Should You Worry About the Person the Dog Dislikes?

by Honolulu Mother

I was intrigued by this Quora discussion on whether dogs’ and cats’ reactions to people are meaningful indicators. In other words, should you be wary of someone your pet avoids or dislikes, and be inclined to trust the person the pet takes an immediate shine to?

Do certain people give off an aura to animals? My cat hisses severely at this person, and my dog hides.


83 thoughts on “Should You Worry About the Person the Dog Dislikes?

  1. Well, I guess I’m unemployable, then, because I’m allergic and thus don’t have “dog-friendly” body language.

  2. I agree that animals are good at reading people. But, also someone could just be uncomfortable around dogs or cats as the article says. Follow your gut.

  3. I think that in general*, getting along with unfamiliar dogs can be a learned skill. Make eye contact, act neither aggressively nor timidly. Don’t put your hand up to pet it on the top of its head, just extend it, palm down, and let it approach you and sniff.

    But some people don’t get the opportunities to learn this. In my observations, this is sometimes concentrated among African-Americans of lower socioeconomic status, much like inability to swim. And then it’s a self-perpetuating cycle, because people who don’t know how to interact with an average dog will come to believe that dogs don’t like them, act defensively or scared, and induce a similar reaction from the dog.

    *But some dogs are just assholes. My neighbor’s little rat dog will literally try to bite any man it sees.

  4. don’t *most* people learn this skill (the proper way to approach unfamiliar dogs) as children?
    it is something we have taught DS. We have cats and no dogs.
    a lot of times at the park we will come across someone walking their dog and he will ask if he can pet it

  5. winemama – thinking about the potential differences, if you grow up in a neighborhood where most unfamiliar dogs are friendly Labradors that have slipped out of their yards for a romp, it’s easier to learn the correct way to engage them than if you’re in a neighborhood where the unfamiliar dogs tend toward the normally chained and often neglected pit bulls.

  6. I think it has a lot more to do with the dog or cat than the person. Our old cat loved people, and she would make a beeline for people who hated cats. It was almost as if she thought she needed to convince them. We always joked about it. Our current cat, though, is scared of people outside of the family so he just hides. He loves the kids though.

  7. When I was a kid, there were no leash laws, and it was common to encounter threatening loose dogs in some of the places we lived. How I hated that. I am so glad for leash laws.

  8. I have no dog skills and no desire to learn. My oldest kid has a severe dog allergy too, so we just stay away. My daughter likes dogs though, and loves visiting people who have dogs, especially little fluffy dogs

  9. A year or so ago, we were walking on the beach with my parents and their little happy-go-lucky Cavalier when someone had set loose some kind of mix, maybe a chow, but definitely with aggressive tendencies. At what point, we just tried to avoid it, and maybe it ran off and we walked in a different direction. Then a few minutes later, it comes back making a beeline for my parents’ very naïve dog. My dad swoops down, picks up my Mom’s dog, and as this other one, showing its teeth, comes at him, he kicks it hard square in the jaw, sending it off whimpering.

    So sometimes the correct way to engage can vary.

    My mom is more devoted to this dog than children, and was pi$$ed at the owners, who are saying “Well, she’s *normally* very friendly!” My dad, “not this time.”

  10. Every dog my family has owned has been outright racist….because we only get rescues, and they had been mistreated early in life.

    Cats and dogs do have an uncanny ability about needing attention from those who are allergic or don’t like them, though.

  11. “I have no dog skills and no desire to learn.”

    Me too. I am not a pet person at all. I feel like dogs know this and make a beeline for me to try to ‘convince me” as someone else said. But maybe it just seems that way because seeing a dog heading toward me makes my anxiety go through the roof. Cats don’t bother me as much, but I am allergic & avoid them.

    We have leash laws, but people regularly avoid them. When their dogs come towards me or my kid, I give them the death stare. The one time I really lost my cool on a stranger at the park was when their unleashed dog came barreling at me & my kid at top speed and scared the ever living sh*t out of us. This was, of course, on a sports field right next to a million-dollar dog park. Dogs are not technically allowed on the sports field and definitely not unleashed.

  12. I think judging the initial interaction of a person and an unfamiliar animal has several factors to consider – (1) is the animal friendly to strangers, (2) does the animal approach people in a calm manner or rush at them (this can be off putting if it is a large dog or comes from an unexpected location), (3) how is the person dressed (needing to protect clothing), (4) any allergies the person has to animals, and (5) prior experiences.

    My DD#2 was scared by a golden that our neighbor had, It was an older dog, she was about 2 and it would come running full speed across the street barking with the hair on its back up every time we were outside in the front yard and it saw us. Yep, outside with no leash and no person. My DD#2 is fine with dogs in people’s homes or under their control, but not when they are loose and tends to be hesitant of golden’s in general.

    However, my experience is if you are in my house regularly and none of my animals take to you at all after a few visits, I should be more wary.

  13. Our male dog is a calm, stoic dog that looks intimidating and is always on the watch, but rarely gets worked up. Our female dog believes anything and everything is a security threat, and her only role in life is to stand between her family and the dangers of the world. She is unpredictable, and I am constantly having to tell people who approach us that she’s not friendly. It is AMAZING the number of people (adults) who will disregard this and either approach me anyway, or allow their dog to get close to her even though she’s clearly out for blood.

    Interestingly, she is also very protective of the kids’ friends – she’s never acted threatening towards a child, only adults. And God forbid the adult have a cell phone in his/her hand – those are clearly bombs that must be disengaged.

  14. Milo, that’s a very good observation. I generally love dogs, but I also had a terrifying run-in with a loose Doberman when I was maybe 8, and so whether it is that or my allergies, I have just never really learned to be fully at ease around dogs.

    “Our old cat loved people, and she would make a beeline for people who hated cats. It was almost as if she thought she needed to convince them.”

    I think you have completely misjudged your cat’s motives.

  15. My mom also had a dog (the one before this Cavalier) that was the sweetest mix lab rescue you’ve ever met, never the slightest bit of aggression with anyone, and one day while on a walk, leashed, just snapped so unprovoked to jerk the leash out of my Mom’s hand and run ACROSS THE STREET to the opposite sidewalk to attack and bite, breaking the skin, of an old lady who had been walking in the opposite direction who had never said a single thing or even looked at the dog.

    Rage Syndrome is real.

    And then it came right back to normal life, like nothing had happened, and my mom is driving this lady to an urgent care center. Fortunately for their insurance company, she did not want to sue.

    And the dog was back to being as sweet as ever, but he had to be put down.

  16. I am a huge animal person, and we also have always had cats in addition to dogs. The only time in my life I’ve not had a pet was the 4 years of college. But I think I need a break after these animals have lived their lives. It is a lot of work and often expense.

  17. One other reason I appreciate leash laws is because I like to bicycle. Back when I was a grad student, I used to ride a lot in a rural area with no leash laws, and dogs were a serious problem. There was this one dog in particular that would stand on an outcrop on his lawn, slightly above me, and leap down, grabbing the bike tire in his teeth, trying to shake me off the bike. In traffic. The owner would always yell, “Oh he is friendly, don’t worry”. Um, if I get thrown off the bike, or the dog gets hit by a car, it doesn’t matter if he is friendly or not. Finally, I reported the dog to the town, and I didn’t see him again.

  18. We had a mild Doberman growing up. She hated my grandmother and had to be chained for the duration of my granddaughter’s visit. The dog was unpredictable around small kids, she would tend to jump up at them so again we had to beware of that. Other than those two instances she just sniffed people to check them out. Non family were vary since she was a Doberman but she never attacked or bit anyone.

  19. My neighborhood now has many houses with invisible fences because their dogs were getting out and roaming the neighborhood. Then a squad of kids was deputed to look for the dog. My DD would be the first to run around looking, she likes pets and loves going to her friends houses to play with their pets.

  20. We were very early adopters of Invisible Fence back in the 80s. It was such a newfangled concept to many people, and caused so many predictable conversations about “It’s cruel!” vs. “It gives them total freedom, and they learn the barrier immediately so they’re never shocked afterward…”

    But now they have an actual fence for the backyard that extends well into the woods.

  21. I have no dog skills and no desire to learn. My oldest kid has a severe dog allergy too, so we just stay away.

    Exposure to dogs in infancy—especially around the time of birth—can actually influence children’s immune development and reduce the likelihood of certain allergic diseases…Children who had a dog at home as newborns were much less likely to have AD (12% versus 27%) and wheezing (19% versus 36%) by their third birthday..

  22. My super sweet dog (high school/college/young professional) was afraid of small children if he was not with one of my family. If he was with us he would not bark, but we told them not to touch him. If he was in the yard and one came by, he would go beserk. He never would lunge at them, but would bark and, if you could see him, you would immediately know he was not friendly. In our home, if we introduced them to him, he was OK. He was a rescue, so I can only imagine a small child did something, but also the group we adopted him from didn’t allow children under age 15 in the home.

  23. The only inconvenience with Invisible Fence was that they didn’t understand that, if they weren’t wearing the collar, they wouldn’t get shocked. So it could be difficult to convince them to cross the line in order to go for a walk. Conversely, we had just one dog who, after crossing the line enough to go for a walk, then experimenting when she did have the collar on, occasionally decided that the mild and temporary electrical shock was a small price to pay for an afternoon of total freedom.

    Ultimately, we decided that to not instill bad habits, we would *drive* the dogs across the line in order to take them walking. So when I was about 11, I learned to drive a stick shift so I could do this on my own.

  24. I volunteer at a dog rescue organization. I foster dogs once in a while, but we don’t have a dog. DS2 does not like dogs, so we try and respect his preference.

  25. My neighbors mounted a campaign against our cat lady, her many cats and her tumbling house. Ultimately she moved away, sold her property and a nice new house was constructed. It felt really bad for her and didn’t sign the petition, her cats didn’t bother us.

  26. I’m not a pet person at all. I’m allergic to cats and scared of dogs. So I prefer not to be around them. I always get annoyed when people make comments about how they never trust someone who doesn’t like dogs

  27. I know a young lady who swears that her dogs’ reactions to potential boyfriends are the best way to judge the young men. I have less faith in her method.

    I’m a pet “hater” stuck in a family of extreme dog lovers. I hate it when cats make a beeline to me and rub up against my legs. Ugh. Sometimes I’ll flash a surprise smile at one of our dogs and it’s cute to see how they can read my facial expression and instantly respond with a tail wag. But then I quickly go back to my grumpy dog-avoiding self. :)

  28. I love animals. I have two cats and two dogs! I do judge people that my dog doesn’t take to differently. I won’t not hire or interact with them but I give them another look for sure because he is awesome and he can catch a bunny in the dark with tags on which makes him cooler than everyone! I have a couple of friends who are simply terrified of dogs and we’re happy to put them out or put them upstairs when they come but it is sad how that trickles down to the kids. It can make life hard because out here there are A LOT of dogs. They make my house dirtier and my wallet lighter but my life immeasurably better and has taught my children about patience, responsibility, forgiveness and empathy.

  29. I love my dog like a child. I have had him longer than I have had a husband or children. When we met, my husband treated him like a child, too, so I was pretty sure that he would be a good dad. Doggy and I have lived in 7 different apartments/homes together. He is old and sweet and a great guy. If he doesn’t like you, you are likely a bad person. Just thinking about him dying makes me tear up as I am typing this.

  30. ” I always get annoyed when people make comments about how they never trust someone who doesn’t like dogs”

    Sometimes I get annoyed and sometimes I take those comments as sort of badge of honor.

  31. I like all animals, I think, except perhaps Everglades pythons and king fish, and I’m sure I can think of others, but you get the picture. There have only been 4 days in my life when I haven’t been owned by at least one cat.

    When I see a domestic animal, I will always ask the owner if I can pet it and if the owner is not around, I go at it slow and wing it.

    Junior, on the other hand, doesn’t like anything except “his” cat, to whom I am devoted. I wish I could instill a love for animals, but it doesn’t seem that I can.

  32. Oh geez, I love dogs and usually dogs love me back. But some dogs are just assholes. So I totally would not go by your dogs reaction to people. Small dogs are usually nasty and large dogs are unpredictable. I got bitten by a very large german shepherd. I was standing there chatting with the owner and the dog was just standing there calmly. suddenly after a few minutes I think it got bored and really bit my arm.
    I had dogs growing up who would dislike people with their heads covered or who smelled of something in particular like alcohol.
    Its been a wile since I had a pet dog, but think its time to get for the kid.

  33. Lookit! Here’s a picture of my kitty! And that’s my contribution to today’s discussion.

  34. Hijack

    wait, kill mrs s beat ms b with her body, explain decomposition, beat her with a textbook, then smash the snake cage on her, then have the snake strangle her while explaining predator/prey absurdly simply and slowly

  35. Our cloud photo account is pretty much just pet photos, selfies, and photos of school whiteboards and assignments, except when you get to a family trip and then suddenly there’s a ton of photos of that. Oh, and photos of concerts. Maybe we-the-parents should try taking the occasional photo when not on a trip or watching a kid performance.

  36. Kate, I know how you feel. This winter I lost my beloved 18 year old cat. Had him longer than my children were alive and spent more awake time with him than anyone else in my life. He followed me everywhere like a dog and was simply the love of my life. (yes my husband knows I say this) His ashes are on my counter and I miss him every single day. I have new kittens now who are great but no one will ever be like him. EVER. He walked with me through a whole lot of stuff.

    I don’t get people who don’t like dogs but I don’t trust people who say “I hate dogs or I hate cats” That strong of a negative emotion to something that cute and sweet makes me think there’s an empathy gene missing.

  37. My cockatiel is 26 so he’s been with me for longer than anyone else in the household. He used to snuggle up under my chin while I read casebooks in law school. He’s a little old man of a bird now, getting very feeble, and it’s sad to think that he won’t be with me for much longer.

  38. Ummm, h-oh, someone might be in danger of getting expelled — please tell me that wasn’t written/published somewhere that will get said unhappy kiddo in trouble??

  39. I’d love to get my kid a furry pet! But I’m allergic to them, and he is as well–and we are both past the age when Rhett’s pet theory (ha!) would have worked. I still sometimes try to figure out ways to let him get some of the benes. We set out milk a few times for a cat that had apparently been left behind by someone moving out, but it disappeared before I could buy cat food. I presume a neighbor called the pound :/. There was a cat that visited my parents for years, sat on Dad’s lap on the porch, basked in the sun near the chairs, etc. She clearly had another home, but no collar. Eventually they learned of another neighbor who had a similar relationship with her. No idea where she came from. So that’s what I was thinking of, along with having this cat checked out by a vet once she knew and trusted us. He was going to walk a neighbor’s dog after school, by that was too sporadic. He might volunteer in a shelter–no-kill, of course. Im still thinking.

  40. SM – get a talking African Grey parrot. I think it is fun interacting with a pet like that.

  41. Louise, SM, I wouldn’t recommend an African Gray as a starter pet. They need a lot of attention from you, toys, entertainment because they are so smart (you don’t want one bored and looking for trouble) and also need a big cage plus outside time / a play structure for lots of flapping, climbing around. And they live for many decades, so it’s a lifetime commitment.

  42. “: Maybe we-the-parents should try taking the occasional photo when not on a trip or watching a kid performance”

    I try, but they are all a blur. My kid never sits still & he actively avoids photos. So if he’s not moving, there will be a hand coming up to cover his face.

  43. Critical hijack. My legs are blindingly white, and we are already in shorts/skirts season here. Is there a decent self tanner that is truly not orange and not streaky? Just to give a smidgen of color to my poor legs that have been in jeans for 6 months?

  44. RMS,

    One of the biggest appeals to me in boating is the near limitless number of available gadgets.

  45. Experiences with dogs while delivering newspapers led me to hate dogs. However, as I got older and gained wisdom and perspective, I realized it was more appropriate to despise inconsiderate and irresponsible dog owners.

  46. Rocky – No, ’cause I don’t like fishing. My old boss took me (and his boss) out on his sport fisherman one afternoon — we bailed after lunch — to catch rockfish in the bay.

    It was fun, the rockfish were enormous, but I didn’t want to deal with cutting them up afterward. I happily volunteered to scrub the boat down while the two of them filleted my share. It was fitting enough, since I was a lowly lieutenant, and they were a commander and captain.

  47. I got an A+, which shows that I know how to take multiple-choice tests. I already knew that.

  48. Apparently they’re grading that thing on a curve, because it gave me an A+ with only 17/20. And for every one where I was deciding between two and picked the loser, there was probably one where I picked the winner as well. So in conclusion, maybe we need to go back and finish listening to What Hath God Wrought in the vehicle. The kids would be so thrilled.

  49. To Rhett’s point re: allergies – I’m allergic to dogs but can be around them because I’ve had one since a newborn. We now have non-shedding dogs because we hate fur everywhere. Both DSs’ immune systems should be great – they were exposed to the dogs their first day home.

    Milo – there are breeds of dogs who can’t have invisible fences because they run through them and keep going. Wheatens are one breed. When we rescued a wheaten we were told that we had to have a physical fence because they are runners.

    This makes me sad… back in Oct we had to put our 15 year old wheaten to sleep. He was our rescue and probably the kindest and sweetest wheaten ever. I’m glad we still have another dog but I miss my boy!

  50. Where was it that kids could start learning about investments with tax free accounts and ability to buy & sell penny stocks? Vantage?

  51. “she would make a beeline for people who hated cats. It was almost as if she thought she needed to convince them”

    I’m not particularly an animal person, for various reasons, which means they all come to me. I was at a friends house with a group of women, and her large dog climbed up on my lap on the couch and sort of draped himself over me. She took a picture because she said her family wouldn’t believe it, because the dog allegedly hates strangers. (I had made no friendly overtures toward the dog, and no food to lure him.) My DH, pre-kids, was pretty ambivalent about kids, which for whatever reason made them climb on him. Maybe it is because they need to convince us.

  52. I’ve learned how to not look at animal story so they don’t come over and kick off allergies. It make me sad.


  53. We have three dogs and one cat. I haven’t really noticed any one they really don’t like. The cat generally looks with disdain at everyone before deciding that he will allow the proper adoration from a distance. The old dog is harmless, but scary looking. He is old and sore so we try to keep little kids away from him. Tired old dog and little kids can be a volatile mix. The middle dog is friendly and the puppy, is well a puppy.

    Mostly, I think dogs respond to the pack leader. If their human is tense, they pick up on it, if their human is relaxed, they respond to that as well.

  54. S&M – the truth of the default parent is that if you ever find yourself in a courtroom with spouses on either side and you each have to call to the children to see where they will go, they will always go to the default parent. Weather this is a positive or a negative depends on how you see it.

  55. 16/20.

    I think the writer likes to favor Social Justice and Progressive history.

  56. OK, I am going to make everyone feel better: I missed every single quiz answer until Marbury v. Madison. Then I quit. So there.

  57. “That’s a totebag F.”

    Precisely! I feel like a fraud and that maybe I should submit my resignation as blog administrator.

  58. I got everything other than some of the SCOTUS/Constitution issues. I confused the 14th and 15th Amendment for example. Oh and John Jay/John Adams.

  59. CofC,

    In our defense I haven’t had any formal exposure to these facts in 20 years.

  60. Milo, I noticed the lack of military history as well.

    Rhett, I got John Jay/John Adams and the Amendments mixed up as well. It’s almost like we had the same history teacher. (ourselves :)

  61. Rhett, I got John Jay/John Adams and the Amendments mixed up as well. It’s almost like we had the same history teacher. (ourselves :)

    I’m sure if we pulled a Mr. WCE and read the book the night before we could have aced it.

  62. I specifically remember AP teachers telling us that the point of AP was not to memorize trivia like dates. So if I was off by one year on the Boston Massacre, so be it.

    LfB – I think you probably started with the wrong mindset. They were the sort of questions where you’re making educated guesses, not necessarily knowing all the background. Jeopardy is very much the same.

  63. Since I got a 5 on the AP back in the day, I’m disappointed with my results (B+). I mixed up amendments and don’t know my social movements that well.

    I remembered John Jay based on that it was pointed out to me once that there is no J street in DC because someone didn’t want to create a memorial to John Jay.

  64. 18/20. Missed JJ and Boston Mass year. I took APAH (we didn’t call it APUSH. That is a awful thing to say) in 1993, so I am pleased with my guessing.

  65. @Milo — Yeah, no, I’m just incompetent. I talked myself out of the right answer several times (standard test-taking error of outthinking the test). But I am also historically illiterate; dates and names out of context are totally meaningless, and since that’s how history was taught IMD(tm), basically nothing whatsoever stuck. [Yes, I am the future for Pseudonym’s DD]. I mean, if they’d asked about the Boston Massacre and given dates that corresponded to, say, 1860, 1812, 1776, and 1770, I’d have known it cold, because (a) it was the Revolutionary War, not Civil War or War of 1812; and (b) it was a precipating event and happened years before the Declaration of Independence. But which precise year is basically picking a number out of a hat for me (I think I chose 1772).

    [Hangs head in shame]

  66. I thought I was in trouble because I missed the first two, but then I only missed one more. I don’t remember which one. I remembered the year of the Boston Massacre because of the John Adams miniseries on HBO. Take that TV-hating hipsters!

  67. We didn’t have AP History. I took early US history in 8th grade, recent in 10th grade with one of the worst teachers I ever had in HS. But I read Hamilton! And DH is really into US History so we go to a lot of museums & historical sites besides watching all the Ken Burns shows.

  68. I got a B plus, and I am supposed to get 100%. More evidence of being a failed prodigy. Of course I have the excuse that I was actually not instructed in US history in high school.

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