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I live in a household that includes 4 people and 5 dogs. Of this group, one of the people and 3 of the dogs are relatively new: a new roommate moved in and brought a breeding pair of min-pins, and we kept one of the puppies from their litter.

The youngest dog, a min-pin puppy, developed the habit of barking at one of the people who lives in the house. Just to clarify: the puppy is just over a year old, was born in the house, and the person that sets her off has lived here for almost 5 years. So he has been a member of the household since she was born. For some reason, this one dog has focused on this one person, and every time she sees him moving around the house, she goes into a fit.

Typically, he will leave his room and come into one of the public areas (kitchen, living room, den, etc), and she will bark very angrily at him until someone calms her down. It typically requires someone to approach her and calm her down before she stops -- she has never responded to voice commands when in this state. (I will note that she's never aggressive when in these moods -- no growling or biting, etc.) After that, as long as he remains in a public area, she exhibits normal behavior towards him. But as soon as he leaves (goes to the bathroom, or back to his room, etc.) and returns, it starts again.

I know the solution to unwanted barking is to try to train her to do something else (incompatible) instead, but I'm at a loss trying to figure out what is triggering her behavior in the first place. As far as I am aware, he has never done anything to her that would make her act this way. She sees him for many hours a day every day of the week; he plays with her, pets her, gives her treats, takes her outside to do her business, etc. Sometimes he's even the one approach her when she's barking and she will calm down, though other times she will backpedal if he tries.

What might she be picking up on -- that she doesn't pick up from the other 3 of us, and that the other 4 dogs are ignoring -- and how can I train her to react differently to it?

  • Does that particular roommate wear a hat all the time? My dog hate people with hats, even though my husband wears hats very often. If it's him it's fine, but anyone else and he hates it. I've seen other dogs show similar behaviors and once the hat is removed the dog stops barking. It might not be a hat but something else that person wears that makes the dog upset. – elibud Apr 6 '16 at 18:53
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Right now, your dog is having an emotional response to your roommate. It will be difficult to train the dog to do an incompatible behavior unless you fix that first. What you need to do is condition a different emotional response (counter conditioning).

Set up the situation so you are near the dog when the roommate enters the room, then rain down her favorite treats on her before she has a chance to bark. You should notice that after a while, when the roommate comes in the dog will look to you for treats instead of barking. When that happens, you can reduce the value of the treats until you're just giving kibble. Then you can reduce the frequency and/or train an incompatible behavior.

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Sometimes a human reminds the dog of some other human they didn't like. I knew a dog who believed all men with beards were evil.She could be calmed and reluctantly introduced, and be OK for a while -- then she'd go back to being scared.

Unless you can figure out whether bad experience was -- a vet? movers? --about all you can do is keep exposing her, being careful not to reward the barking -- and hope she decides that this person is OK.

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  • I get the idea, but the answer seems a bit out of place(IMO), considering this is not an adopted dog. The dog was born in this house and has seen the "trouble-guy" since day 1 of its life – Just Do It Apr 4 '16 at 20:38
  • I don't agree. He is right that the dog could be associating the person with a bad experience. Dogs have been known to have great memories. – GoldNugget8 Apr 4 '16 at 22:31
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Very similar to my dog. My Kelpie x Queensland heeler is what dog trainers call over the threshold, seeing things from a distance so they don't go into a excited or fearful state.Does she always do what you want her to do when yous are out walking... Don't let her see this person for the time being, the more exposure to your room mate the more it will become harder to stop.

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