Why does my dog bark at men in hats?

In January 27, 2024

Sometimes we are surprised when somebody approaches us or walks in our house with a hat, and our dogs bark at them. This happens quite frequently in our home because my husband doesn’t wear a hat. Ever.

 So when my Labradors see a man and a hat they bark, I think, because they’re not used to it, and they may even think the person’s head is deformed or something (LOL?). Sometimes we wish we could peer inside their brains and just know what they feel and think, but we can only guess and make wise theories from observations and science.

 Experts have established that the key age at which dogs absorb new experiences and develop strategies for coping with the unexpected comes between eight and 12 weeks. Dogs that have negative or limited experiences of the human world over this time (like “Covid dogs”) will find it harder to deal with new things later. Although you don’t know whether your dog was alarmed by a man in a hat, you may be able to overcome his concern in the future by gently introducing men with hats during this age mentioned above, so that it’s not something new or something that threatens your dog later. “Uniforms” can trigger dogs the same way–but other factors may be coming into play there (like sensing/smelling adrenaline).

You can also enlist some of your male friends whom your dog is comfortable with to wear a hat while they sit and give the dog treats. Always go very gently, the fear may seem foolish to you, especially if you live in the city, but outside of the city, we see this a lot. It is your dog’s right to decide what frightens him, but it’s our job, of course, to try to help them get over it, or be prepared for it when it happens, and know exactly what’s happening so we don’t scold them or make them feel ashamed. Barking at bicycles, if they’re moving, may also be a result of fear, and your dog’s chasing impulse may come into play. Or they may have never seen a bicycle before. So barking at a moving bike through a window or in person may either be a result of frustration because your dog wants to chase a bike, or he just finds it fun to watch and so he’s happy and barking because of it —“OOOOO…LLLOOOKK…..” The wise thing to do would be to make sure that he is least leashed in areas with bicycles.

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