Sudden fear of certain men! No biting! cowering, he’s trained and a service dog!

by Mary McClellan
(San Jacinto,Ca)

Our boy is 2 years old this month! He is precious, smart, obedient, picks things up for me, opens doors, stays by me, he is a service dog. Passed all the tests, completely non-aggressive! Children can crawl all over him, no snapping, but all of the sudden, he’s afraid of certain men…not all, but mostly men that approach him, he doesn’t growl, or act bad, just afraid?

I have only left him with our trainer for training and now training is done for now… more is coming, but he needs to trust me, he also is afraid of wheels… backs up, we’re working on that still, do you think this is his age?

Needs more exposure?

Help me please, what direction should I go?

Not thrilled with our trainer, at first he was all about us, but then became more interested in getting more clients! He was VERY expensive!
All my savings on him….

Thank you for your time, I appreciate it very much!!!

Hi Mary
It’s difficult to pinpoint what could be going on here as it sounds as though this is a fairly sudden change in your Rottie’s behavior and he’s pretty much past the fear-periods, plus he’s had a lot of training, socialization etc. etc.

Obviously I can’t say who/what is causing this, but as it seems to be certain men who trigger this response I’d hazard a guess that a man has scared your dog at some point recently, enough to make him act this way. It doesn’t necessarily have to have been on purpose, or cruel, but something that has upset your Rottie for sure.

If the only place you’ve ever left him is with the trainer then it’s possible that this is where the problem started. Most dog trainers are excellent professionals who are dedicated to helping the dogs in their care, but even then they can make a mistake for whatever reason and cause problems. Occasionally trainers can use methods that are more punitive than positive and under-estimate the sensitivity of these large, guardian breeds.

Of course I’m not saying this HAS happened, but it’s all I can think of right now. If he’s been to the groomers, or to daycare, or even been scared by someone/something when out with you, any of these could be equally to blame.

He’s reaching maturity and during adolescence and early adulthood pups do go through a lot of changes physically and emotionally, so it’s possible it’s a ‘stage’ that he’s experiencing. In that case it should diminish over time.

However, whether it’s been triggered by a scare, or it’s developmental, it’s important to continue his socialization slowly and carefully. Don’t force him into situations where he’s not comfortable (ie force him to allow people he’s afraid of to pet him), but do expose him to them and let him build up confidence at his own pace. He’s obviously got a sound temperament and has been well trained so he will overcome these fears if you give him time, space, exposure and support.

He’s come a long way in 2 years so there’s no need to rush things, just slow down a little and let him recover his self-confidence, but don’t stop training him or socializing him altogether. You may want to look around for another trainer who you feel more comfortable with or confident in, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Your vet, other owners or even dog behavioral specialists in your area may be able to give you some names to get in touch with.

I hope this helps and wish you lots of luck. Just be upbeat and cheerful, patient and loving and stick with it and I’m sure your Rottie will get through this difficulty given some time.

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