If your pup loves pats and belly rubs, then why does he sometimes ignore you and other dog-loving people when he's offered a bit of TLC? Could he be aloof? Well, maybe in some respects, but not in the haughty way that characterizes aloof people. It could just be that your particular pup, if given a choice between trying to catch falling leaves or receiving love and attention, picks the leaves nine out of ten times. A so-called "aloof" canine knows you and other people around him exist, but just isn't particularly interested in winning you over or making friends with total strangers.
Suppose you let your pup outside in a fenced-in yard to run around like a madman. As a stranger strolls along in the distance, your pup might keep an eye on her, but he's just as likely to give her one look and continue his outside antics. Your pal isn't eager to run up to the stranger. He's content with what he's doing. If a friend -- especially one he hasn't seen before -- visits your house, your pup might ignore her and may not even make eye contact with her while she's there. That's canine aloofness in a nutshell. An aloof pup is reserved and isn't the type to seek out your attention all the time or run up to strangers with his tongue hanging out and tail wagging. Some pups even act aloof around their owners and aren't too crazy about cuddling together for quality time.
Aloofness vs. Fear
Aloofness and fear are sometimes mixed up in the dog world, but the two have a few sharp differences. While aloof dogs might scoff at the thought of acting lovey-dovey with someone -- especially someone they don't know -- they won't cower and flee for safety when nothing is wrong. An aloof pup will tolerate a stranger walking up to him, although he might show the person no interest and would very much like to continue on with his walk. A fearful canine may freak out and think he's in a fight or flight scenario, leading him to cower and look for an exit or react aggressively and attack.
Note that it's not abnormal for a pup to sound off with a few barks or appear alert if someone nears the dog's territory or walks up to you without you noticing them. This is especially true of canines who form extremely strong bonds with their family and are traditionally protective.
Some breeds show aloof behavior more than other breeds. German shepherds, Akitas, Tibetan mastiffs, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Chows and Afghan hounds all make the list, in addition to others. But having a traditionally aloof pup romping around in your house doesn't mean your friend will show the behavior. For instance, some German shepherds borrow Labrador retriever temperaments and welcome strangers rather than ignoring them. In the same vein, you may have a pup who projects a cool and distant personality toward strangers when his breed isn't typically considered aloof.
Aloof behavior might concern you, especially since your pup may seem unwelcoming to perfectly friendly people. But the trait is absolutely normal. It's not something you need to change. In fact, you probably won't be able to change his reserved approach to people and animals he's not familiar with. If he's aggressive or fearful rather than aloof, then you need to find a trainer and put a stop to the dangerous behavior.
By Chris Miksen
American Kennel Club: Get to Know the German Shepherd Dog
"Bonding with Your Dog: A Trainer's Secrets for Building a Better Relationship;" Victoria Schade
University of Texas Department of Psychology: Dog Personality Questionnaire
About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.