Why Is My Dog Scared Of Everyone But Me? Explained

Some dogs can suffer from an extreme fear of people, especially strangers. Dogs that suffer from extreme fear will cower, tremble, and try to hide from any new person they meet. While it’s not exactly uncommon for dogs to be afraid of strangers, the reaction that dog owners prefer is one of open friendliness, rather than hiding or running away. If your dog is excessively fearful around strangers, then you should work to understand the reasons why, so you can help them get past their fear.

Reasons Why Some Dogs Have A Fear Of Strangers

There are a few reasons why your dog is intimidated by people they don’t know. One possibility comes from genetics. A timid or shy dog is more likely to produce skittish offspring compared to a dog that’s fine interacting with strangers. A dog that has a general fear of all strangers—regardless of their gender or age, for example—may be genetically predisposed to being fearful.

A puppy that wasn’t properly socialized when they were young is another reason some dogs will fear strangers. Puppies that don’t have a chance to meet a wide variety of people are far more likely to develop a fear of people they don’t know.

A dog with a known history of abuse can also have problems around strangers. If you’re aware of a history of abuse, then you can better understand why your dog has a problem with strangers.

Easing Your Dogs Fear Of Strangers

A dog that has a fear of strangers should be managed very carefully, as every dog will react differently when they’re afraid. While one dog may simply cower in a corner in the presence of a stranger, another may react by growling or snapping. Learning a dog not to be afraid of unfamiliar people usually takes lots of patience and consistent training.

If you expect your dog to react fearfully toward strangers, this can result in the dog tensing up or tightening your hold on their leash. Instead, try to stay friendly, relaxed, and upbeat when you and your dog meet someone new. Unfortunately, some dogs may never learn to fully accept strangers, but you may be able to alleviate your dog’s fear to some degree. Do not force your fearful dog to meet people or accept other dogs if they don’t want to, as this can sometimes lead to fear biting. Depending on your dog’s reaction, you may find working with a certified dog behaviorist could help to identify cues and management strategies to practice. It’s important to note that every dog learns and adjusts at their own pace. This process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, sometimes longer.

Prepare New Visitors

Whenever anyone new comes to your home, have the person completely ignore your dog. So, the visitor shouldn’t attempt to pet or even make eye contact with your dog. Have some treats on hand for your visitor to gently toss along the floor close to your dog during their visit. With consistent application, your fearful dog can slowly begin to associate strangers with rewards. 

There are some dogs that are more afraid of men than women. If you notice your dog tensing up, whining, or growling around strangers of a particular gender, you can prepare your guests beforehand. Rather than pushing your dog, allow your dog to approach a stranger on their terms. Depending on the severity of your dog’s fear, they could quickly warm to the stranger, even allowing petting and handling, or the dog may need several visits to warm to a new person. Some dogs with very severe behavior may need to go to a comfortable place in the home away from visitors where they can rest, feel safe and not be anxious when visitors come around. If you have noticed growling or any other form of aggression from your dog, it’s recommended to work with a certified dog behaviorist to help figure out triggers and if your dog can act safely with home visitors. You never want to put your visitors or your dog in a situation where someone may get bitten.

When the person approaches the dog, they should continue to avoid eye contact and make slow, non-threatening movements. Never force your dog to accept handling by a stranger, especially if it’s a child. If a dog is pushed too far out of their comfort zone and not allowed to get away, they can resort to biting. Because a dog that’s afraid of strangers may bite out of fear, it’s your job to make sure that everyone stays safe around your dog. This could mean putting your dog in a different room when strangers visit.

Keep Things Stress-Free

Giving your dog a space of their own is important. It helps to have a place, like a quiet room, for your dog where they’ll know that they’ll be left alone. A dog crate would make a perfect place for your dog to escape to if they get too anxious. Applying a thunder shirt or spraying calming doggy pheromones in their crate may also help. If your dog uses a safe spot, don’t allow people to go near that place even if they try to pet your dog, as the dog needs somewhere where they can feel safe, be left alone and unbothered.

Removing your dog from a potentially tense situation is perfectly acceptable, especially if it will help keep both your dog and visitors safe. Your dog’s safe area doesn’t need to be a large space; a corner of a comfortable, quiet room where your dog can curl up with their favorite toy or blanket will be just fine. Make sure no one goes near the area without checking with you first; the dog must feel like they won’t be interrupted or surprised by a stranger.

Obedience Training

Using obedience training for a dog with problems suffering from stress and fear can be very helpful in managing fearful behavior or relieving some of your dog’s stress. As a dog with a severe fear of strangers can lead to aggressive behavior, including growling, snapping, and biting, it can be helpful to work with a dog trainer or behaviorist to come up with a plan to deal with your dog’s fear of strangers. Finding a certified dog trainer to work with you and your fearful dog will help you at any stage. Typically, the sooner a trainer is involved with a fearful dog, the better.

Dogs with a fear of strangers can be challenging for owners, but practice, patience, smart management of your dog and seeking help from trainers and veterinarians can be vital for helping fearful dogs to manage their fears.

Helping Your Timid Dog Around Strangers

Socializing your dog when they’re a young puppy is, of course, ideal. Young dogs that lack socialization can lead to all kinds of concerns when they become older, which is why behaviorists make a big push for people to socialize their dogs before the age of 14 to 16 weeks.

Confidence-building exercises and games are always helpful. Controlled exposure to things that make a dog nervous if the exposure is done in a way that can change the dog’s emotional state from “this is scary” to this is fun, which will make all the difference.

Avoid being negative or trying to force certain behaviors. For example, using a prong, pinch, choke, shock, or spray collars to help encourage proper behavior can often result in dogs avoiding anything that’s caused them pain.

If your dog has no underlying medical conditions and is healthy and content, then it’s recommended to simply respect your dog’s individuality, even if that means that they go solo. If being an introvert is what makes your dog happy, then that should be the most important thing.