She’s not intentionally giving extra treats to win your dog over. Or talking you down to them.
It’s just the way they view you. But thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you stick around, you’ll discover what you can do.
Further reading: 15 Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps On You And Not Your Husband
After all, it’s not your fault that…
#3: You’re kinda huge
My apologies if you’re not. You can skip this one and proceed to #3. Or if you’re a little curious (no pun intended!) you can keep reading.
Size matters. To dogs, that is. The bigger a person, the more threatening they appear.
So if you’re a bit of a non-green Hulk, it can be intimidating. Even just Captain America-sized can already pose a problem for smaller pooches.
On top of that, some dogs can get quite specific with their fears. And these also have to do with appearances.
Your dog may be scared of you because, well…
#4: You look scary
Not complicated at all, huh?
Are you one of the fellows that Gillette advertisements fail to convert into customers? If so, your facial fuzz could be a fear factor.
It’s known that some dogs are scared of men with beards in particular.
Or even – and this may be very troubling – men of a certain ethnicity. As Dr. Stanley Coren says, dogs can be racist.
Now, dog parents often sing the praises of their fur babies. A survey showed that some even prefer their pet over their own spouse or child.
And the most honorable doggy traits they cite are along the lines of “very accepting; never judges me.”
Turns out this accepting and nonjudgmental nature isn’t universal. Appearance does count a lot for some dogs.
But we can’t really fault them for it either. A phobia is an irrational fear.
What we can and should do is help them overcome it. Along with their opinion that…
#5: You smell weird
Let’s move on from the irrational to the logical and scientific.
Okay, to be clear, science still can’t explicitly tell us why your dog is a mommy’s boy/girl. And why dad is the boogeyman.
But from a scientific standpoint, there are some interesting things to see – or smell.
A dog’s olfaction or sense of smell is one of the most incredible things in all of nature. A study revealed something really amazing.
Their nasal cavity “contains hundreds of millions of sensory neurons.”
This puts their olfaction at “10,000 to 100,000 times as acute” as yours. And mine too, of course.
With such a keen nose, dogs can differentiate between the scents of a man and a woman. And I’m talking about more than just which eau de parfum they put on.
They can sniff out the different hormones.
But that’s not all. Consider this:
Other male species in the wild take an active role in raising their young. The finest example of this is the Emperor Penguin.
They go approximately 65 days without food. They brave the harshest Antarctic conditions to incubate their egg. Then they keep the resulting chick warm.
Male domestic dogs are nowhere as admirable in that regard. Siring the pups is their only contribution. The nurturing falls solely to the mother.
So from the get-go, dogs are exposed to the scent of estrogen. The familiarity of this makes them feel more comfortable with women.
Your dog can get around this, though. And not to worry. Making you wear ladies’ perfume isn’t one of the tips I had in mind. But more on that later.
For now, let’s examine how…
#6: You have different energies
Temperaments play a major role in relationships. That includes human-canine relationships as well.
An article on AKC picked the brain of Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold. A licensed clinical psychologist, he had this to say:
“If a couple gets a dog, you may find that there’s a wired-in attraction to the one partner who has a similar temperament as the dog, whether that be laidback, hyper, or in-between.”
You’ve felt that with another person, haven’t you? There’s so much compatibility between the two of you. It gets you thinking, “I’ve just found my new BFF!”
And then there are other kinds of people. Their energy doesn’t mesh well with yours. They’re laid-back while you’re hyper. So they come off as boring to you.
Or you’re laid-back while they’re hyper. And you can’t keep up with them. You find them draining.
For a dog in a new home, this can be stressful. It’s enough trouble having to adjust to a new environment. And then there are people with different personalities to deal with.
It’s all the more troubling for a young pup. They’ve just been separated from their mom and siblings.
They haven’t yet honed that skill of reading people. All they know is that they click with your wife.
But you’re different. And that can translate into them being uncomfortable with you. Or worse – into being intimidated by you.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they’re often exposed to you. They’d eventually learn to get on with you. But it’s certainly a problem if…
#7: They’re not getting accustomed to you
Maybe you’re not around much of the time. It’s not that you don’t want to be. If you looked up this article, then you obviously long for a bond with your dog.
But duty calls. Someone’s got to make money for those treats and toys.
FaceTime during lunch breaks might suffice for your wife. But for a species who primarily views the world through their nose, it just won’t do.
Your absence could really hurt the way your dog perceives you.
To them, you’re not dad. You’re just that strange man who comes to stay in their home when the sun goes down. Then leaves a little after it rises again.
So until Apple rolls out some serious upgrades that cater to the sense of smell, you’ll need to be there for your dog in the flesh.
Okay. You can step off the examination table now. We’ll take a look at the more internal issues your dog has.
Don’t miss out on: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Cuddles With You & NOT Your Husband
For instance, this particular problem could be worse if…
#8: They’re shy
I know what you’re thinking. It’s a strange excuse to make for such a social creature.
Dogs’ temperaments don’t follow a single mould, though. According to PetMD, some dogs’ personalities don’t fit their breed.
But these variations and distinctions are what make them even more special. And this can include a little shyness.
“That’s not a ‘little’ shyness!”
Okay. This can include varying degrees of shyness. And some cases can be a lot worse than others.
You may be unfortunate to have a pup in the “a lot worse than others” category.
“Then why aren’t they shy around my wife?”
I’ve already floated some possible factors as to why dogs are more comfortable with women. But more than that, they may have imprinted on your wife.
Notable ethologist Konrad Lorenz explains imprinting. It’s what happens when a puppy comes to recognize a human as “a parent or other object of trust.”
This imprinting period happens between 3 to 12 weeks old. That’s likely around the time you opened your home to your pup.
Your wife is already the vessel of that comforting estrogen. But aside from that, she may have been the first to receive your little furball.
Being the shy and timid fluff that they are, they’ve clung to her since. It’s understandable.
Even shy humans have that one person they’re comfortable with. And they seldom – if ever – open themselves to another.
But don’t give up hope just yet. You can still be the fur dad they run to for cuddles or a game of fetch.
I’ll get to that in a bit. But before the hopeful part, let’s tackle this distressing one…
#9: They have a troubled history
The tragic reality is that some dogs get abused. So if you adopted your pooch, you just might have saved them from a horrific life.
It sure makes the blood boil, doesn’t it? Physically and/or emotionally abusing a dog. Then dumping them at a shelter.
Just look at what it did to this poor creature:
We’d like to think there’s a special circle in hell awaiting anyone who would do something so damnable.
And preferably temperatures there are a thousand times higher. Much higher than in all the other circles combined.
Any animal put through the torment of abuse is sure to end up with issues.
A study took a look at such victims. Particularly their behavioral and psychological characteristics.
It found “significantly higher rates of aggression and fear directed toward unfamiliar humans and dogs.” (Remember #7, Dad?)
Other characteristics displayed include:
- Persistent barking.
- Attachment and attention-seeking behaviors.
- Miscellaneous strange or repetitive behaviors.
PetMD goes on to say that they could have “over the top and dramatic” reactions to the following:
- A raised tone of voice.
- Slightest hand movement.
- An item being dropped on the floor.
- The owner walking quickly across the room.
Their reactions are similar to what we found out in reason #2 about dogs with a fear of men:
- Try to escape the room and the owner’s presence.
But the more aggressive displays are not seen here. In this case, the dog has been absolutely broken. And all they know is fear and flight.
Such a victim needs special care and attention. And until they gain your trust, they’ll be fearful of you.
There’s their history of abuse. Plus there could be a combination of some – or even all – of the previous reasons we’ve talked about.
It’ll be tough to get past this. But it’s not impossible. Let’s see what can be done…
How do I make my dog not scared of me? 5 tips
Vampire hunters have their precious silver swords and holy water. Desensitization and counterconditioning are just as invaluable to a dog trainer.
They’re the most potent weapons in the arsenal.
We’ll take a look at counterconditioning shortly. But for now, I give you desensitization.
VCA defines it as:
“a technique of exposing the pet to a stimulus that would normally cause an undesirable reaction at an extremely low level so that there is no response.
As the pet becomes less reactive, it is desensitized through exposure to gradually more intense levels of the stimulus.”
I don’t mean to be blunt. But you’re the stimulus that causes an undesirable reaction.
It’s not the end of the world, though. The whole point of desensitization is to fix this. So let’s get to it.
To put it simply, desensitization means your dog will have to take you in small doses. Much in the same way that humans conquer their fears.
Someone has a fear of heights and water. They obviously won’t go straight for the highest diving board at the deepest end of the pool. They’ll splash around in the kiddie pool first.
In a similar manner, you have to approach your dog slowly and subtly at first. You don’t just barge into the room and go for their belly.
As they get comfortable with low levels of exposure, gradually increase them.
For instance, you can go from being on the other end of the living room. Then move to the adjacent couch. Then later to the same couch.
And I don’t mean this in a matter of minutes. This should take time. Days. Maybe weeks. Slowly but surely. Until finally, they can sit right next to you and not freak out about it.
They may even opt for your lap.
Counterconditioning goes with desensitization just as peanut butter goes with jelly. And here’s why:
VCA describes it as what “occurs when the pet’s reaction (emotional response) to a stimulus is changed from one that is anxious or fearful to one that is positive and enjoyable.
To accomplish this, favored rewards should be paired with each exposure to the stimulus.”
Let’s consider the example in tip #1 – closing in the distance between you and your dog.
Desensitization becomes more effective when you make a sandwich with it and counterconditioning.
You move closer. And your dog doesn’t react like you’re wearing a mask reminiscent of Edvard Munch’sThe Scream. Toss them a treat.
The closer you get, the more treats you give. They’ll think, “Hey, it’s actually pretty great having this guy nearby!”
The levels of comfort they feel as you inch closer are sped up. And eventually, “this guy” will become “dad.”
Inject socialization into that concoction of desensitization and counterconditioning.
You’ll not only have a dog that’s no longer scared of you. But they’ll also be an overall well-adjusted pooch.
Desensitization and counterconditioning are very useful. And they can be highly effective for all the reasons why your dog could be scared of you.
For example, it would be swell if your dog stops being afraid of you.
But if that fear was down to a fear of men in general, you’d want to address the whole issue.
Being desensitized to you is great. But there’s still a problem if you’re out in public where it’s raining men. You can be sure your dog won’t exclaim, “Hallelujah!”
AKC stresses the importance of socializing a puppy. This “will permanently shape his future personality and how he will react to his environment as an adult dog.”
But if you adopted an adult dog, don’t fret. Similar steps can accomplish the same desired outcome.
“Slowly reintroducing the dog to new sights, smells, and sounds, with careful supervision and an emphasis on positivity in the form of praise and treats can help him overcome his fears or hesitation.”
Old dog, new social graces.
#4: Play games
Desensitization, counterconditioning, and socialization are textbook solutions for doggy issues.
But we’re going to kick it up a notch and really get down and dirty.
If the first 3 tips have already taken effect, it’s playtime!
Think of it this way. A family is in the living room after dinner. Dad’s on the La-Z-Boy reading the paper. Mom’s on the couch knitting and…
Okay, that sounds a little too ‘60s. Let’s try again.
Dad’s watching the evening news. Mom’s lost in her crime novel. The older kid is going through social media. While the younger is smashing buttons on their Nintendo Switch.
Quality time, right? Uh, not exactly. The family is only together physically. But other than that, they’re worlds apart.
Put your fur-parents-and-pup family in a similar scenario. And you can’t really accomplish much.
Sure, it’s a step towards progress. Your furball is comfortable enough to hang around you. But it shouldn’t be limited to that.
Now picture this.
You’re playing fetch out in the yard. At first, your dog is a little reserved. But then it’s just so much fun!
Before you know it, they’re bolting after that ball and gleefully bounding back towards you.
That’s just one example. But you get the idea. You can’t beat that kind of involvement. You’re not only physically present. You’re actively engaged with them.
“But Petya, that’s not my energy.”
I have a friend who’s the most introverted person you’ll ever meet. She’s one of those very serious types – even when talking to kids.
But when she got her pup, Valkyrie, she instantly became fluent in baby talk. She’s now one of the goofiest fur moms out there.
You could well end up the same way. But you’ll never find out if you don’t try.
#5: Take more responsibility
Just a little heads-up.
There’s a dog parent complaint that often pops up on forums. And it goes like this…
They’re the primary caregiver. They do practically everything for their dog. Yet somehow, the title of “Fido’s Favorite Hooman” goes to someone else.
“So how is this going to help me?”
First of all, we’re not trying to dethrone your wife. (Right?) It’s fine if she stays the favorite. (Right?)
We’re just looking to build rapport with your dog. And assuming more responsibility is one way to go about it.
Scientists have studied the relationship between dog parents and dogs. And they’ve suggested that it resembles that of a human parent and their dependent child.
A study further investigated the significance of caregiving style. It used 2 in particular:
- Secure caregiving style.
- Disorganized caregiving style.
It found that these have bearing on a dog parent and dog relationship. Dogs showed a preference for humans who offered the secure caregiving style.
So keep that in mind when you assume more responsibility.
Your dog isn’t going to warm up to you solely for quantity. They’re going to weigh the quality of your efforts as well.
But take everything into consideration. And more responsibility is a practical and effective solution to your problem.
You get to spend more time with your dog. And they’ll come to trust you and depend on you more.
After all, you’re sometimes the one dispensing kibble. Or taking them on those walks they love. Or tossing the frisbee they can leap up after.
How can they go on being scared of someone who’s now come to represent food and fun?