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How to cope with roomie's annoying pets
February 5, 2013 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I share an apartment. I have a great relationship with my roommate. When I met her before I moved in she told me “I work a lot of hours, my home is my sanctuary, I like to come home to a calm unstressful environment.” I am the same way. On to the problem. I am not an animal lover but I have lived with dogs and cats before it has been fine. The issue is her dog is a Chihuahua that always barks.

Literally every single time I open my door to come home, it starts howling loudly. It stops after about two minutes, but then starts again randomly when it hears something. I work 70 hour weeks and this environment is really annoying me. It has a bark collar which I occasionally will ask my roommate to use and she does. But she will not use the bark collar for longer periods of time. Guests who come to visit me (which is rare, I rarely have visitors) comment on how annoying and excessive the dog barking is. Obviously, I am not planning to stay when the lease ends. Is there anything that I can do? Also, if you are a pet owner, what would you do if you were my roommate? Is either of us being unreasonable?
posted by seesom to Human Relations (25 answers total)
 
Where do you live?

On the off chance it's New York City, know that excessive dog barking is a noise violation. While I don't think calling the cops on your roommate is going to be fruitful, you might frame it to her more like, "I worry that we're disturbing the neighbors, and they'll start calling in noise complaints..."

One thing that helped when I had a roommate with somewhat demanding pets was that I got friendly on my own terms with the pets. It helped that I had positive associations with the animals rather than "OMG That bitch's stupid cat won't stop crying to be fed." My roommate and I had a mutual understanding about what the pets needed, where the boundaries should be drawn, etc. that was a lot easier when it wasn't framed in an adversarial "I hate your dumb animals" way.
posted by Sara C. at 1:39 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is she willing to work with her dog? Twice now, I've adopted relentlessly barky dogs, and twice now, I have trained them to stop barking in a matter of weeks. Dogs WANT to be good -- it's just a matter of being patient and consistent enough to help them. (In my experience, bark collars do more damage than good.)
posted by mochapickle at 1:42 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bark collars don't work. She needs to talk to a dog trainer or do some reading.
posted by barnone at 1:44 PM on February 5, 2013


This is a real problem, it would make me insane. Discuss with your roommate and ask her to resolve the issue. Half-assing a bark collar won't cut it.

You might want to try giving the dog treats when it's not barking and ignoring it when it is barking. Reinforce the behavior you want.

Sometimes pet owners are blind to their animal's flaws, but that doesn't mean you can't influence the animal yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:47 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, you need to frame this as - other people will complain. And this is training issue. She needs to actively train her dog.
posted by heyjude at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it were me, I would say the following the next time the dog starts up: "I am really frustrated by the degree to which Dog barks. The collar doesn't help, and it's really bothering me, my guests, and I'm worried that we're going to get a notice someday soon from our neighbors for a noise violation. This is really important to me. What can we do to stop Dog from barking? Would you be willing to get Dog obedience training? I know this is probably really disappointing to hear, but I really need your help on this."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:58 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does she actually spend constructive time with the chihuahua? Does she take it out for walks, play with it when she's home, and cuddle with it whenever possible? Or is this a dog that pees on wee-wee pads and gets the occasional walk? Is this a dog that doesn't know "sit" or "lie down" because its owner won't bother to train it?

A lot of people think little dogs are not real dogs, but cute little apartment decor. But they are dogs. A chihuahua doesn't need to run miles every day like a husky, but it needs socialization and mental and physical exercise.

In short, is your roommate a shitty pet owner?

If yes, then I pity the dog and I pity you. If not, there are specific ways to address dog barking. Has she tried pheromone collars? Has she taken the dog to an obedience class?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:09 PM on February 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is the dog locked away in her room? It might be feeling lonely all alone if it can hear you in the other room. Would you be willing to let it out to hang out with you? I have a chihuahua and we trained her not to bark with a spray bottle. We rarely even have to spray her even more; usually a firm NO will do it, and then a shake of the bottle almost always does.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:10 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Edit: I know she has done some training with it in the past. She has said that chihuahuas are possessive and it can't help being protective of her and barking when other people are near. So I am afraid my suggestion to get training will not be fruitful.
posted by seesom at 2:10 PM on February 5, 2013


She has said that chihuahuas are possessive and it can't help being protective of her and barking when other people are near.

That is straight up bullshit.

I have a German Shepherd. Could I get away with saying something similar about my dog? No, because a big scary dog acting possessively is scary as shit. For some reason, you roommate thinks it's okay/cute for her dog to act out. It's not.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:17 PM on February 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


That's bull. I know plenty of chihuahuas and they can be trained. Could you then say, "I need you to try again. It's really important to me. I'll help reinforce whatever training it gets. Other chihuahuas don't do this; your dog is definitely capable of barking less too. The dog can't keep barking like it does anymore."

Honestly, you could also even be like, "Otherwise I'm going to have to ask you to put the dog into daycare X evenings out of the week so I can have some peace and quiet." I don't know if you wanna go there though.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:18 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it easier just to bend the pets to my will directly, ideally when the roommate isn't there. In this case I would use a water pistol or sprayer to train the dog to shut up as soon as I said Quiet! Chihuahuas are smart, he'll figure it out quickly.
posted by fshgrl at 2:25 PM on February 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Chihuahuas are really responsive to training, from everything I've heard and read about them. Maybe you can go the extra mile and identify some local trainers who are used to working with chihuahuas, and used to working with dogs on barking.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:27 PM on February 5, 2013


I suspect the only way to actually solve the problem is to train it yourself. Not fair, but it sounds like your roommate is of the attitude that small dogs don't need training and that their bad behaviors are normal and/or desirable.

Barking is a pretty common problem and isn't too hard to solve. Get some high value treats (hot dogs are a good choice, or american cheese). When the dog barks, say Quiet! in a firm/authoritative voice. Wait for the dog to shut up. Once the dog has stopped for 2 full seconds, say "good boy!" (or girl) and give him a treat. Repeat as necessary.

That said, the poor thing just probably wants attention and exercise.
posted by zug at 2:37 PM on February 5, 2013


That said, the poor thing just probably wants attention and exercise.

Yeah, all the covert training in the world won't fix this.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:40 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


She has said that chihuahuas are possessive and it can't help being protective of her and barking when other people are near.

The first part of that sentence is true but the second part isn't. They're ridiculously smart and responsive to training. This has little to do with the dog's ability to learn to chill out. It's inside all day while your roommate works long hours and you discipline it more than she does. People who are inconsistent with training/rules/rewards with dogs tend to end up with dogs that misbehave. The dog doesn't know to shush because it's only expected to shush at random times. Poor thing sounds anxious, bored, and lonely.

So I am afraid my suggestion to get training will not be fruitful.

That is probably true. I would suggest it anyway, but as a courtesy. It's not your responsibility to find solutions to your roommate's dog-barking problem. It's your roommate's.
posted by headnsouth at 2:56 PM on February 5, 2013


I would suggest it anyway, but as a courtesy. It's not your responsibility to find solutions to your roommate's dog-barking problem. It's your roommate's.

While this is true, getting your roommate's dog to listen to you is probably more worthwhile than not. It's not likely that you will train it to never bark, but a dog that will stop barking when you give the "quiet" command is totally possible. The method of training the dog to "speak" on command, and then introduce "quiet" has worked well for people I know.

Sure it's not your responsibility to train your roommate's dog, but by doing so you'll be able to relax, and the dog will be receiving interaction and structure that will help him or her relax.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is probably really shitty as it's not honest at all but it sort of gets you off the hook for any resentment she might have should you bring up this dog issue. Could you blame it on neighbors complaining or say that someone had called the law about the barking?

Again, I know it's dishonest, but I would just say, "Sooooo, hey roomie! A cop stopped by while you were out and said there had been a complaint about your dog barking. I told him you had a bark collar on the dog but he said that you were going to have to go another route as this amount of barking will soon earn a ticket for our residence."
posted by youandiandaflame at 3:22 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a chihuahua. He barks when strange people come into the apartment, which can be annoying with landlords, repair people, or friends he's not familiar with. He does it because he's threatened, so I've found that the best solution is to have him go into his carrier (his safe place) and cover it up with a blanket (so he can't see the scary person). He's like a little canary, once I do that he just goes to sleep - problem solved!

Caveat: this works for me because my dog loves his carrier and loves burrowing under blankets. If your roommate's dog isn't used to these things, it will probably just get scared. But she might be able to come up with a similar strategy to make her dog feel safe.
posted by ella wren at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


are you and the dog friendly? if not, then try to befriend the dog and it should get to know & become comfortable with the sound of your footsteps when you come to the door. as you are befriending it try bribing it with treats. my dog will do just about anything for a treat. he's a treat ho!
posted by wildflower at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you directly interacting with the dog and not allowing it to bark when you enter the room? I think if you start making your rules, it will be the easiest way to get the dog to listen. For example, if I walk into a house with a barking dog, I will tell it 'no' or 'sit' or distract it however myself, if the owner will not. I see it as I am in an environment that is not comfortable to me, there are three of us, and if the dog isn't responding to the owner, a sort of 'direct conversation' with the dog can go a long way. (also, I feel like it's easier for the dog to understand)

The room mate lives there, your live there, and the dog lives there. If you maintain that order of command, the dog can figure it out. (guests may be harder, but it's at least one step closer to peace and harmony)
posted by Vaike at 4:07 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bribery with treats at the door can go a long way as well...
posted by Vaike at 4:08 PM on February 5, 2013


It's worked well for me to train other people's excitable dogs to come up to me and sit.

Say "sit", once dog is sitting scratch behind it's ears, repeat. You can leave out the "sit" command once the dog runs up and sits on it's own, but give the scratch most of the time.
posted by yohko at 4:21 PM on February 5, 2013


I think the theme of this thread (and many other dog behavior issues) is that dog training is more about the owner than the dog.
posted by radioamy at 5:49 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does she witness the kind of barking you get when you're alone? If not, can you record it?

Talk to her, and tell her how you feel, too. As in, hey, roomie, we need to talk. I like you, I like dogs, and I'm totally afraid that you're going to think I'm a jerkface for saying this but...seriously I'm beyond myself and I'm just tense and resentful and stressed out from the barking. [roll tape]

[Borrowing from These Birds of a Feather here]: I need you to try again. It's really important to me. I'll help reinforce whatever training it gets. Other chihuahuas don't do this; your dog is definitely capable of barking less too. The dog can't keep barking like it does anymore."
posted by desuetude at 10:37 PM on February 5, 2013


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