5 clear signs that your dog doesn’t trust you

Csupor Erik

2024. January 13 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

If you experience these, there's trouble for sure. We'll tell you how serious each signal is and what you can do about it.


The number of cases is high where the dog’s communication clearly signals that something is wrong between them and their owner. The dog simply doesn’t trust its owner.

Communication and the causes

Like other animals, dogs communicate through three main channels: body language, actions, and sounds. Body language often being the most expressive. If a dog’s body language suggests a lack of trust in its owner, it may feel tension in their presence or even fear them, and there can be various reasons for this.

From poor living conditions and tensions among family members to the increasingly common overindulgence and unnecessary humanization of dogs today, along with expecting things from a dog that it simply cannot fulfill.

Among the reasons for the lack of trust, on the human side, include the absence of clearly defined rules or their random changes almost daily. Using a collection of almost podcast-length sentences instead of command words and various other factors can contribute to this as well.

Warning signs

So, how can you tell from a dog’s communication that it doesn’t truly trust its owner, and the relationship between them is not seamless?

The 5 most important signs are these:

1.) Lack of tail wagging

In a balanced dog-owner relationship, dogs typically greet the returning person with exuberant joy and rapid tail wagging. In the case of certain breeds, the entire hindquarters may follow the tail’s movement. If this is absent, and the dog approaches cautiously, tucking its tail between its hind legs, or, in a better scenario, cautiously and very slowly wagging its tail, it is a clear sign that the owner’s presence triggers tension, a kind of alertness in the dog.

The lack of wagging and hiding are also warning signs.

2) Avoidance, rigid gaze

The situation can be considered somewhat more severe than the previous ones if your dog avoids you or seeks refuge when you arrive home. It may move to another room, hide under or behind something. Often, this behavior is accompanied by the dog’s bulging eyes and a fixed gaze, closely following the movements of the returning person, never taking its eyes off them. All of this is a clear sign that the presence of the person, the owner, induces fear and discomfort in the animal.

3) Lack of eye contact

In a balanced and healthy relationship, dogs generally seek their owner’s gaze, and making eye contact poses no discomfort for them. In cases where a dog awkwardly averts its gaze when its owner looks at it, possibly even retreats or turns away in this situation, it most likely signifies a lack of trust and uneasiness on the part of the animal.

4) Avoiding contact, body stiffening

Regardless of the breed, almost every dog considers the highlight of its day to be able to establish physical contact with its owner. In most cases, this takes the form of petting. If, during the owner’s touch, the dog’s body tenses almost like an arch or freezes with rigid muscles, it is a sure sign that there is an issue in the relationship. A more severe symptom is when the pet actively avoids the owner’s touch and affection.

5.) Biting, growling, disobedience

A Beagle chewing on a bone in the middle of the family bed, snarling at a reaching hand, is certainly not a good sign. (We encountered a similar example recently, but it can be replaced with any breed.) It’s also concerning if the dog snaps when the owner reaches for its favorite toy. This behavior may indicate serious trust, training, and socialization issues.

If the dog bites it, it’s a sign of trouble!

The usual trigger is often that an inexperienced or assertive owner neglected to establish rules defining the framework of coexistence in a timely manner, along with their consistent enforcement starting from the puppy stage. Consequently, it is unclear for the dog what it can or cannot do. This lack of clarity can result in incomplete trust towards the family members.

If you observe any of the above signs repeatedly in your dog, something is not right on the trust front. If this stems from treating your dog aggressively and punishing it without reason, you must recognize that this kind of endeavor (meaning dog ownership) might not be suitable for you!

The good news is that, in most cases, the lack of trust is primarily due to inexperience and mistakes made during upbringing. Additionally, the increasingly common unnecessary humanization of dogs is a contributing factor. Dogs are, in fact, “military beings” like predators in a bevy. And they appreciate precisely established rule systems where everyone knows what is allowed and how far they can go. In such circumstances, they feel comfortable and secure.

From this article, you can learn how to correctly demonstrate your love towards your pet.

body language communications dog human relationship eye contact fear tail wagging trust

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