Men are Scarier than Really Big Spiders

SHUG tries very hard to maintain our public spaces--the website and Facebook page--as positive places. We don't post the horror stories or the pictures of abused and injured dogs from Spain that you may see elsewhere. We know you know. And we know you understand why some of the Galgos have developed such a deep fear of men--their very survival depended on it.

Fortunately, our partner rescues and their wonderful volunteers in Spain are frequently successful in teaching the pups that good things come in both genders. A few dogs, though, do come into SHUG unconvinced. Reyna is our poster child for androphobia, the fear of men. After taking the time to gain confidence in a female only foster home, Reyna recently stayed with a foster family with a very sweet and patient husband willing to put up with being treated like a leper in his own home.

For tips on dealing with androphobia in dogs, we’ve reached out to Lydia McCarthy, of Playful Pooches and Parents Dog Training in Ohio, for some tips. This is what she recommends:

First you need to help the dog feel safe around men so distance is key. First, try rewarding with a treat for them just looking at the man. If they can't eat a treat, the man is too close. The man may have to turn away or sit down as sometimes their height is scary. The goal here is to help the dog feel calm around men and to learn that good things happen around men.

As the dog gets used to being rewarded, the man of the house needs to have treats with them at all times so they can reward anytime. It’s always the dog’s choice to go up and get a treat. The goal is changing the dog’s emotional response from “oh, no, scary men” to “Oh, yeah, that’s the treat machine.”

Mia overcame her fear of men very successfully, as you can see.
Mia overcame her fear of men, as you can see.

As the pup starts to relax around a man, there can be some additional interaction – maybe a squeaky toy toss or a little tug of war.

It can be a long process. Don’t be worried if there are relapses. Many things can cause a relapse – too sudden of a movement, a loud voice, maybe even an unexpected hat.

During the process, the man should not be associated with anything unpleasant – no nail trimming or ear cleaning!

Go at the dog’s pace. Don’t push. Celebrate the “wins.”

Other things to consider include talking to your vet about the temporary use of anti-anxiety drugs or trying DAP -- Dog Appeasing Pheromone – which has been shown to support dogs during stressful situations. (DAP needs to be airborne with a spray or plug-in diffuser.) Flower essences such as Rescue Remedy might also help.

For more tips on dealing with fear of men, we recommend and .

As for Reyna, she is continuing to improve, but would definitely prefer a home without those scary man things. If you have a man-free home or are willing to work to help this lovely girl overcome her fears, put in an application here.


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One thought on “Men are Scarier than Really Big Spiders
  1. For 11 months now I have been the Scary Man (and my wife the Nice Lady — I actually use these terms) to an IG we rescued through ROMP. It’s taken months, but Pi has come a long way. Most days I can pick her up now, but only from a handful of safe bases in the house. Anywhere else is off limits so I must herd her to base. I’m not sure if this has become a fun game or is still fear-motivated. I think maybe she’s in transition. She will squeak and wag at me, daring me to play, but can’t seem to hold the positive mindset once I start to move (either that, or I am being played). She still looks fearful when I catch her at base, but stays put. Approaching sideways — by sidestepping — seems to help reduce the threat. I think it helps too that I do most of the feeding. She isn’t at all shy about coming to me when I’m holding a food bowl. A brazen beggar when I sit down to eat, she still has to nerve herself up to take a treat from me (but I no longer have to toss them in her general direction). Pi is also a creature of routine: she will make sure I know its couch time after dinner — then huddle close to my wife while I sit down — then poke at me with her stump once I do (she is missing a paw). While Pi is and probably always will be my wife’s dog, for some reason its my feet she snuggles to at night. Silly Iggy.