Are There Certain People Your Dog Just Doesn’t Trust?

My dog Riggins loves most folks, but there are a few he distrusts -- at first sight, smell, or sound.


Riggins loves people, and they feel the same way about him. When we go to the dog park, he marches up to other owners and asks for affection. As soon as he gets it, Riggins shoots me a grin that says, “Everyone loves me. You know it’s true.” I roll my eyes and wait until he’s had enough before throwing his ball toward the next soon-to-be adoring fan.

It might be more accurate to say, though, that Riggins loves most people. I’ve learned that there are a few he just does not trust. When I had an office job, I’d take him for a walk in our neighborhood every morning before heading to work. We regularly passed a man walking down our street to the bus stop. Riggins HATED the guy and would react as if he were going to eat him for breakfast. The first few times I was horrified and apologized for my dog’s horrific behavior, then I decided there must be a good reason why the man bothered him. I never discovered what that reason was, but I have since identified a few folks he generally distrusts.

1. Smelly people

If you smell, Riggins wants nothing to do with you. Of course, it doesn’t go both ways. While out on the trials, Riggins can flop down on a dead bird, roll around in the rotting flesh, and finish off our hike with his head held high and proud. If YOU haven’t showered in the past 48 hours, forget it. Being a stinky human is NOT okay with him. It usually leads to him walking around the offending person in a defensive position and with a low growl that obviously means, “Back up and use some soap, buddy!”

2. Children

It’s really not Riggins fault that he isn’t good with kids — he wasn’t given an opportunity to grow up around the two-legged little monsters. Years ago, I had a house-warming party and my good friend brought over her son. The child was just old enough to plop down in a chair and sit there starring out at the world. Riggins disliked him the second the kid’s diaper hit the seat. Growling, barking, and overwhelming grumpiness is what the poor child had to live with. I kept telling Riggins that the kid had done nothing to him, but he wasn’t listening to logic. The small human was not to be trusted!

3. Anyone off-trail

We hike almost every day, and Riggins is one of the best park rangers California has ever known. I once had to physically pull him forward on a trail because he was obsessed with a mylar balloon that had gotten stuck on a bush across the canyon. All Riggins knew was that the shiny object did not belong there and he was going to make sure everyone understood that.

Where we hike, it is good manners, common sense, and sometimes the law to stay on the trails, and yet some hikers are adventurous and push out beyond the boarders of the path. Riggins is NOT OKAY with that. Sure, in the legal off-leash areas, his friends and he run beyond the trail, jumping over bushes and ducking under branches, but just because the four-legged creatures can do it, that doesn’t mean humans should. I’ve had to tell people as they come back onto a trail that my dog doesn’t like such wandering and that perhaps they should wait until we pass them.

4. Bad singers

If you’re going to sing around Riggins, you had better be in pitch. While on the trails, we sometimes walk by a fellow hiker singing at the top of his lungs. I’m sure in his ear cocoon of wonderful mushy headphones, he sounds like Justin Timberlake bringing sexy back, but out in the real world he sounds like someone nearing death, and Riggins reacts accordingly.

5. Anyone using wheels

I once had a dream of Riggins becoming a therapy dog who visited hospitals and retirement homes, spreading joy and happiness among the residents. This dream was crushed as soon as I realized Riggins distrusts anything with wheels. If you require a chair that is mobile, Riggins is not going to be your friend.

Of course none of this is logical, but in Riggins’ mind the only person worse than someone in a wheelchair is a person on horseback. He just can’t figure out why any human would want to straddle the animal he believes was spawned by the devil himself!

What about your pup? Who doesn’t your dog trust? Let us know in the comments.

Read related stories by Wendy Newell:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poop, sacrificing her bed, and with other furry filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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