Training Dogs And Humans For A More Enjoyable Life Together

By Susan Smith, East Valley Dog Training

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted.

In the past two months, my dog has started barking when the kids and I leave for school. She doesn’t do it if it’s just me or my husband. When guests are leaving she’ll nip at them and has started barking. When we’re gone, she’s fine. She usually just sleeps in the sofa.

There could be a variety of reasons for this behavior; it sounds like you’ve ruled out separation anxiety, but that is still a possibility. I also think it may be two different reasons – demand behavior with the kids and possibly fear of strangers with the guests.

It is not unusual for dogs to bite guests when they’re leaving, and this is usually an aggressive act. The dog is not bold enough to attack head-on, but will attack when the person’s back is turned. I would suggest you put the dog in another room or a crate when you have guests. Other than basic management, I do not like to give advice on dealing with aggression in a forum such as this, as I do not have enough information. I would suggest you consult with a professional trainer who works with aggression.

As to the demand behavior with the kids, there are different solutions. It doesn’t sound like this is a dangerous behavior and it’s very specific, so you could just ignore it. You could do a management technique such as filling a Kong™ with extra-special goodies to give to the dog a couple of minutes before you leave. Once he’s involved with the Kong, he hopefully won’t want to interrupt long enough to bark. Alternatively, you could teach the dog to do something else, such as go to his bed and lay down. Dogs that are laying down are less likely to bark.

If you have questions for the trainer, please send them to:

Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at:

Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.