My Dog Doesn't Like Me
See files for Dogs
A dog's affectionate nature means they are generally inclined to shower us with love. Of course, there are many factors involved. While breed, history and education are all important, each dog is an individual. Knowing that dogs are generally inclined to enjoy our company, finding out that one doesn't can be jarring. This is bad enough when you approach a strange dog and they do not want to be petted. When you adopt a dog into your family and they don't like you, it can endanger their well-being.
If you find yourself saying, “My dog doesn't like me”, AnimalWised can help you find out why. Moreover, we also investigate what might have happened if you find your dog used to like you, but doesn't anymore. Such changes in a dog's behavior can be particularly worrisome.
Signs your dog doesn't like you
When we encounter other people, we may get the impression they don't like us. They don't have to say anything or behave aggressively. We can often tell from their body language they have not warmed to us. Dogs may not be as psychologically complicated, but determining if they don't like us is not always easy.
Since we can't ask them outright, we need to look for signs a dog doesn't like us. These signs are largely from body language and include:
- Evade your presence: the first sign our dog doesn't like us is fairly obvious. If every time we go near them they move away, it is likely they have an issue with us. Dogs don't judge humans in the same way they do each other. It is likely the dog hides from your presence because they are threatened by you. There is something about you which makes them feel insecure.
- Do not like being touched: petting a dog reassures them, releases stress and improves the bond between dog and guardian. While there are times they are just uninterested and don't want to be petted, if the dog regularly recoils at your touch it is a sign of a problem.
- Tuck their tail: a dog may be afraid of you, but they remain in your presence. By looking at their body language, we can see how they feel about a person. Having their tail lowered and tucked when in your company usually exhibits fear, discomfort and/or stress.
- Look away: while dogs generally do not like to be looked directly in the eye, if they always avoid your gaze or seem to cower whenever you look at them, it is a sign they are uncomfortable with you.
- Flatten ears: while flattening their ears can be a sign of aggression, it can also be a sign of discomfort. We need to look at their body language as a whole to know for sure.
- Bark or growl: one of the most obvious signs are dog has a problem with us is if they are making aggressive noises. When a dog wants to be close to their guardian, they can whine and call out for them. They may even bark out of frustration. When a dog is unhappy or feels threatened, their vocalizations will be more aggressive.
- Bear teeth: similar to growling or barking, bearing teeth is a sign the dog is not happy. If they do it to you, they may be doing it defensively. We need to be very careful because a scared dog can attack. Some dogs may bear their teeth more casually, so we need to be aware of individual dog behavior.
- Bite or scratch: some dogs may not have learned bite inhibition and will bite us too hard, even if they are only playing. If a dog doesn't like you or feels threatened by you, they may try to bite. We need to be very careful in cases like these, especially if there is any possibility they are carriers of disease.
As we can see, many of the signs a dog doesn't like you are shared with other behavioral issues in dogs. This is why it is so essential we look at the context of this behavior as well as their body language.
Why doesn't my dog like me?
While it may be fairly obvious your dog doesn't like you, knowing why may not be as evident. We need to be clear what we mean when we say a dog doesn't like a person. While dogs are much more intelligent than many believe, their psychology is not as complex as that of a human. Some dogs may be naturally distrustful of strangers, others may be more gregarious. This has to do with a mixture of their genetics, upbringing and education.
Another aspect is that each dog is an individual. The reasons why dogs bond with some particular people and not others are multi-faceted. Some dogs forge stronger bonds with members of their own species than their owner. It depends on the quality of the relationship more than the type, e.g. owner/companion animal.
Dogs are not moralists. They will not dislike a person for their views or character. They will judge us by their experience of both specific individuals and humans in general. A dog will often not like being around a person because they feel uncomfortable or threatened by them. But if we are trying to be nice, what is going wrong? Here are some examples:
- Body language: while we may think we are being friendly, our body language could be sending mixed signals. If we raise ourselves over the dog, narrow our eyes or bear our teeth, it is possible they will see this as being aggressive. This most commonly will happen with dogs which are uncomfortable to begin with, for example those which have been recently adopted.
- Hugging: there are many behaviors dogs do not like and hugging is usually one of them. While there are exceptions, dogs can feel as if they are being restrained or harassed when we hug them. If we enact this kind of behavior regularly, they may become distrustful of us.
- Being too rough: if we tug on their leash, push them around or are generally too rough, our dog may not appreciate it. This is especially so if we regularly use negative reinforcement, i.e. scolding or hitting when they do something we deem wrong. This can cause the dog to be scared of you because they are worried they will be punished all the time.
- Inappropriate touching: most responsible owners know pulling a dog's tail, ears or other part of their body is not fun for them. However, while we may think we are only trying to be affectionate, there may be parts of their body a dog does not like to be touched. Doing so repeatedly can lead the dog not to like you.
- Playing tricks: there are many videos of people playing around with their dogs or confusing them by playing tricks. While often this will not cause a problem, sensitive dogs may not enjoy it and become wary.
- Negative situations: for various reasons, some dogs may be frightened of other animals, people or situations. If we regularly put them in situations in which they feel uncomfortable they are likely to grow resentful of us.
We once again want to stress that every dog is an individual. A negative situation for one dog may be a very comfortable situation for another.
Is my dog afraid of me?
When we invite a new dog into our home, there will be a certain period of adjustment for all parties. Some dogs will become part of the family immediately. Others will need more time to gain our trust. Part of the reason may be to do with their past. Often the root cause is fear. Here are some reasons a dog may be afraid of you:
- Traumatic experience: when something traumatic happens to them, a dog can have a hard time dealing with it. Rescue dogs are particularly prone to this problem. They may carry it with them into a new home and will need constant reassurance to feel comfortable again.
- Abuse: similar to a traumatic experience, abuse can linger with a dog. If they were regularly beaten by a human in the past, they may think you will do the same to them. Earning the dog's trust again can take a long time, but it will depend on the individual as even rescue dogs or those which have been abused can adjust to a new family.
- Lack of socialization: a dog needs to stay with their mother for a bare minimum of 8 weeks, ideally longer. During this time they are not only weaned and cared for, but they start to learn how to interact with others in a healthy way. If the dog is removed too soon, they may not heave learned the proper skills to socialize.
- Negative association: if the dog associates certain objects or circumstances with stress or fear, then they may not be able to behave when around them. Removing any stressors can start them on the road to feeling safe and secure.
To know more, you can look at our article on why my dog is scared of me all of a sudden. Here we provide more signs and reasons why they may be frightened as well as some helpful techniques to regain their trust.
My dog doesn't like me anymore
When a dog has lived with our family for a long time and then starts to behave as if they don't like us, it can be disconcerting. Whatever the reason, something has changed. Whether it is our behavior, our circumstance or something completely unforeseen, we need to address the problem.
One reason a dog might stop liking us all of a sudden is to do with routine. Dogs need routine. It helps them to feel secure and comfortable in the home. If we have been feeding our dog at a certain time every day and then arbitrarily change the time, this can cause the dog to become confused. If we are inconsistent in our feeding in general, it can cause the dog to develop anxiety. The same may occur if we stop taking them out on walks, offering them affection or denying them any attention on which they have come to rely.
Big changes can also cause a dog to develop behavioral problems. A dog should be able to adjust over time to a new home, but it can be a difficult process for some. This is especially so if they have less space or there is something in the new home they do not like. Also, if we change partners or gain a new one, the dog may not like this person. Again, knowing why can be tricky, but it is essential we rectify it so everyone can live together harmoniously.
If your dog doesn't like you anymore, you will need to analyze their circumstances and see what has changed. Once we identify these factors, we can begin to address them.
How to get a dog to like you
Whether your relationship has changed all of a sudden or you have never quite been able to bond with your dog, there are things you can do. Improving your bond with a dog will take time and effort. Just how much depends on your own circumstances. One thing we need to bear in mind overall is the importance of a positive approach. While research is surprisingly limited, it does seem that “positive attitudes and affiliative behavior” contribute to a strong human-dog bond. Ensuring a positive environment will go a long way to establishing your relationship.
Here we can give you some ideas to get started:
- Pay attention to their body language: a breakdown in a relationship with a dog could be due to ignoring what they are trying to say to you. Whether or not we are being antagonistic, our dog uses their body language to communicate with us. If we start to pay more attention to their facial expressions and postures, we can get to know their likes and dislikes.
- Stop stressful behavior: you may think that hugging your dog is a way you can help strengthen your bond, but it may be the reason your dog doesn't like you in the first place. Stop perpetrating behaviors which cause the dog to resent you.
- Establish a routine: whether you have deviated from an existing routine or never had one in the first place, some structure can help you significantly. Feed them at the same time every day, walk them regularly and ensure they know when you are coming and going.
- Pet properly: not all dogs are the same. Some will not like to be touched in certain places. If we pet them wherever we like without finding out what they enjoy, it could be driving space between you. Learn the right petting techniques, find out where they enjoy being touched and where they don't with this article on how to pet a dog to relax them.
- Positive reinforcement: instead of scolding them for not behaving or reinforcing negative behavior, use positive reinforcement to ensure they know you don't provide a threat.
- Education: positive reinforcement is an essential part of a dog's education. Training them how to behave, when done correctly, not only helps you, but it gives the dog structure and purpose. The dog will enjoy being rewarded and should have better levels of security.
- Don't push it: getting frustrated, shouting or trying to force interaction are all counterproductive. You need to let the dog come to you, give them space when they need it and speak in calm reassuring tones. It may take some time and there is likely no quick fix, but it will help the dog to come closer to you.
Strengthening your bond and helping your dog like you again can take time. Unfortunately, there may be cases where a dog is still intolerant of us, even after using the above tips. In these instances, it is important you ask for help from a qualified canine ethologist. They are professionals who will be able to assess your dog's state of mind and look at your situation with a critical eye. They can implement a new training schedule, give you some specific advice to help and generally improve your bond. You will also need to take the dog to a veterinarian to ensure they have no underlying health issue which could explain a change in behavior.
If you think your dog likes you, but you could still use some improvement, our video on how to make your dog happier might be of help:
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Doesn't Like Me, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.
1. MacLean, E. L., et al. (2019). Highly Heritable and Functionally Relevant Breed Differences in Dog Behaviour. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(20190716).
2. Cimarelli, G., Marshall-Pescini, S., Range, F., & Virányi, Z. (2019). Pet Dogs’ Relationships Vary Rather Individually Than According to Partner’s Species. Scientific Reports, 9(3437).
3. Payne, E., Bennett, P. C., & McGreevy, P. D. (2015). Current Perspectives on Attachment and Bonding in the Dog–Human Dyad. Psychol Res Behav Manag, 8, 71-79.