Why Does My Dog Snap At Me When I Pet Him?

Last Updated on November 20, 2021 by Marco

A dog that snaps is dangerous. A dog growling and snapping at its owner is not normal dog-human behavior, given that they are social creatures who crave human companionship.

If you are wondering, why does my dog snap at me when I pet him? then read on, for there are several reasons why this occurs, and there are solutions to this problem too.

Is This A New Or An Old Behavior?

When A Dog Is Growling and Snapping At Its Owner and It’s An Old Behavior

If your dog has always snapped at you, then YOU are the problem. 

You need to wind back the clock and figure out what it is about your handling of the dog that is causing it to snap. 

Dogs snap when they are afraid. Have you been too harsh with this dog, or yelled at it, or smacked it? Dogs will soon tire of this and will start to be wary, fearful, and distrustful of humans. Dogs need their owner to be firm of course, but also kind and patient. Treating a dog with aggression is only going to make them fearful, which can manifest as them becoming aggressive.

Are there kids in the house who tease the dog and make it feel stressed? Children need to be taught the correct way to interact with and handle a dog by the adults of the household.

Is the dog insecure about food, i.e. does it have access to enough food and can eat it in a stress-free situation where it doesn’t have to worry about missing out? Dogs can guard their food aggressively if they fear that they may miss out. They need the right amount of food per day for optimal health, and to have somewhere quiet where they can enjoy their meal without stress.

If this is your situation, then you and your dog need to find a good veterinarian and also a dog behavioral therapist to work with both you and the dog so that you can get your relationship back on track, and turn it into one built on trust and security and not on fear.

If you cannot commit to this then you need to do the right thing and surrender the dog to an animal rescue where it can have a chance at rehabilitation and rehoming.

Why Does My Dog Growl When I Pet Him? When It Is A New Behavior

If you have a dog who has suddenly started to snap at you, you will be wondering why.  This can be very stressful and upsetting. If this is happening to you, you need to investigate what is going on.

Here are some reasons why a formerly placid dog starts to snap at people it has formerly had a positive relationship with:

Reason 1: Pain Reaction

Dogs will often snap at you if you pet them somewhere where they have pain. Is your dog an older dog? Get your vet to do a full body check. They may have tumors or arthritis. You can read up on the different types of tumors that dogs can get here.

Reason 2: Dementia

Speaking of older dogs, dogs go through a cognitive decline too. And just like people, dogs can forget the people they love. If your dog does not recognize you and confuses you for a stranger they may snap out of anxiety and fear. You can read more about how to care for a dog with dementia here. One of the best tips is to ensure that you keep a regular routine for your dog to minimize confusion as much as possible.

Reason 3: Getting Territorial Over Food Or Toys 

Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where Homer says “can’t talk, eating”? Well, this can apply to dogs too. 

Think about it. They depend on us for their food, even down to the time of day when they eat. Most dogs look forward to dinner-time more than any other time of day, apart from walkies! 

So it is only fair that when it comes to feeding that they get enough food and that they can eat it in peace without being annoyed by humans or by having to fend off other animals in the house hanging around. 

Pets should be fed in their own separate space, apart from each other. This stops them from wolfing it down. Keep young kids away from pets when they are eating because their unpredictable movements can make the dog think they are trying to steal their food. 

Having said all that, older kids and adults should be able to approach a dog when it is eating, stroke it, and even take the food bowl away without the dog acting aggressively – this is just good practice. Not that you will be doing it all the time, but if you need to do it then you should be able to do so safely.

The above applies to toys too.

Reason 3 Getting Territorial Over Food Or Toys 

Learn more about: 10 Of The Best Toys For Huskies (and Husky Puppies)

Reason 4: Being Protective Of Another Family Member

Sometimes a dog belonging to a couple will bond closely with one owner but not the other. This is because dogs are pack animals, and someone always has to be the alpha. Ideally, one partner will be the alpha, with the second partner being the second in command, then the dog (or children, then the dog, if you have kids.)

A dog who snaps at one owner but not the other is doing this because it has been allowed to think of itself as number 2 in the pecking order of the household, and it is acting aggressively towards the person it sees as number 3, which is beneath them in the hierarchy.

Dogs that are allowed to dominate can end up exhibiting this unwanted behavior.

Your best bet in this situation is to get a good dog trainer to come and assess the situation and help train both humans and the dogs to turn the situation around so that the dog knows its place. This means the ‘number 3’ person will have to be prepared to step up and be more confident around the dog.


Dogs who snap are dangerous. Sometimes they do it out of defensiveness, fear, insecurity, or pain. A vet and/or dog trainer and/or behavioral therapist can help you correct this unenviable situation.

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