Not a scaredy cat but a scaredy pup? Is your puppy scared of you? Whether you have a newly adopted dog, a fresh puppy has joined your home, or your dog has suddenly become scared of you, you’ll want to know how to help.  If you’re wondering why is my dog scared of me, you’re in the right place. 

In this article we’ll go into the common reasons that your dog might be scared of you, signs to look out for that your dog might be scared of you, how to teach your dog to trust you again, and what you shouldn’t do if your dog or any dog is scared of you. 

For a puppy training programme that will help build trust, confidence and have some fun along the way, download the Zigzag puppy training app. We’ve built it based around your dog’s breed type, and give you content at the right stage in your puppy’s development, too. Not just that, but there’s a team of professional puppy trainers waiting to give you all the support you need via our in-app chat, 24 hours a day. 

scared french bulldog
Photo by serjan midili on Unsplash

Why is my dog scared of me?

Dogs can be scared for all kinds of different reasons, it takes time to get to know your new family, and you might not know your dog’s background and history. 

A new home

Whether you have brought home a new puppy or you’ve rehomed a dog from a shelter or rescue, settling in and getting to know your people will take time for most dogs, and it can appear like they’re scared of you. 

Lack of socialisation

If your dog hasn’t had much experience or exposure to humans, then they can be scared of them, as we’re something new, that they have to learn to trust.

Read more in our guide to puppy socialisation.

Past experiences

Rescue dogs often come with no background available, and dogs who have suffered neglect or abuse in the past, might have learnt that humans are scary, or not to be trusted. 

Hormones and fear periods

Dogs go through several different developmental and sensitive periods, this is a time when life can be very confusing for them, as their hormone and emotional level fluctuate. They can appear grouchy, suddenly scared of everything, or become clingy as these changes can make them feel insecure. 

Learn more in our guide to puppy fear periods.

Using punishment

Always use reward based training with your dog, using punishment, corrections or harsh words are going to make your dog scared of you. 

Does your dog seem more scared when you’re NOT there? Check out our guide to dog separation anxiety and see if they’re struggling with being home alone. 

scared dog
Photo by Ryan Walton on Unsplash

Signs my dog is scared of me 

It never feels good to have a dog that is scared of you, but it is still important to know the signs that they are and how to tell if they are scared of you. The best way that dogs communicate is via their behaviour and body language.

Avoiding you

If your dog avoids being with you, or hides, it can be a sign that they’re scared of you, or worried of being around people. 

Not wanting to be touched

Handling, grooming, and strokes are something that many dogs love, but many dogs also take time to get used to them and enjoy them. 

Appeasement behaviour

Appeasement behaviour is common when dogs are scared of people, it can include rolling on their back, making themselves small, tucking their tail, or slinking away. It conveys a signal that says ‘I’m not a threat to you’ what some people might call submissive behaviour. 

Other stress signals

Other signs of stress include panting, pacing, dropping a lot of fur and yawning. You might also see your dog scratching a lot, licking or biting their paws, whining, or drooling. These are all common signs that your dog is feeling stressed, so might be scared of you. 


If your dog urinates when you come near, this is also a sign that they’re scared of you. This is common when visitors come around, and dogs do ‘excitement wees’ but it often actually means they’re totally overwhelmed. 

How to get your scared dog to trust you

There is always time to work with your dog to ensure they trust you, but patience is key here. Here are ways you can help your scared dog. 

Take your time

Relationship building takes time, your dog needs to learn not to be scared of you, be consistent with the things you’re doing, and be really patient. 

Give them a safe space

Giving your dog their own space like a puppy playpen, with a nice snuggly bed, blanket to scuff up and dig, and even a crate if they like to go somewhere dark and snug can help them relax, knowing they won’t be pressured into interacting if they choose to go off there. 


If your dog is interested in playing with you, this is a great sign and can really help to build trust and a great relationship. Choose toys that your dog likes, Border Collies play quite differently to Cocker Spaniels

Use food

Food is a primary reinforcer, and can be great for changing underlying emotions in a positive way. 

Read more in our article on rewards and treats, and why Zigzags guiding principles feature positive reinforcement.

Provide enrichment

Use food puzzles and interactive games, so that your dog gets to problem-solve when they eat. Feeding their meals this way gives dogs a sense of accomplishment and boosts their overall mood.

Teach them new tricks 

Teach your dog some fun and easy tricks, like roll over and spin. This will create a reinforcement history, give your dog more confidence around you, and teach your dog you’re nice and they don’t need to be scared of you. 

Give them a routine

Dogs like knowing what is happening in their day-to-day life, so giving them a regular routine of walks, play, meals and nap times can help to provide stability,

Speak to a professional

A positive reinforcement based trainer can help you to read your dog’s body language, as well as give you tips and tricks to help grow their confidence and make them less scared of you.

scared pup in owners arms
Photo by Razvan Sassu on Unsplash

What not to do around scared dogs 

When a dog is scared of you, it can be tempting to try and rush them to feel OK, over-handle and touch them, or pressure them to interact, and this can be really overwhelming and have exactly the opposite effect to what we want. 

Avoid forcing your dog to cuddle

Unless your scared dog comes to you for a cuddle, avoid picking your dog up or cuddling them, it can make them more scared as they lose control, and can’t get away. 

Give them the space they need

If they want to approach, let them, if they want their space, especially when snoozing in a comfy bed, or their crate then leave them be. 

Avoid bribing them with food

Food can be a fantastic way to change underlying emotions, but used wrongly it can put pressure on a dog to interact. Rather than asking them to take food out of your hands, drop treats when you walk past them, or toss treats at them to take off the floor. 

No need to rush

If your dog is scared of you, it will take some time either for them to come out of their shell and relax in their new home, or to learn that humans are nice. Be patient and don’t put pressure on them, or try to rush the process. 

Ignoring their needs

Having a dog who is scared and doesn’t want to interact with you, probably isn’t what you signed up for, but neglecting their physical, emotional and nutritional needs will not help. Ensure they eat the right amount of food for their age and breed, get regular walks, and don’t expose them to stress like forcing them to interact with you or other people, and you’ll see faster progress. 

If you have a dog that’s scared of you, or a dog that’s scared of people in general there can be many contributing factors, and it’s not necessarily anything you’ve done, it can be as simple as a change in environment. When thinking about how to help a scared dog, make your interactions positive, don’t pressure them to like you, as rushing the process often backfires. 

Changing a dog’s emotional response can be done with food, but take care not to bribe or lure them into challenging situations, very often dogs will take food from people, but feel quite conflicted about it, so use reward based hands-off dog training, puzzle toys, and play to develop your relationship and have your dog trust you.

Want to learn more? Why not check out our articles on why are dogs scared of fireworks and why is my puppy scared at night.

Download the Zigzag app today, and start building your relationship with your dog. We have tonnes of lessons, exercises, fun facts, and access to a team of professional dog trainers who’ll help you along the way. Unlike other dog training apps, our trainers are available 24/7 in our in-app chat, and you can expect a reply in minutes.