Reasons Why Dogs Are Afraid of Hats

Updated on December 3, 2016

Does your dog go on a barking frenzy upon seeing people wearing hats?

dog barking at hat, xandert,
dog barking at hat, xandert,

Often dog owners are quite surprised when their dog unexpectedly barks at one of their friends. They will go up to Rover and say ''What is wrong with you buddy? Don't you remember Peter, that guy that the just the other day gave you those great tasting cookies''? Then they will shake their shoulders and tell their friend as to apologize ''Can't understand what is up with Rover, he has never barked at people before, go figure!''.

Yet, at a closer look at the circumstance Peter has never come to visit wearing a baseball cap. Rover was really confused by Peter's new and unusual silhouette that sort of scared him off for a second. Many dogs are this way and often this may be attributed to a lack of thorough socialization during the puppy's crucial imprinting phase.

All puppies undergo a small window of opportunity during which they should be properly socialized. This brief period of time is generally between four weeks of age up to four months. This is when puppies should be exposed to as many people, animals and objects as possible. This includes umbrellas, people wearing hats, costumes and so forth.

Patricia McConnell, an applied animal behaviorist and dog trainer, author of the book ''The other end of the leash'' claims that dogs do not understand the concept of ''removable parts''. In other words, they see people wearing a new hat as if they were an outer space alien.

Understanding Better the Behavior

Hats are not the only objects of fear. Backpacks, sunglasses, umbrellas, bags or anything that alters a person's natural silhouette may cause the calmest dog to become alert and fearful. It may happen anytime, anywhere, from walking on the boardwalk and seeing a sailor for the first time to seeing the postal carrier carry a large bag full of mail. Many dogs are also disturbed by people carrying large items such as ladders, doors, baby strollers or a large pot of petunias.

It often happens unexpectedly. The dog looks up and within a second from calmly walking, the dog emits a loud bark that freezes everybody. The most common prototype of dog that starts this barking concerts are generally shy dogs who are particularly alert and wary of their surroundings.

If your dog is particularly fearful of people wearing hats, help him out by wearing a hat for a few weeks. Another nice approach is to have friends wearing hats toss your dog treats before he is able to react so the dog makes positive associations. It's important to work under threshold.Timing is important, make sure when your dog sees the person wearing the hat he is fed the treats by following the open bar closed bar dog training method.

Desensitization and counterconditioning are very effective ways to help fearful dogs out. Make sure to put your dog up for success by preventing him from going on a barking frenzy each time he sees something odd. If each time he barks at a person wearing a hat this person walks away, he may think that it is thanks to his barking this person has left, and therefore, he will feed on this confidence which will make the problem put roots.

Expose him to as many people with hats as you can and let him know that great things happen when a person with a hat gets near him. With time and perseverance, he will start loving people wearing hats!

Disclaimer: behavior modification comes with risks. For safety and correct implementation, please consult with a dog behavior professional.

Alexadry©, all rights reserved, do not copy.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        dogexpert 7 years ago

        Whitney, I disagree. It is because it changes the shape of a person's figure. Hats do not hide a person's face.

      • ocbill profile image

        ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

        and now Halloween is coming up. watch out.

      • Elizabeth (MeMe) profile image

        Elizabeth (MeMe) 7 years ago from Live Oak, Fl.

        Your hub was very interesting.

      • JBeadle profile image

        JBeadle 7 years ago from Midwest

        Both of our dogs get upset when they see other people walking their dogs. If we are walking they are fine and they love other dogs at the dog park. It makes it seem like they resent other dogs from getting a walk when they are unable to!

      • Whitney05 profile image

        Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

        They can't see the face, and it makes them nervous.