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Why Are Dogs Afraid of Hats?

Pooch is entirely unimpressed by your Supreme cap, bro

If you know dogs, you know that some seriously hate hats. According to one commenter on The Fedora Lounge, my new favorite online forum, “Conventional wisdom around here says that dogs dislike men in hats. I’ve developed a habit of doffing my hat as I approach properties with excitable dogs on my daily walk.”

Another commenter in the same forum replies, “I’ve encountered some dogs who seem afraid of the hats. When I take it off and show it to them, they sniff it very warily and look up at me with nervous distrust. Usually they figure out that the hat is just a hat, and not some sort of dangerous antlers.”

Here you can see an example of what happens when a hat-hating dog comes across a hatted person:

What a hassle for these fedora enthusiasts, and what a fright for these poor pups! But what do these dogs think hats are, and why do they have such a problem with people wearing them?

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Hats?

I don’t think anybody knows for sure, but fear of hats is likely related to a dog seeing something unexpected and surprising,” says Jessica Pierce, bioethicist and author of numerous books about pets, including Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Possible Life. “A hat distorts the way a person looks, and dogs, like us, are often afraid of the unknown. This is the same reason why some dogs are frightened by sunglasses, canes, wheelchairs, bikes and skateboards.”

I suppose that makes sense: I’d be scared, too, if I were a dog and saw some dude suddenly put a strange-ass bulb thingy on their head. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to show dogs that hats are harmless. “The best way to address the issue is at its roots, during puppy socialization,” Pierce says. “Exposing puppies to all sorts of experiences, including people in hats, during the critical socialization window — and always in a non-threatening way — will help a dog feel confident and comfortable as an adult. If you have an adult dog who’s scared of hats, you might try very gentle, slow desensitization with lots of treats and praise. You might place a hat on the floor and let the dog sniff and explore, then put the hat on yourself or someone else the dog knows. Over time, the dog may become comfortable. But never force the issue.”

If you have any success, you may even find, like another man on our beloved fedora forum, that you have to fight your dog over who gets to wear your favorite cap for the day.

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