Does this sound familiar? Your dog runs to greet one of your close friends at the door, only to suddenly begin barking at them. You quickly apologize; confused by your dog’s sudden distrust of a person they’ve met countless times before. After your friend leaves, you replay the situation to try and figure out what upset your dog and then it hits you; they were wearing their new baseball cap. Could this small change in appearance really be what set your dog on edge?
We know that the clothing we wear can influence our dog’s behavior, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that hats can also trigger an unusual behavioral response. When it comes to hats, more often than not the behavior your dog displays is less than favorable. You’ve probably seen a dog throw a barking fit after encountering someone in a hat, but why is this?
This odd behavioral quirk is common in many dogs and stems back to lack of thorough socialization during critical puppyhood periods. Between the ages of four weeks and four months, your dog goes through a critical imprinting phase. During this time, it’s important that you expose them to as many new situations and experiences as possible. The more they are exposed to as a puppy, the less fearful they will be as a grown dog.
During this socialization, one of the new experiences you dog should have is meeting people in different costumes and accessories, including hats.
The reason for this is that dogs have difficulty understanding “removable parts” and see them as an alien object that changes the silhouette they’re familiar with. As you can imagine, this would be more than a little unsettling.
If your dog is beyond its critical imprinting period, does that mean they will have to live the rest of their lives in fear of hats? Fortunately, no. Dogs of any age can become comfortable with hats through consistent and positive exposure.
To help your dog conquer their fear of hats, begin by wearing a hat around them for a few weeks. During this time, you should also introduce your dog to friends wearing hats. To make sure each interaction is positive, both you and your hat-wearing friends can periodically give your dog treats. This way, your dog will begin to associate hats with positive rewards. Over time, your dog will come to learn that hats are not terrifying body snatching aliens; instead they are delicious treat givers.
H/t to: HubPages