Barks at the cleaning lady

From a Reader...


Hi! Our cleaning lady comes every week and has been for over 4 years.

Missy, our dog, always barks aggressively at her and follows her around the house. She has even come close to biting her.

The lady is very friendly with her, and tries to play with her. Missy will let the lady pet her but as soon as she stops, she goes back to barking.

Shannon Says...




Sometimes as owners, we inadvertently encourage aggression in our dogs by something as simple as petting them when they bark at strangers (even if you're only trying to soothe them).

This tells your dog that she is doing what she's supposed to do - you're praising her behavior!

Some of the most common reasons for aggression are:

    - history of abuse
    - a lot of rough housing and play fighting as a puppy
    - under-socializing (biggest reason)
    - if the dog has been bitten/traumatized by another dog or person (fear biting will result)

Under-socializing a dog is often the main factor that brings on aggressive behavior. The most important time for socializing a puppy is in the first six months (the earlier, the better).

The problem comes when you ease off or stop this socialization as they get older (or never do it in the first place).

There's a few things I would recommend that you do. Of course, finding a qualified professional balanced trainer in your area to work is important.

First and foremost, you'll want to be sure that your employee is safe - crate train Missy so that she can be in her crate while the cleaning lady is there for now.

Start to spend time socializing your dog. Instead of simply walking around the block with her, think of new places that you can go for exercise that will let her see new people, dogs, and environments.

This is very important! Your dog should meet/see at least 15 new people every week.

With aggression, you need to confront it. You have to use negative reinforcement either with a training collar and leash or an electronic training collar to correct the bad behavior, and positive reinforcement when she reacts appropriately (praise).

Be sure to desensitize Missy to whichever type of collar you use for one week before actually using it for a correction.

You want her to think that the correction is coming from the behavior, not the collar or the person holding the leash.

In order for this to work, you need to set up a situation where she can be given the opportunity to be corrected.

After spending a week having her just wear the collar for fun stuff (not on walks as you don't want the collar to go tight during this time), put it on and clip on a strong leash.

Be home the next time the cleaning lady comes, and be sure that the collar is right up high under Missy's chin and behind her ears. When she growls at all or tries to bite, say nothing!

Simply stand behind Missy, loosen the leash quickly to create an element of surprise, pop it straight up fast, very firm and mid-woof, and then loosen it again. The collar should go tight for only 1 second.

Praise her immediately if she stops. If she continues growling, repeat the correction, again saying nothing.

Do this for several weeks until she is not reacting negatively towards the lady. I would still recommend crating her when you are not there as a safety precaution.

If you are consistent with this, Missy will learn very quickly to go where the advantage lies. Remember: practice, practice, practice!

If you are using an electronic training collar, again, spend a week desensitizing her to the collar. Just let her wear it during the day without turning it on, give treats with it on, play ball, etc.

When showing aggression, simply push the button to correct - hold for one second only. Also, be sure that the collar does not give a "beep" before correcting.

That would be the equivalent of saying "No" before popping the leash - she will only learn not to growl when you are nearby.

I hope this is helpful. Again, I recommend getting a professional to work with you one-on-one on this problem.

Good luck!



Click here to post comments

Return to Dog Behavior Q & A.