Woman Explains How Scary Dog Privilege Proves That Catcalling Is Meant to Be a Threat

A woman shared how her scary dog stops men from catcalling her, and people sound off in the comments about whether scary dog privilege is real or not.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Oct. 19 2023, Updated 8:29 a.m. ET

Woman walking big dog
Source: Getty Images

Content warning: This article mentions sexual assault.

Have you ever walked alone at night and thought, ‘Wow, I wish I had someone or something to protect me?’ Some of us carry mace, but others carry a leash… with a scary dog at the end of it. Although it’s 2023, women still feel unsafe walking alone, especially at night, and for good reason!

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Most of us remember getting catcalled when we were as young as 9 or 10 years old, and it’s never fun. Beyond that, it’s a form of sexual harassment, so it’s about time that men on the streets stop leering at women. However, many people on TikTok, such as @Jellyrooots, have noticed a pattern of less catcalling when they walk their dogs.

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Scary Dog Privilege is the name given to the safety women feel when walking their dogs.

It’s easy to feel unsafe on the streets, and sometimes it’s even easier to have a reason to feel unsafe. Just the other day in broad daylight, I was followed on my street and had to tuck into a bar for safety. But as women, we know to tuck into bars because we know that at any moment, we could be followed, harassed, or even attacked.

A widespread example of this is catcalling — a cute name given to a disgusting male habit in which they feel empowered to comment on women’s bodies without consent. But @Jellyroots noticed that after she got her 145-pound Mastiff, “nobody bothers her.” She uses this to teach us that Scary Dog Privilege is all the proof we need that catcalling is harassment and not a compliment.

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The worst part of catcalling is that it often leads to gaslighting — “Oh, he just thought you were pretty,” people will say. But if it was just a harmless compliment, then why would men stop doing it when a woman is walking a scary dog? That’s the exact point that OP makes when she explains that men catcalling is a threat. If a scary dog is stopping them, then they don’t have good intentions to begin with.

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“It’s really interesting to me that catcalling stops the minute they realize that you have the ability to defend yourself,” OP points out. “Not even that you’re acting aggressively, but even just that you have the ability to defend yourself if you feel threatened. If it’s not threatening to catcall, then why won’t you do it with my dog? And if you had a bad experience with dogs, and my dog’s big and scary, it’s not all dogs.”

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This is a brilliant comparison to the “not all men” mantra many men go by to prove that some men aren’t predators. (Ironically, most men who use this phrase are, in fact, predatory.) But OP’s point proves that even if you think you’re not a bad guy, and you want to catcall her (or any woman), and you’re afraid of her docile dog, she has every right to be afraid of you. Somehow, though, her video spawned an interesting debate.

Commenters disagree over whether or not Scary Dog Privilege is real.

Of course, many men will find OP’s video and decide to write sexist things—a top comment says, “She made this video just to tell people that she gets catcalled.” However, others weren’t sexist but just shared that they had other experiences with walking dogs.

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“A man tried to come up to pet my little dog in an isolated area. I went no, she’s not friendly! (Neither am I!) I don’t take chances,” one person wrote. While little dogs are different than big dogs, they can still help protect. At the same time, little dogs often invite strangers to want to pet them, which isn’t exactly helpful when stopping predatory men.

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Alternatively, Scary Dog Privilege became such a phenomenon that The Face did a profile of four women and their “scary dogs.” The women explained how they never felt so safe until they were walking their dogs. One even goes as far as to say that if someone went up to her, she would run after them with her dog.

Small woman with big dog
Source: Getty Images
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But we also found a personal essay in Medium by Kati Weaver that argues that “‘Scary Dog Privilege’ is B-------.” Without getting into details, she explains how she brought her 80-pound Doberman everywhere to protect her, but he didn’t actually protect her when she was assaulted.

“He has no training to protect,” she wrote. “He’s a family pet. He’s trained to hang out around campfires, go for walks, and chase balls. He’s not a guard dog. That’s never been his job. In my case, Scary Dog Privilege was a facade.”

While many women had similar stories that they were catcalled less after getting a dog (and that they loved seeing men cross the street in fear), we still need to be alert. Even with a Doberman, a Mastiff, a Pitbull, or any other scary dog, we never know what could happen.

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