Help! My Dog Doesn't Like My Husband

If your dog is fearful when your husband pets her, make this interaction more predictable by pairing the action with a word, like “pet.” Give her the cue “pet" as you reach out to touch her. At first, work with your dog yourself to learn the cue, since she is more comfortable with you. Stroke in neutral areas, like her chest or side, and follow with a reward. Once she is familiar with the cue and willing to be petted in response to it, have your husband use it when he pets her. Have him start with only one or two strokes at a time, followed by a reward. As she relaxes, he can increase the time he spends petting her.

To reduce any anxiety your dog may have around your husband, try to identify triggers that cause her to act anxious or upset. If she avoids your husband when he’s wearing a hat, for example, have him take the hat off when he’s around her. Alternatively, he can teach her to associate the presence of the hat with a reward. Start by having your husband lay the hat on the floor; reward your dog for staying calm around the hat or for sniffing or otherwise investigating it. As she gets used to the hat, have him hold it in his hand and, eventually, put it on his head. Continue to reward her as long as she stays calm. Be patient, though; it may take awhile for her to get over her fear, even with consistent positive reinforcement.

Finally, further your dog’s positive perception of your husband by including him in activities your dog enjoys. In other words, teach your dog to associate your husband with all of her favorite things: walks, meals, play, etc.

If your dog’s relationship with your husband doesn’t improve, or if she displays any signs of aggression, seek professional help from a veterinary behaviorist or a veterinarian working with a positive reinforcement trainer.

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