General Question

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Why would my 125lb. bullmastiff RUN from a stranger?

Asked by BBSDTfamily (6834points) September 13th, 2009

My husband was clearing some bushes behind our privacy fence and our 2 bullmastiffs were going crazy barking at him (they couldn’t see him, just hear something back there). He peeped his head over the fence just enough to see them (but they couldn’t tell who he was probably, just could see his forehead). Our female went wild barking and growling. Our male barked a few seconds while backing up, then turned around and ran to the back door and scratched to come inside! Why would a 125lb. protective breed dog do this? His behavior surprised us both.

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28 Answers

Darwin's avatar

Maybe your husband smelled hungry.

Seriously, perhaps your dog was startled when just part of your husband poked up over the fence. Many dogs, when startled, choose retreat rather than attack.

Another possibility is that he was barking at an evil stranger, but suddenly found out it was actually his beloved pack leader. He was embarrassed and wanted in so he could pretend it never happened.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Darwin A similar situation happened once when my husband came into our room wearing full camo, and our dogs couldn’t have known who he was. Our female stood on the foot of the bed growling, and my male ran between me and the headboard, and peeked out from behind me!

I’m glad you responded…. I know you’re the best doggie advice giver on here!

DrBill's avatar

It could be he did ID the criminal as his family and pack leader, as was afraid of being reprehended for his actions.

Darwin's avatar

@BBSDTfamily – I can’t say I am the best doggie advice giver here, but I do live with five dogs, including a 120-pound American Bulldog who sometimes is also a chicken when surprised.

OTOH, our pitbull will take on anything and anybody but especially the FedEx guy.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Darwin Yes I understand! That’s why it shocked us… he was much younger when he hid behind me on the bed, so we thought he’d outgrown any fear because he usually faces situations with 100% bravery.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Darwin and @DrBill Can there be more than one pack leader? I thought there was only one alpha, and that is most definitely me and not my husband. They probably view him as more of another dog to play with! Does that make any difference in this situation?

DrBill's avatar

In the pack there is a hierarchy. It is very possible the dog sees you as the pack leader, and your husband as your second in command, with him(the dog) somewhere below that .

I had a dog several years ago that would not mind my daughter but obeyed my every command, because she saw my daughter as an equal, and not above her.

Darwin's avatar

As @DrBill says, there is only one pack leader, but there are others in the pack that outrank an individual dog.

avvooooooo's avatar

Teehee! We have 3 males (1 older, 2 pups) and one female. The female is overprotective, but the guys won’t really get into it unless she sets them off. Even then, you can tell them to shut up, go on and they will… But she won’t. The oldest male isn’t scared of anything and will bark just as long as he wants, but he’s been around long enough to know that some people are ok (like the neighbor and relatives and other people that come over that we greet) and that once he’s alerted us to their presence, he’s off duty. Then again, the oldest boy has a thunder phobia… And gets the thunder look on his face when you say “bath”... :D The pups… they break and run, when startled, to a safe place. Including under my skirt one time. I think there’s a difference with the protective instinct for females and the instinct of males to respond when challenged. They’re all pretty good at barking and sounding the alert and aren’t all that easily scared… but they don’t necessarily think its their job to carry on after they let you know about the situation. It also has to do with being startled.

tinyfaery's avatar

Some dogs are wusses, no matter the size. The female obviously doesn’t fear the “pack leader”.

Harp's avatar

A long time ago, I worked with an engineer who had an immense Great Dane named Satan. Satan was a show dog, but had the fatal flaw of cowering in the presence of male strangers. Since most of the show judges were men, he lost his form around them and so lost the shows.

To get him used to being around men, this guy used to let Satan roam around the narrow halls of the office suite during work hours. It was quite the adrenalin rush to turn a corner and be almost eye-to-eye with Satan himself. But just before my own fight-or-flight reflex could kick in, Satan would bow his head, tuck his tale and slink off.

Darwin's avatar

Poor Satan.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

My dog (rest her soul) used to get VERY confused when smells did not equal looks. When DH was in full camo, I think the dog could probably smell him. And I agree with Dr.Bill that perhaps the doggie thought your husband a stranger at first, but then somehow realized who it was.

Val123's avatar

@Darwin I never thought I’d hear someone EVER say “poor Satan”! LOL!!

I thought Mastiffs were more gentle than protective?

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Val123 They are gentle, but mine is a bullmastiff and they are a guard dog as well.

stemnyjones's avatar

Don’t be so surprised. My pit bull mix was semi-aggressive toward other dogs, but was horrified of a shopping cart in the apartment complex I was living in.

Some breeds are more protective of others, but ultimately it comes down to the dog. Just because Bull Mastiffs are usually protective, doesn’t mean your particular dog is.

Zen_Again's avatar

Was it also wearing a t-shirt that said “If you see me running, try to keep up?”

Aster's avatar

Even more puzzling (and funnier) was when my daughter’s
cat was sitting on the coffee table watching a mouse play up there after she had bought the cat to kill mice. LOL!!!! she called me and was relating to me each move of the two of them, how the cat would back up a little when the mouse would come a little closer to him.

stemnyjones's avatar

@Aster I got a cat because there were mice in my apartment… we saw one coming out of a hole in the wall in the closet, and we could hear them scritching in the walls at night. My cat would sit dutifully next to the mouse hole, but was completely oblivious to every other sign of mice. One night while he was sitting at the mouse hole, we heard one squeaking in the kitchen and found it stuck to a glue pad behind the dryer – and with all the noise, the cat didn’t even move!

wyrenyth's avatar

Dogs do not only rely on sight as identification. Just because the dog only saw a part of your husband’s head did not mean he didn’t suddenly catch your husband’s scent – or, heck, maybe he did recognize that little portion of his forehead. Either way, it’s most likely your bullmastiff recognized your husband, and felt so embarrassed about barking at him like he was a stranger he really did want to pretend it had never happened. We had a male English mastiff who barked his head off when my father was coming up the driveway in a new company car, and then when the door opened up and my dad stepped out, Gus was so ashamed of himself for treating my father like an intruder that he curled up and died a little on the inside, and wouldn’t quit pitying himself until my dad approached him and patted him on the head and told him “good boy”, at which point he bounced up off the ground and slobbered all over my father’s shoes in appreciation. You can never tell with big dogs like that. And your husband is your “mate” – if you are the alpha, he is typically automatically second in command, even if he lowers himself to play with the dogs like an equal. Dogs pick up on that stuff.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@wyrenyth That’s such a cute image (of your dog slobbering on your dad’s shoes)!

wyrenyth's avatar

@Dr Dredd – It never failed to amuse me. Gus was a big manly mastiff the rest of the time – except where my grandparents were concerned. My English Coon cross puppy (see avatar) will beat the tar out of my husband – until he yells “ow!”. Then he cowers on the ground and whines until my husband pets him and hugs him and reassures him that he didn’t really hurt him. And Trapper’s already a good thirty pounds and promising to double in size. It makes me laugh (and awww a little) how attached they really do get to their family.

stemnyjones's avatar

@wyrenyth One of my mother’s old dogs (Mackey) did the same thing… she was mostly a guard dog, she never did like playing too much… she was calm around us kids but any time a stranger came too near she barked her head off. Well, once I had a friend from school over and I told her “Don’t worry, she won’t bite you”, but sure enough when she went to pet her, Mackey grabbed onto her sleeve and wouldn’t let go. When I tried to pry her jaws open she accidentally bit down on my hand (I still have the scar) and immediately realized what she did and ran away into the back of the yard. She layed back there in a submissive posture, looking guilty, until I went pet her and tell her it was okay.

Someone eventually ended up poisoning her, I guess because they thought she barked too much.

Pandora's avatar

He probably sees your husband as the pack leader. As for the female, she may have desire of being a pack leader. She may be challenging your husband. Or she has poor eye sight and hearing.
Another thing is she may feel more protective of you. Where as your male is more protective of his own hide.
He has a better sense of who can kick him out of the pack. She may feel you have that power.

tigress3681's avatar

The dog was afraid. Clearly.

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