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Buzz the Bichon Barks Bossily

Dear John Wade

I am a 72 year old widower who has a great little 25 lb Bichon Frise, “Buzz”. He is such a great pal, he is loved by most of the people in my condo, especially in the elevator. Great personality, super non aggressive, desperately wants to meet other dogs, big or small, as we whiz by in the car. He has a mind of his own for sure. He goes ‘bananas’ when I get home after a short trip somewhere. I mostly bring him in the car, except on very hot days.

Somehow, Buzz who never barks at anything or anyone, has developed a habit of barking a lot at me, in the apartment, when he wants something. It is usually a signal that he is bored and wants to go for a walk, etc. It works for him. If I have visitors, such as my daughter, the barking can be annoying and hard to stop. She says he thinks he is a ‘dominant’ dog and is over me. Is that true? – Tom

Hi Tom,

I’ll let everyone know that Tom also sent a picture of his dog and Buzz was wearing a bow tie. Whenever I see a dog wearing some sort of human attire I start thinking maybe some anthropomorphism going on here and the dog owner might be confusing the dog in other ways as to who’s the teacher and who’s the student.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as any dog owner. Once as a joke I dressed Elmo, my Jack Russell up in a skunk costume and walked around the neighbourhood just as it was getting dark. I’m real popular with the neighbours. I also used to drive around in my jeep, top down with Bo my German Shepherd wearing World War I pilot goggles and a red baron scarf flowing in the wind. I had to stop though, on the highway people were swerving all over the place. It was worse when Harry my African Grey parrot was with us wearing the same, standing on the perch, wings spread laughing his head off in his cage. Pet loving police officers used to pull us over just to chat. It got so when he saw any police car he’d say, “Oh,oh, it’s the cops!”

However when the pet is taking on a surrogate human relationship problems can develop. Dogs and humans do see the world differently in many respects. A group of human friends going to see a movie might have to compromise a bit when they pick what they’re going to see. They might trade off, one preference for this week the other’s next. Dogs don’t do that. In the dog world, top dog would say, “Get in the car. We’re going to see Lassie!” Nobody says, “I hear Benji is good.” They just get in the car. Dog’s need to know who’s in charge or they can get bossy.

I’m not saying to lay off the fashion accessories but Buzz may just be confused as to who’s picking the movies in the house. Barking should always be the exception, not the rule in the house. I don’t allow any extraneous barking at all in my house. That way, when I do hear something I know to go check to see if my jeep is still in the driveway.

As to him being dominant. I don’t really like the term. Very few dogs are really dominant when it comes to humans. The ones called dominant are usually what I call, “reluctantly dominant.” That is, no one else seems to be interested in the job and it comes with good benefits, so why not. Then it becomes, “Hey you, “Fetch that up for me.” “Get the leash, I want to visit Fido, my buddy” and so on. Then they get stressed because when we’re busy were telling the boss to “Bug off.” The boss says, “Hey, I ain’t getting no respect.” and he starts to bark at you.

If nothing else but for fun, take him to a couple of levels of training classes. I prefer the balanced methodology approaches rather then the “all positive” to get a dog on track as to who’s the real boss. It sounds like he’s got a lot on the ball and while I don’t have any use for them for teaching obedience both of you might enjoy going to a clicker class to learn some cool tricks. They can be a lot of fun.


– John Wade

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1 thought on “Buzz the Bichon Barks Bossily”

  1. patricia anderson

    Hi, I have 2 bichons age 12 and14 years old. The oldest one has cataracts. Should I get him the operation? It’s expensive and what is his life expectancy? He’s not completly blind but I don’t want him to get to the point of walking into walls either. WhenI throw cookies on the floor he has to sniff them out because he can’t see them. What should I do? THANKS

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