How to deal with a dog who is scared of men, by expert trainer Ben Randall

This week, our A-list dog trainer Ben Randall deals with a tricky topic: an adopted dog who seems to be dealing with past trauma involving men.

With rescue home dogs, and indeed any dogs who’ve been adopted with unknown backgrounds, you’re normally very limited in what you know about them before you get them home. Sometimes it’s only once you get them home and begin to settle them in that the issues start to appear.

That’s the case for this week’s reader, who wrote to me via with a problem that he’s finding tricky, despite years of dog ownership.

Dear Ben,

My wife and I recently adopted two scent hounds which she had found dumped on the side of a local lane, both under one year of age. The older one is very sociable, and has easily adjusted to her role in our larger dog family of two Tibetan mastiffs, two Golden Retrievers and one Border Collie.

The younger hound barks and lunges at any man quite ferociously, particularly whenever the man speaks, stands up, or gestures. Yet the dog has bonded very well with my wife, and follows her instructions. If a man sits calmly and quietly, the hound is well behaved and interacts without issue. If it may help, we think she might be a Hanoverian Hound, a Bavarian hound, or similar. I hope you can help. — C.H., via email 

I’ve been training dogs for decades while honing my BG (Beggarbush) techniques, and as it happens one of our family dogs is a Bavarian mountain hound. They can be quirky in nature, are very loyal indeed, and can have a tendency to bark at others entering the space.

That tendency does seem to have been exacerbated by something else in this case. While it’s very hard to make a training plan without totally understanding what’s gone on in a dog’s past, here are some steps which should help you out.

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How to handle a dog that’s scared of men

1. Understand that the dog has suffered in the past

By the sounds of it, from what you’re saying, something has gone very wrong with a male figure in this dog’s past — and the fact that the poor thing had been dumped and left doesn’t sound good. We’ll never know what happened, but the likelihood is that she has been utterly terrified at some point by man shouting or treating it badly.

We need to teach the dog to trust men again, and learn that she can be safe with and around men. The good news is that you’ve got a great advantage, as by the sounds of it the dog has built great trust with your wife and other pets.

2. Take it slow and keep it simple

What I’d like you and your wife to do is to start to train the dog together. Do the simple things: sitting patiently, walking, a little recall training – and especially make use of mealtimes.

You and your wife together should try to recall the dog by name or whistle, every so often rewarding her with some food from the bowl. If you’re standing up and the dog won’t come back while you are, then draw up a chair and sit calmly while the exercise goes on – build the trust up that way. The food will help build a bond: eventually you’ll be able to stand up, go over to the dog, or call him over in a positive way.

It might sound like doing this twice a day (assuming that’s how often you feed your dogs) isn’t much, but that’s 60 opportunities a month to get the dog used to taking food from you, and indeed if you try half a dozen recalls at each meal that’s several hundred chances for the dog to learn recall in a positive way.

3. Ban visitors for a while, but then make the most of them

When you start this off, I’d avoid introducing new people to the dog at this time. If things go wrong, it’ll only compound the issue until things are sorted out.  Once the dog has learned to trust you, though, you can get her used to other men.

Ask another male family member or friend to come and visit so that they can do the same simple meal-time training with you. She will want to do it: our hound loves doing these types of things at mealtimes, as she truly thrives on reward-based training. They love to work with you and it most definitely helps build trust and mutual respect for each other.

4. Get your other dogs — and their biscuits — to help out

When you greet your pack of dogs on returning home, make sure that you sometimes do so with a biscuit tin to give them a treat. Get them all to sit in front of you, and call them up one-by-one for praise and a biscuit.

Treating the other dogs first will build a bit of jealousy in your young hound, both making her want to join in and giving her the confidence to come up and get a biscuit herself. I often use my own dogs this way when dealing with nervous dogs at our boarding kennels; the competition seems to give them confidence and reassurance.

Above all, I really wish you luck — and I’d be really interested to hear how this goes.

Ben Randall’s book, ‘How to Train Your Gundog’, is out now. You can order it here at £40.

For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit

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