Fear Aggression : Why Our Dogs Fear Strangers

Fear Aggression with People

Our dogs can display fearful behaviors, which can lead to growling, lunging and barking ferociously at strangers or distant family members and maybe even biting, mainly  because of us. You would be hard pressed to find anybody that didn’t take their new little puppy around everywhere they went, met tons of people, other animals, exposed to variety of different environments, while that puppy was young between the ages of eight weeks and three or four months old. This is our most comfortable time with our dog. She’s a baby, she’s cute, she’s adorable,  so full of love and everything is hunky-dory in the world.

So how does your dogs fear aggression of strangers or people, really begin. Well, this goes back to us again. At some point in the initial development of our dogs early experiences, we start to become  a little uncertain, a little uncomfortable and maybe somewhat fearful, as to what our dog may do in any given situation. We have become  nervous, we have become scared. This will become a giant hindrance and possibly have dire consequences on the overall sociability of our dog, down the road.

Early Imprinting

Much has been written about the importance of early imprinting on dogs during those first few months of life. While this is still a very important factor in helping many dogs to grow up and be a well socialized and happy member of our family, it’s not the determining factor in having a happy dog. We are the determining factor, in having a well socialized and happy dog.

Adopted Dogs

Much has also been written about how some adopted dogs may have been abused or had a frightening experience with a stranger, while that dog was young.  In some cases this will be the primary reason for a dogs fearfulness and fear aggression directed at strangers. But again, there are many dogs that are mistrustful of strangers that have never been abused or had any bad experience during those early stages of life. It’s just as common for a dog to have a wonderful family and be fearful of strangers as those poor dogs that were abused and or neglected.

Spirit Animal Sanctuary

How do I know so much about fear aggressive dogs? It’s simple. We get two kinds of nervous or scared dogs here at the sanctuary. Those that were horribly mistreated and abused at the early stages of their life and those who came to Spirit, from the most caring and loving of families you will ever find.  Sometimes just exposing our dogs to all the many stimulating things in our world, is just not enough.  Occasionally we have to search inside of ourselves and work on our fears and uncertainties, to help the nervous dog get over his or her fears.

The Spirit Dog

Spirit dog and Bloodhound
Spirit Dog and Bloodhound

Spirit Dog and American Bulldog, yellow and black Labs, Dutch Shepherd

Spirit Dog and American Bulldog, yellow and black Labs, Dutch Shepherd

© 2011 a.s.papszycki



3 Responses

  1. What would you suggest for a dog that is afraid of small children? She barks ferociously if a small child faces her or comes towards her and the barking keeps the small children away, so it is reinforced, because it gives her exactly what she wants – for the small children to stay away from her. Since this is a fear/nervousness issue, how would I make this dog feel comfortable around kids? She is a big dog with a big bark, so it makes desensitizing a bit problematic, as really loud barking tends to freak little kids out. I do not think she would bite, so I’m not worried about that, but I don’t want to scare some little kid either. She is usually ok if the kid does not face her directly… i.e. walking alongside a kid that is going the same direction across the street is ok but a kid standing across the street facing her and looking at her isn’t.

  2. I think one thing to prevent dog’s fear aggression is to let them grow with people around them. What I mean is let them socialize with different kind of people. While they are young bring them to park or to neighbor or let them with you when you are with friends. In this way, when they getting older, they will not be afraid of anyone unless to those who are suspicious.

  3. Hi Al, Thank you for your opinion on fear aggression. I see our DS – Wrigley behind you,
    this subject is the reason we decided to asked
    you to help us save him. I just didn’t realized that
    even though I tried to get him to relax around new
    people he must have sensed that I was nervous
    that he would bite again. Thank you for saving our
    little ones. Volunteer w/ Friends of Linden Animal Shelter, NJ.

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