Suppose that there was a standard fantasy skeleton, walking, talking, essentially a live human but minus the fleshy bits. Call it magic, whatever, it's here in our modern world, and it's up and doing the walky-talky bit.

As far as I'm aware, a guard dog is trained to be alert to unknown entities, and one thought I've had is that if a skeleton were to directly encounter a guard dog, they would probably be quickly taken apart, as the dog proceeds to take them apart and chew on their femurs. So one thought was that a crafty skeleton would throw the dog a bone (a rib, or maybe an extra humerus it had lying about) to distract it, and then quickly sneak on by.

Another consideration was that a skeleton might be able to scare a guard dog by making itself large/intimidating, and maybe by giving off a terrible noise. Would this be a reasonable ability for the archetypal fantasy skeleton to possess? Would a guard dog reasonably fear a walking, talking skeleton?

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    $\begingroup$ Dogs have personas just like we do. They have different characteristics even inter-species. Training affects them too. So, think of it like a human. Ask what would a human do in that exact situation. (Not necessarily skeletons but something unknown to them.) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ It is worth nothing that dog senses are not like the human, so it may depend strongly of how such skeleton smells. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 10:10

5 Answers 5


Afraid? On the contrary, the dog will think it is a walking talking chew-toy!

I’ve heard anecdotes that trained guard dogs have turned-tail and run from André the Giant. But generally they are trained not to accept food or other bribes, and will raise an alarm for anything out of the ordinary even if they don’t feel confident attacking.

Being roughly the right shape and size and moving like a person, I think the dog would take it down in the normal way.


First, there are different types of guard dogs, both in terms of breed and in terms of training. This comes down to the type of work the dog is doing, and is basically the difference between alarm dogs and attack dogs.

In fact, many small breeds of dogs were originally bred to serve the purpose of alarm dogs, alerting their owners to things out of the ordinary. These dogs tend to have a rather low bark threshold but lack the physical size and strength to inflict significant damage on an intruder, human or otherwise.

Dogs that are trained as guard dogs are generally used for various purposes:

  • To discourage intruders from entering the premises in the first place
  • To alert their human handlers to the presence of an intruder
  • To run an intruder off the premises, so that they cannot do any more harm
  • To keep an intruder in place, so that they cannot do any more harm and can be captured by human guards

and in extreme cases

  • To severely incapacitate or even kill an intruder to ensure that they cannot do any more harm

For anything other than merely discouraging intrusions to be effective, the dog must have both the physical strength, dexterity and mentality to face down a threat. A dog that turns tail and runs at the sight of something unfamiliar would not be a very effective guard dog!

Even if the goal is simply to discourage intrusions, it is likely that a dog that turns tail and runs at the sight of something unfamiliar would not be very effective in its job.

As a consequence, guard dog training focuses a lot on giving the dogs the mental tools required to face down a threat and to handle it however the human handlers feel this dog should handle a threat.

This includes teaching the dog to not accept "bribes" from strangers, precisely because if the dog is distracted by such a bribe it does not make an effective guard dog.

That said, young dogs sometimes have what is actually called the "ghost period", during which, to it, everything is potentially scary. This tends to happen around adolescence, but breeds and individuals vary, and tends to pass relatively quickly with simple confidence training.

Thus, a trained, adult guard dog should not turn tail and run at the sight of something unfamiliar. It may have been trained to go get its handler if something unusual happens, but it's more likely that the guard dog would either be trained to work alone, or have its handler along with it, either of which means that won't be a necessary response. Once it realizes that the skeleton is an intruder, the dog should be handling the skeleton in much the same way it would handle any other intruder.


I'd guess this depends on the training of the guard dog. If it received training to be more like a killing machine, attacking everything which moves (like the ones Mr Burns has), the skeleton could try to stab it with a rib, otherwise it looks rather bleak for our bony friend here.

If you have a more normal guard dog, I'd guess upon seeing a walking skeleton it would be startled quite a bit (it's a first in life experience). When it starts making noises or talks I can very well imagine the dog to be afraid. As a trained guard dog however it should at least start to bark (could also be more of a reflex to frighten the unknown thing to come any nearer to the dog), so sneaking by might get difficult.

  • $\begingroup$ You know, I read that like you were talking about me, I was thinking "I dont have a dog ..." then it clicked that tou meant Mr Burns from the simpsons $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Burns
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 11:33

I think something with the size of a human walking in the direction of a dog would scare him, or the dog would at least growl.

Depending on the dog race and his training.

Also i think the dog would not run for the bone, because like i said i think he would be scared.


It would freak them out, and possibly scare them into attacking the skeleton.

Dogs tend to look at people's eyes and perform assessments based on scent. My own dog reacts against black dogs because she can't see their eyes (however, it's ok if it's a black dog she knows because of the familiar scent)

With your skeleton, there's no eyes and it won't smell like a living breathing human.


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