Picture the scenario: you’re out walking your super friendly pooch who loves nothing more than a good pat and ear scratch. A stranger pauses and asks if they can please pat your hound – “sure!” you say “he’s super friendly. Loves pats!”. As the stranger bends down, your normally friendly doggo backs away, won’t let the stranger touch and maybe even growls. Sound familiar? We’ve talked before about some of the amazing things your dog can sense, but can they sniff out an untrustworthy human? And if so, how on earth does it work?
Dogs hold grudges
Studies have shown that dogs hold grudges against people who are unkind to their owners. In one study in particular, dogs were reluctant to take treats from a person who they had witnessed refusing to help their owner open a container. But what about when dogs take an instant dislike to someone they’ve never met, for no apparent reason?
A dog’s nose is incredibly powerful. They can sense all kinds of chemical reactions we’re not even aware of. Research suggests that your dog may sense changes in a person’s brain – through alterations to the pheromones they are emitting – which happen before they act aggressively or unkindly. This goes some way to explain the many stories we hear about dogs showing aggression or dislike to someone right before things turn nasty. They knew what was going to happen before the victim even had a clue.
The bond between owner and dog runs deep. It could be that dogs pick up on subconscious signals their owner sends about a person. Outwardly, the owner may be being friendly and welcoming to an individual but dogs will notice tiny, subconscious signals that the owner is not completely comfortable around this person. Cue the unfriendly doggo letting the visitor know they’re not welcome!
In gut we trust
Dogs are very instinctive creatures and are likely to follow their gut far more than humans. If we meet someone we’re not sure of and our instincts tell us to be wary, we can often try to ignore our instincts, give the person a chance. Dogs, on the other hand, will trust their gut all day long. When they sense someone is a bad egg, they’ll let them know. Maybe by growling, backing away or not letting them pet them. When you know, you know… you know?
Have you got any stories about a time your dog has reacted badly to someone for no apparent reason? We’d love to hear in the comments below!