Can dogs sense hostility from humans?

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | April 22nd, 2023

I have seen people that can be so terrified at the sight of a dog. Some can be so afraid that they can just run away as if running to safety, and some will start looking for an object to protect themselves, like a stick or stone. On the other hand, some dogs that have been maltreated before by humans can run at the sight of a human approaching them. They also find a way to defend themselves from humans in case the person is going to be hostile by growling or barking.

The first reaction a dog shows when he hears two or more people shouting, either because of a football match or out of disagreement is to bark. If the dog is trying to make peace or call the offender to order, I don't know but the common response is barking. It will be a huge offense for a stranger to show physical aggression to the owner of a dog while the dog is not restrained because the dog will mostly jump into the attack.

Many dogs are in the habit of running out of the compound of the owner either in search of food or following pheromones secreted by a female dog on heat. These dogs are usually exposed to hostility by humans and other dogs in the streets. The attraction between the dog and a bitch on heat can be strong that the dog won't mind enduring the hostility meted on him by people. The dogs usually sense these hostilities ahead and take precautions even before the humans approach them by either taking to their heels or barking at the human.

I have seen cases where a particular member of a household is always being bitten by the dog in the compound consistently. In one of the cases, the lady hates dogs in general and will always use sticks to beat the dog whenever the dog comes close to her. Many times the dog will run but sometimes the dog will attack her in defense. Most of the time, the dog will be barking at the lady as if trying to warn her not to hurt him.

People are usually frightened when a dog they have never met starts to approach them. If the person understands dogs, it's a different ball game because the person can tell if the dog is going to be hostile or not but in a case where the person is always scared of dogs, the drama can be worthy of a blockbuster movie. Just kidding but if the person will not run or try to avoid the dog otherwise the person will most likely pick a stone in defense. These kinds of people will stone the dog even before the dog gets close to them. Some dogs will avoid this kind of person and some will chase this individual in anger.

There are cases where a stray dog enters people's compounds in search of food or in search of a female on heat. These dogs are usually greeted with hostility and in most cases these dogs just run to safety. I believe dogs can sense when a human will be hostile to them even before they do. Many times they try to avoid trouble before the trouble comes, especially when they are not within their territory.


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    Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

    Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about which he personally built from scratch.

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