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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My husband’s parents have come to visit and are staying with us for about a week. They got here late Sunday and I had already put the dogs up for the night, so we did introductions on Monday. My older dog seems to remember them and after a little barking at first calmed down and doesn’t seemed bothered by the guests. However, Beau has only met them once before for a couple days and he never really did settle down with them on their last visit over a year ago.

So with that in mind, I took him out and played fetch before letting him near them and invited my mother-in-law on our morning walk. He barked at her (for a few seconds until I told him to stop) and gave her side eye on the beginning of the walk, but by the end was soliciting pets and leaning into her like they were old friends. We go in the house and they’re still friends.

Now for the behavior I don’t understand. I have a gate separating the living room from the rest of the house because Beau chases my cat. My mother-in-law and I went through the gate and left Beau on the other side and he was fine for a few minutes. Then she approached me to ask me a question and he started barking like crazy again. He stops when I turn around and ask him to sit, but I don’t understand why everything seems fine and then he starts barking at what seems like random times.

Another example, we went for a walk in a nearby wilderness area and the dogs were off leash and I threw the frisbee for Beau as we were walking. Both dogs were fine and Beau only paid attention (just looking back at them) to my in-laws if they were falling behind and taking pictures or something. So overall, he had no reaction at all on the walk or in the car on the way over/home. But then a few hours later we were standing in the kitchen with my father-in-law talking, no one was doing anything, and Beau started barking like he’d just came in the door. Beau had been half asleep on the floor beforehand.

Today he has been mostly quiet. He didn’t bark when I let him out this morning and he greeted my father-in-law with a friendly attitude. He let him rub his head and pawed for belly rubs. Then later, I hear him start barking again, but I was upstairs and Beau was behind the gate in the living room, so I don’t know what set him off.

What do you guys make of this behavior? Do you think the gate plays into it? Or the proximity of our guests to us? He stops barking when I get between them and tell him to sit and after I release him I can tell he kind of wants to keep barking, but he looks back at me and I tell him quiet and he calms down after a little bit.
 

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The behavior at the gate is called barrier aggression, though I think it is typically frustration.

It may take time for him to warm up. Just have patience and provide guidance.
 

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Agreed with David. Also I would tell your in-laws to ignore both dogs and refrain from belly rubs and other physical contact for a few days until both dogs consider them belonging to the group. People tend to forget that GSDs are different than Golden Retrievers. Is the cat any factor in this? I know cats often will sabotage situations.
I always tell visitors to completely ignore my dogs but they (visitors) have a hard time listening, ugh
 

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I have friends that love dogs and are very comfortable with them. Two of them in particular would try and immediately pet or rough house with my dogs. Cut that off at the knees with GSD's if these aren't regular visitors. With "strangers" only visiting for a week, I'd just ask them to generally ignore the dogs unless the dog wants to be pet. It's "casually" ignore, not don't look at them. And yes, continue to go on walks together, let them throw a ball for the dogs etc. Just not quick familiarity
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Is the cat any factor in this? I know cats often will sabotage situations.
I always tell visitors to completely ignore my dogs but they (visitors) have a hard time listening, ugh
The cat is generally staying out of the way, but I suppose the dog may be carrying over frustration with the gate because it typically keeps him from running around the house and chasing the cat as he would like to do.

My in-laws are doing really well with not trying to approach or instigate interactions with him. The only problem in that sense is when he’s being friendly and they become more comfortable and their petting becomes more familiar. Not rough, exactly, but a little more familiar than he appreciates. I know I need to say something in those moments, but I have a hard time correcting people - something I need to work on.
 

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One of our neighbors is highly allergic to poison oak and since our dogs are rummiging around in the forest, he has stopped rough housing with the dogs.
 

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Krypto, Hiro and now Bernie who is a Golden Saint rescue
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Agreed with David. Also I would tell your in-laws to ignore both dogs and refrain from belly rubs and other physical contact for a few days until both dogs consider them belonging to the group. People tend to forget that GSDs are different than Golden Retrievers. Is the cat any factor in this? I know cats often will sabotage situations.
I always tell visitors to completely ignore my dogs but they (visitors) have a hard time listening, ugh
Yes, strangers, a cat and a gate... i know this dynamic very well. But wolfy dog, why do you say that GSDs are different than GRs... I have a Golden Saint and a GSD, so I am curious about ur observations... thx
 

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Krypto, Hiro and now Bernie who is a Golden Saint rescue
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My experience is that GRs can't get enough from being petted by anyone in contrast to the GSDs.
oh, petting. ha! i see that here, if one can consider Bernie a Golden Retriever of sorts. Hiro, the GSD, could care less if he gets petted, but he does like it. Bernie, on the other hand, will maul u just to get a belly scratch.
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Agree with 'ignore the dog' for guests.

I would work on Beau's impulse control. The cat chasing should not be a thing at his age (should never be allowed to start).
 

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Krypto, Hiro and now Bernie who is a Golden Saint rescue
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Agree with 'ignore the dog' for guests.

The cat chasing should not be a thing at his age (should never be allowed to start).
Zan, how can we do that? I have a cat that goes out of her way to terrorize Bernie. They love to fight. She hisses at him through glass. He then tries to claw through said glass. i have to keep them separated like fighting children. Even when I can convince Bernie not to bark or tear after her, its the cat that's diabolically clever at getting under his skin. Perhaps of interest to others here, the cat loves my GSD, and the GSD loves her. So maybe it's a protective pack thing, where Bernie is the outsider in her mind.
 

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Krypto, Hiro and now Bernie who is a Golden Saint rescue
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Practicing camping in the rain?
ha, no, it's just the dog's monsoon shelter. Even under a carport or on a covered patio, it gets really wet here... so hilarious when they both want in, and one or the other is not in the mood... as shown in the pic.
 

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My in-laws are doing really well with not trying to approach or instigate interactions with him. The only problem in that sense is when he’s being friendly and they become more comfortable and their petting becomes more familiar. Not rough, exactly, but a little more familiar than he appreciates. I know I need to say something in those moments, but I have a hard time correcting people - something I need to work on.
Please, please say something and don't try to be polite.

Here's our experience - my husband's brother and his family were visiting. My sister-in-law especially, is a dog-lover and had a friendly border collie growing up. So we warned them that our dog is suspicious of strangers...slow to warm up, etc. For the first few days, all was peaceful. They remarked on how well-behaved our dog is. On the last day of their visit, I guess my sister-in-law felt like she had now been "accepted" and she was petting our dog while he was laying on his dog bed. I saw his face kind of tense up and his ears flatten, but I didn't say anything since I thought she would stop any second...but she didn't. She reached down to rub his belly, and then like lightning he grabbed her bare arm in his mouth! Just red marks, no puncture, but it could have been bad!

I have had to learn to speak up...even if people think I'm paranoid and overprotective :) it's better than dealing with a bite...agh.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Agree with 'ignore the dog' for guests.

I would work on Beau's impulse control. The cat chasing should not be a thing at his age (should never be allowed to start).
I hear what you’re saying. I did not do a good job when he was a puppy of correcting his interest in the cat and she’s a very easily spooked cat. I have tried working with him on it, but the cat is happier leaving the room which makes that challenging. Even if I could trust him under supervision with the cat, I don’t think I could ever trust them alone together (she likes to run around the house), so I’m resigned to just keeping them separated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Please, please say something and don't try to be polite.

Here's our experience - my husband's brother and his family were visiting. My sister-in-law especially, is a dog-lover and had a friendly border collie growing up. So we warned them that our dog is suspicious of strangers...slow to warm up, etc. For the first few days, all was peaceful. They remarked on how well-behaved our dog is. On the last day of their visit, I guess my sister-in-law felt like she had now been "accepted" and she was petting our dog while he was laying on his dog bed. I saw his face kind of tense up and his ears flatten, but I didn't say anything since I thought she would stop any second...but she didn't. She reached down to rub his belly, and then like lightning he grabbed her bare arm in his mouth! Just red marks, no puncture, but it could have been bad!

I have had to learn to speak up...even if people think I'm paranoid and overprotective :) it's better than dealing with a bite...agh.
Wow, close call! You're right, of course. I'll keep an eye on things and speak up if I notice him becoming uncomfortable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
To follow up, my mom and her husband came to visit this past weekend. It's the first time Beau has seen them in two years (thanks, COVID). He did really great with them! He barked the first day, but much less barking the second day, and no barking at all by the third day. Even his barking on the first couple of days was short lived and easy to manage, so I'm happy with his progress!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I can’t help myself, I wanted to give another update on Beau. My father in law was here last week and Beau couldn’t have behaved better. He barked up a storm when the guest walked in the door, but stopped when asked and then no barking for the rest of his visit.

We also took an overnight trip to my father-in-law’s friends house and Beau didn’t bark at them at all. He greeted them nicely, sat calmly under the table during meals, and generally acted like he’d known these people for years. I was really pleasantly surprised!
 
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