Help! My Dog Hates a Family Member!
It's inevitable. You invite your parents, sister, or in-laws over and within seconds, Fido is growling and baring his teeth. You love your dog, but you also need to maintain some semblance of a social life without having to content with dog behavior problems - what do you do?
Don't worry, you're not alone. According to the American Kennel Club, about 20% of dogs are uncomfortable around at least one person in their home. And it's usually not just one family member - dogs can be picky! So if your dog hates Uncle Joe, there's a chance he also doesn't love Aunt Karen or Cousin Emily. Don't take it personally - your dog just has specific preferences when it comes to the people in his life.
Top 5 Reasons Dogs May Dislike a Member of the Family
Below are a few of the common reasons why some dogs take a disliking to family members and start presenting dog behavior problems. By understanding these reasons, you can teach your dog to behave appropriately.
1. Fear Based Defensive Aggression
If a dog fears someone, they may present dog behavior problems such as nipping and biting followed by running away. If a dog is fearful, they may not growl or show teeth, but in stead going to a "leave me alone" stance.
If you have a family member or friends who only show the other pets attention, your dog may develop a pattern of jealousy. The good news is that dog behavior training can be used to teach your dog to behave appropriately.
3. Past Trauma
If you have a rescue dog on your hands, you can expect to deal with some dog behavior problems that stem from past experience. Your dog may associate something about your family member with a past experience. Perhaps the person is the same size, has the same color hair or behaves similarly to someone who threatened or hurt them in the past. Dogs are emotional creatures and can act out when a past trauma comes back to haunt them.
4. Tone of Voice and Body Language
Studies have shown that dogs reward centres in the brain respond well to higher pitched, happier sounding voice tones. It's much the same with body language. What may seem entirely normal body language to you may come across as threatening to a dog. For instance, getting up close into a dogs face and staring them down may have a different message than expected and may result in some dog behavior problems as a result.
5. Observation of Human Interaction
If your dog perceives someone else to be behaving in a threatening way towards you or another beloved family member, they may act out defensively or aggressively. Dogs can perceive if human interactions are good or bad by observing body language, listening to tone of voice and getting a "feeling" for the situation. How your dog responds to a family member they don't appear to like may be directly related to how that individual is behaving towards you and other beloved family members. The good news is that you can teach your dog to behave more appropriately towards other with time and consistent dog behavior training.
If you're struggling to get your dog to accept a member of the family, it is a good idea to do supervised introductions over a space of time. Allow the family member to offer treats and provide affection and with time, the problem may simmer down. If it doesn't, it may be time to call in a professional dog behavior specialist that works with specific dog behavior problems to assist.