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Are Dogs a Good Judge of Character?

sunshinex's picture

So after 6+ months of SD8 begging for a puppy, we got a puppy. Not only because she wanted one, but because DH and I always wanted one. Of course, she promised over and over again about how she'd feed him, take him out, play with him, etc. and doesn't do any of that. But he's the weird part... 

Since we brought the puppy home, the only one he's rough with is her. He's lovely with my husband, 2.5 year old son, and I. He's such a sweet dog to all of us. But as soon as SD8 walks into the room, he goes at her to bite, knock her down, bug her, etc. It's nothing overly violent so I'm not worried, but it's weird... 

I will be investing in some training so it doesn't get violent as he gets older because he clearly dislikes her... but what is up??? Is he perhaps sensing something that we're not aware of? SD8 can be a fairly self-absorbed person but overall, she's alright. It's so strange though. 

Do you believe there's always a reason dogs dislike someone? What are your thoughts? 

Swim_Mom's picture

We adopted a lab/pointer mix puppy last week - he is 5 months old and his name is Granger (as in Hermione Granger from Harry Potter!). He is very stand-offish to DH and DS but loves me (his mom!) and his sisters DD's 15 and 20. So I am really hoping he warms up to the boys! I believe in some cases dogs know but could also be that the person reminds them of a negative experience (or could be your SD is a $hit). I think there is a chance Granger had a bad experience with men - I don't think he was ever abused but definitely prefers women. We will be investing in training too! Good luck and congratulations on your new addition!

Kes's picture

How old is this dog? Is it a rehomed one?  If the latter, it may have been mistreated in its previous home by a child of similar age and sex.  That's all I can think of.   If it's a very young puppy it just needs some good training out of bad habits. 

ndc's picture

Our dog has always disliked men, particularly teenagers to 30s. I got him as an 8 week old pup. There are a few guys he likes -DH, my dad, my uncle - and sometimes he'll warm up to a man, but for the most part he doesn't like them, even those I'd consider to be of good character.

holly5692's picture

I would venture to guess that it's more of a dominance thing. The dog is trying to figure out where this small human lands in the pecking order.

sunshinex's picture

I have considered this... She doesn't do anything for him in terms of taking care of him, petting him, loving him, etc. so I figure he sees her as low in the pecking order because she just doesn't take ownership of him or the home he lives in lol! 


Robyn-H's picture

Let her feed him on a regular basis. He will start to associate her as 'bringer of my food' and will calm down a bit. We had to do this with my nephew when they got theirs. Dogs need to be shown who is boss (in a nice way). He needs to be taught that she is above him in the pack hierarchy.

ldvilen's picture

Yes.  It is my understanding, or so I have heard, that dogs can sense intent.  I had a dog (Max) once that was pretty much nice to everyone, except for when a male friend of mine would come over.  Max would snap and growl at him no matter now much I tried to get him to stop.  Not much later, I found out this "friend" had a, let's say, weird sexual obsession of sorts over me.  I dropped him ASAP as even a friend, of course.  But, my dog Max knew all along!

sunshinex's picture

I have thought it's possible that SD8 holds resentment toward me, despite us having an okay relationship, for whatever reason and the dog is picking up on this and doesn't like her because of it. Or perhaps he is sensing MY resentment toward the situation we're in - me paying for, caring for, and doing everything for her while her mother doesn't. Strange. 

ITB2012's picture

Our dog is good with everyone but when DH and I argue the dog gets all barky and clingy with me. It's like he's channeling my anxiety. 
I had a cat a long time ago that would bite my boyfriend. He'd sneak up and pounce, and not a playful bite, one that would pierce skin. I should have paid attention. The guy turned out to be a jerk. 

bananaseedo's picture

It likely is where she falls in pack order I'd say.  That said, you said this a couple times, why on earth are YOU paying for everything related to SD?  What about your DH? It's his kid.  Does BM not pay CS also?  You better change that situation really fast.

Harry's picture

When no one is looking ?   Or pushing the puppy away ect.  The dog does  not like her There must be a reason for that. The puppy likes everyone else 

2Tired4Drama's picture

I truly believe animals have a much keener sense about people than we do.  They don't have the complex communication abilities like we do (words, conversation) so I think they are still very hard-wired to this sense.

Whether they pick up on our anxiety or they form their own around certain people, I believe their behavior speaks volumes.  If an animal is hostile, anxious or afraid of someone - pay attention. 

My (late) dogs would have absolutely nothing to do with SD.  In fact, one of them used to go into the basement and stay there for the duration of SD's visits.  The dog didn't do this with anyone else.   I found it to be very telling.  


bananaseedo's picture

My dogs LOVE my SD and go ape sh*t when they see her.  That said, that's because she doesn't live with us, is older and our relationship is at a VERY wonderful place after years of torment, torture and misery.  I wonder if they would have felt the same if she lived with us and was younger.

I will say, she is NOT an evil person, but she definately had major issues with authority and mini-wife syndrome.  She constantly competed with me.  She was very feral in many ways as BM didn't care to raise her at all.  She however has done well.  She has a job, she lives w/her boyfriend and his family now.  She graduated.  She IS nice to animals and has always been nice to mine.  Even my cats and previous dog really liked her.  Pissed me off because I couldn't stand looking at my dog girl snuggle up to her LOL. 



Rags's picture

A dog on leash just tried to eat the head of my parent's dog. The poor little guy lost his L eye and nearly his life when he was attacked.  No, animals are not good judges of character. They are animals. Not people.

That said, some dogs can certainly decide if someone is a threat.  Not that I see that as a dog making a judgement on the character of a person.

Redjellybaby2000's picture

Sounds like the puppy is trying to establish his place in the pack packing order. He thinks he is more important than the SD and trying to be dominant to assert his position in the pack. He will learn if SD feeds him or is allowed to do things he cant ... he needs to learn to accept he is below a child in pack hierarchy that's all :) 

Iamwoman's picture


I love my dog more than I love my skids too. How can we not? Our dogs have brought so much joy to our lives, while skids have NEVER brought an ounce of joy. It's natural.

I do love DD more than the dog though. It takes a lot for me to put an animal above a human, but skids have made it happen. ...hey! I guess it can be said that they actually HAVE accomplished something in their lives!

Iamwoman's picture

This article says dogs are better judges of character than humans. However, the dogs in the experiment used "relative judgement."

So it seems that dogs can pick up on ill intent in humans. However, it is always relative to the alpha human. They want what is best for the alpha in the pack.

Since you are most likely alpha, and since SD8 most likely has ill feelings towards you, the dog has decided to show SD8 that she is not in charge.

I think an abused, traumatized dog is not a good judge of character. So to say ALL dogs judge better, isn't accurate. It does sound like YOUR dog is judging quite well.

I would work on correcting SD8's behavior (through DH of course). The dog isn't the problem - it is being a good dog, and loyal to the pack's alpha. You.