Posted by kjd
Dec 24, 2009
Sunna has started barking furiously at my housemate when he leaves the house. Since he is a smoker, this is quite frequently. If I am downstairs, she will normally ignore him. If I am upstairs, she is after him, even to barking at his ankles.

I've warned him that he is allowing her to push him around. If he wants to go someplace and she is in the way, he retreats -- "I don't need to get there right now!" I've told him she thinks he ranks third, behind her, and, if he doesn't start doing something about it, she might start biting.

I want her to go to the door when he comes in -- might not be him. When he is leaving, if I realize it, I will call her to me. I also call her back when she barks at him.

The previous dog, Zoey, was afraid of long sticks, so he could put his cane in front of him and she would back off. Sunna doesn't have that fear. I can understand he doesn't want to be tripped, but he could shuffle into her when she is in his way. So far, he isn't willing to be pushy. She will sit and stare at him when he is eating. She goes up and down the stairs past him -- this is dangerous as he might fall.

I have no problems with her. She waits for me to leave the stairs. Goes off and lies down when I eat. Never barks at me at all. She knows I am alpha.

I have to admit, he has caused the problem himself by deferring to her. When I use the chair lift, if she started on the stairs before I reached the other end, I reversed the chair and pushed her back. She finally got the point and waits, whether I am walking on the stairs or using the lift. He just lets her pass. There are times I think she is brighter than he is (though he does have a Master's degree and she doesn't)!

So is there any way for me to convince her he ranks ahead of her when he is unwilling to do anything? (No, he manages his own food and I refuse to pet him, much less pet him before her! We are friends, not bedmates.) I've never had this problem before, but, then, I've never seen anyone who would let a dog push them around before.

Unless there is something I can do, it looks as if it is a race between his finding his own place and her deciding he needs a bite to behave.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 24, 2009
Hi kjd,

Please let me understand the situation better:

- Both you and your housemate use a chair lift and/or cane?
- You were able to establish your position as the leader (sorry I don't like the word Alpha) so Sunna waits for you to go through the door or wait until you complete going up/down the stairs.
- Your housemate, on the other hand, lets Sunna go first by him and is not interested to reinforce the rule of "humans are first".
- As a result, Sunna barks at your housemate and you think it is a sign of aggression.

Am I correct?

In my opinion, when a dog barks at someone it is not necessarily a sign of aggression. I would rather take it as signs of:

1) fear
2) excitement
3) communication

I don't think dogs bark to show their superiority. By the same token, I don't believe that dogs go through the door based on their superiority. They do that because they haven't taught not to do that.

Sunna, being a smart dog, might have something to say to your housemate; for example, "Take me out with you" or "Don't leave me alone".

I have a very vocal dog named Holly. She is a very alert watch dog. Also, she always has a lot to say. When I put on my jacket (not in my work clothes but in jeans) and grab my purse, she gets so excited thinking I am taking her along and she barks at me continuously until I say "No, you are not going", then she stops barking and goes back to her chair.

Many people label barking dogs aggressive dogs but I disagree. Barking is a way they can express themselves, what they want and how they feel.

What is your ultimate goal in this situation? Do you want Sunna to just ignore your housemate and have no business with him? That would be nice if your housemate doesn't like dogs. If so, you might want to teach Sunna to "Leave it" whenever she starts barking at, or getting closer to him.

Sorry, I didn't understand what you want to accomplish clearly so let me know if I am wrong.:confused:
Posted by kjd
Dec 25, 2009
Thanks for the feedback, MaxHollyNoah,

- Yes, my housemate has GBS and uses the cane always, the chairlift most of the time. I use the cane when my back hurts, the chairlift when I am carrying things up or downstairs. Both of us also use the stairs without the lift. I rarely use the cane in the house -- mostly when I am in a place I will have to stand for any length of time.
- I've established myself as leader.
- My housemate says he is interested in establishing himself as leader but does nothing about it. Tonight, he wanted to go into the kitchen and the dog was in the way -- he walked around the dog.
- Sunna never barks when I leave the house (although I sometimes take her with me and sometimes don't). Sunna is now always barking when he leaves the house (unless I am right there), though he never takes her.

I called the barking aggression because I didn't have another name for it. She seems to be telling him he shouldn't leave the house. The barking is not excited, it sounds a bit angry (OK, I am applying human emotions, but it is the best way to describe how it sounds). At first, she just barked at him. Now she is going after his ankles, though she hasn't tried to nip him.

I think she is saying: "Don't you dare leave this house without me!" The going at his ankles seems normal for a herding dog trying to herd a member of the flock/pack back where it belongs. The tone of her barking appears to be escalating and I am afraid she will decide she needs to use her teeth to get her point across.

My goal is to have her stop barking at him. He is currently a member of the household and has a right to go in and out as he pleases. (And, as a smoker, he does a lot of that!) She does not bark when he comes in.

The previous dog, who never barked at him, got tired of his constant out-and-in and ignored it. However, I do want the dog to go to the door when people come in. The dog should just be there. Most people see GSDs and other large dogs as fierce, even when they are begging for a pat.

I realize the police say the best protection from a burglar is a small yappy dog, but the best confidence-builder is a large friendly dog.

Does that give you a better idea of where I want to go?
Thanks and Merry Christmas,
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 25, 2009
Hi kjd,

So you agree with me that Sunna's barking is not aggression but she is rather trying to say something about your housemate going outside. In fact, she does not bark at him when he comes inside. Right?

>My goal is to have her stop barking at him. He is currently a member of the household and has a right to go in and out as he pleases. (And, as a smoker, he does a lot of that!) She does not bark when he comes in.

I am making a bold suggestion -- you might not agree with it but I am still throwing this idea:

Why don't you keep a canister of treats by the door and have your housemate give Sunna a treat before he goes outside. He will of course make Sunna sit and tell her something like this "Now, be a good girl. I will be right back". Have him give her a treat when he comes back inside too. She will soon learn that it is a good thing when your housemate goes outside.

>Tonight, he wanted to go into the kitchen and the dog was in the way -- he walked around the dog.

I would do the same. When one of my dogs is absolutely in my way, say in front of the fridge, I would make him/her move by saying "Excuse me, Noah (or Holly, or Daisy)" but when my dogs are lying down in the hallway I would not make them move unless they are totally blocking my way. I would walk around them. I don't believe that removing them would help establishing my position as the leader. They already know that. Who would like to be forced to move when sleeping? I wouldn't so I think they would not either.

I also feed my dogs before we eat every single time. That's not making them think they are superior than us humans. I do this for 2 reasons:

1. They don't understand why we are eating while they haven't eaten yet. We can not explain to them so I don't want to confuse them.

2. We want to eat without worring about them being hungry. We can enjoy our meals when the dogs have already eaten.

However, our dogs only eat twice a day and we eat 3 times so they just have to watch us eating our lunch when we are home during the day. After every meal of ours, I give them a small reward for being lying down nicely and quietly during our meal though.

Anyway, it's up to you but I think it's worth trying having your housemate give some treats to Sunna before and after he goes out the door.

Merry Christmas to you, your housemate and Sunna!

Good luck
Posted by kjd
Dec 25, 2009
That's a great idea, MaxHollyNoah!

I've always given my dogs a milkbone when I left. In fact, one dog felt he deserved a departure tax from everyone who left the house. The person who took care of my mother during the week used to make a game of it with him -- she'd pretend to try and get out without giving him the tax. For my mother's last day (was supposed to be a week, but she wasn't waiting), we had a hospice aide. I'll never forget that night. We children were talking in the kitchen. The night aide was upstairs with the day aide, discussing Mother's condition. Then there was a plaintive cry from the front door "Please let me go home!" Thor was standing there, waiting for his tax. She could have walked through him, he would have let her. But he was a 28" GSD and she didn't know him. I handed her one of the bones by the door. She dropped it for him. He picked it up and left.

The first dog I did that with would meet me at the door, 13 hours later (I worked and she stayed home alone), with the bone in her mouth. If not in her mouth, she had "hidden" it in the middle of my bed.

I know the books all say you shouldn't have departure rituals, but, so far, my dogs have accepted them as "You cannot go this time. Sorry." I can even return to pick up something I forgot and they do not get excited.

There is one obedience treat that Sunna accepts and eats in the house. I'll see if he is willing to give her one. It sounds like a good idea.

Merry Christmas,
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 27, 2009
Hi kjd,

Thank you for understanding my "bold" suggestion. Yes, many books tell you not to make a scene of your departure and arrival to your dogs. They tell you to ignore them as if nothing is happening. I think it might be true with dogs with separation anxiety but I do totally opposite with my dogs since they don't have such anxiety.

When I leave home for work or errands, I always call my doggies, give them treats by saying "Take a good care of the house. I will be back". With this, they know they just need to be relaxed and wait for my return. I almost think it is disrespectful to just sneak out without telling them I am leaving.

I thought Sunna would not have a separation anxiety so I made that suggestion. Hope it will work. It might even escalate her barking is she is a demanding dog like my Holly
Posted by kjd
Dec 27, 2009
So far, although he also likes the idea, he hasn't tried it. He's begun shutting the kitchen door so she cannot follow him to the front door.

This morning, since she was lying on the kitchen floor, "blocking" him from me (or me from leaving her), he started to go around via the dining room and living room. I told him to just walk through -- after all, the only thing in his way was the tail! He carefully walked around the tail and managed to leave without a long trek.

As for me, if I cannot step over her or there is no space around her, I will have her move after all, she is younger and has twice as many legs. Staying off the steps while I am on them is a matter of safety, not alpha nor leadership. I control the food, water, walks, rides what could have been my extra legs are actually very useful hands she doesn't have. I do mess around with her food while she is eating, because the first family dog I remember would growl at us children if we came near her food. I didn't like it then and determined no dog of mine would be allowed to do that.

When the dogs get into their senior years (past 15 human years), they do get separation anxiety. But not the kind "no ritual" will help. My mother would cry "Call Halla. She's lost you. She's panicked!" If she knew I'd left the house, she was OK; it was just when I was home and she couldn't find me..

With all the fear issues Zoey had, I thought making a point of alpha/leadership might help her. As Socrates might say "Know your dog and treat it accordingly."

Thanks again for your suggestion. I'll let you know how it works once he adopts it.
Posted by kjd
Jan 22, 2010
My housemate hasn't really tried anthing. The dog continues to bark at him. However, I now understand what she is saying "[B][I]And don't come back![/I][/B]" He moved in temporarily a year ago last December. As temporary has come to seem permanent, I become less and less able to put up with his foibles -- especially the smoking. Granted, he only smokes outside. However, when he enters the house, he brings the aroma of cigarette with him. Sometimes, it is so strong I have to look at him to be sure he doesn't have a lit cigarette! I think Sunna is picking up my irritation and is trying to help speed his departure. I gave him a departure date, but I don't think he is going to make it. Dogs are much easier to handle than people!

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jan 25, 2010
Hi kjd,

The best way to solve a problem is to eliminate the source of problem itself so this might be the best solution.

If your dog countersurf, don't leave anything on the counter.
If your dog chases your cat, get rid of the cat - I'm just kidding

Good luck