It Sucked and then I Drank

I haven’t had the chance to talk about how Shiva handled our ten-day house guests until now. The title of this post should be a not even remotely subtle hint that it didn’t go well. The one bonus is that with it being Thanksgiving and all, no one paid attention to how much wine I guzzled. You probably all think I am a lush at this point – which isn’t a total exaggeration – and my only defence is that…

Nevermind. I have no defence.

So yeah. Shiva barked a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. My family was as good about it as anyone could be. It’s hard not to jump twenty feet in the air when a dog lunges at you out of nowhere with a woof that would startle even the most seasoned dog trainer. Especially when she does this just seconds after licking your hands and soliciting pets.

We’ll be patching the holes in the ceiling for months.

It’s not Shiva’s fault, of course. It was to be expected. I had just hoped she would eventually adjust to their presence and calm down after a day or two. It pained me that this didn’t happen.

It’s not my family’s fault either. They are dog people and they followed all instructions, dropping treats and giving her space. They waited until she approached them before reaching out to pet her. As far as I could tell, they did everything right.

So it follows that it was my fault. Well, that’s how I took it anyway. During those ten days, I learned just how personally I take reactions to my dog’s behaviour. I’ve always been slightly over-sensitive to criticism from my parents. Because I see Shiva’s actions as a reflection of my training and our relationship, when she does things that others deem inappropriate, I feel I have to own that.

This combination of my continuing parental issues with the way I view my dog as an extension of myself caused a lot of deeply personal reactions to Shiva’s regular bouts of barking. I found myself constantly apologizing for her which only served to upset my family further.

I felt awful that my dog wasn’t comfortable in her own home. I also felt awful that my parents weren’t comfortable in their daughter’s home. Then, I felt awful for vocalizing these awful feelings and making everyone else feel awful.


In truth, it probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time. My parents did enjoy their stay and I am sure they had a wonderful trip to Nova Scotia. Shiva is resilient and made up for any anxiety by sleeping for several days straight after they left. Nobody died, my dog got to eat lots of turkey, and we had a lot of laughs.

I could spend the next year analyzing the reasons for Shiva’s behaviour – our house is laid out in a way she doesn’t know someone is entering a room until they are right in front of her, we are anti-social and never have house guests so she isn’t used to others being around, karma for all the headaches I gave my mother as a child – or I could get over it and move on. Now that I have written this post and put it all out there, I think that’s what I am going to do.

Thanks for listening. What would I do without you?

29 thoughts on “It Sucked and then I Drank

  1. Shiva just wanted to let the family know all the best places to walk in Nova Scotia – she was just giving them travel tips.


  2. “Nobody died.” And I assume nobody bled either? Those are the bottom line successes, anyway 😉

    Poor Shiva, and poor you. Always happy to listen!


  3. Well I was very glad I could help….how exactly did I help?:) Seriously, it is always nice to be able to unload.

    The only thing I could suggest if Shiva does this again is to immediately put her out of the room until she calms down. Then let her back in, but the minute she starts barking again take her out again. You have to keep doing it and she should realise that if she is calm and doesn’t bark she get’s to stay with you.


  4. Shiva is slightly similar to how Shadow (my previous dog) behaved with my family. She’d let them pet her – but when they would get up and leave a room or enter – she’d bark. And her bark could make even me nearly soil myself at times. I had to usually keep her in the other room and always lock her in my room at night otherwise she’d harass my dad as he was trying to go to the restroom in the middle of the night.

    On the up side – I have to say that you must feel pretty safe with her around – because no one is going to get into your house without her having a say about it!

    Sounds like you learned some things and hopefully by the time the next visit occurs, you can be a little better prepared. 🙂


  5. This may come across sounding strange, but this blog post actually made me feel a bit at ease. I am very much like you in that I feel entirely responsible for all of Remy and Ira’s not-so-great quirks and behaviours… probably more so than their good ones. In scenarios like this where you feel like you just can’t get it right, it’s embarrassing because it feels like a reflection on you and that you’ve failed as a trainer/owner/person. I’m glad that I’m not alone in feeling this way – I must not be a total spaz!

    I think part of it might be that we just want everyone to see the good we see in our dogs; we want others to only see them at their best. But, that’s unrealistic and unfair to our dogs. We have to take the good with the bad. I certainly know I’m not always at my best and that’s okay. It’s so easy to get caught up into thinking our dogs are doing things to spite us when we’re so emotionally invested…. but it’s good to be reminded that our dogs are always going to have strange idiosyncrasies that we’ll never fully understand and that’s okay, too.

    Maybe we need to start a help group for emotional overachievers? 😉


  6. Oh I hear you. I have a hard time too not letting Oly’s actions make me feel like I did a bad job. It’s taken me a long time to let her crazy just be something that’s happening, and not worry about how its affecting everyone.

    I am sure it was worse for you than it was for anyone else.

    Next year will be better, I promise! Or, you’ll just know to have even more wine on hand. 🙂


  7. I feel you! We’ve pretty much stopped having people over our house entirely because of Pearl, or I have her on a leash the whole time, which makes going to the bathroom difficult, ha. Sounds like you have taken the best possible approach- do your best to deal with the situation, vent, and move on. We all are here to listen!


  8. So I’ve been chewing on a possible blog post titled–well, no I don’t want to give it away. But now that I read this, I’m not sure I need to write it at all. You put everything so well.

    Yes, I feel your pain. I hope you can put it behind you quickly. If no blood was shed and your family didn’t write you out of their will, I’d say you did fine.

    Besides, if you had a child who was teething or going through something else that made her miserable company, you’d probably feel far less responsible for her behavior. Well, Shiva is like a baby who has limited ways to talk. And she’s no less worthy of acceptance and understanding than an unhappy baby.

    Best of all, you’re not breastfeeding her (you aren’t, are you? there is that pug story going around) so you can drink as much wine as you like. 🙂

    And once you get to Barkworld, start collecting other people’s holiday stories. I’m sure you’ll feel better about Shiva in no time. 🙂


  9. “we are anti-social and never have house guests so she isn’t used to others being around,” this sounds just like me!
    Dakota isn’t the best with strangers and might have acted the same. I say “might” because with us he barks like a Banshee, but when others are in our home he doesn’t. But…he is like Shiva where they can do the “treat” thing, give them his space and he STILL won’t warm up to them. I would have been apologizing every minute myself. Don’t beat yourself!


  10. You know that we will always be available to listen! Don’t beat yourself up any more, okay? Since you didn’t write that your parents packed and quietly snuck out in the middle of the night, it couldn’t have been that traumatic for them! (or did they have a few bottles stashed in their room?!)


  11. I don’t think it is anybody’s “fault”. I also don’t think it sounds that “bad”. I think it is normal dog behavior for a dog that isn’t used to having house guests. Our dogs are out and about all of the time. They are fairly well behaved in those settings. However like you, we do not have a lot of house guests and I am sure at least one member (Storm) would react very much like Shiva. Glad to read you are moving on. 🙂


  12. I bet she wasn’t quite as bad as you thought.

    I always feel awful when my dog acts inappropriately, too. It’s because I spend so much time training him, and he is a reflection of me. I had him at our wedding in June, and he whined A LOT. We were outdoors and it was very laid back and casual, but still. He whined whenever I wasn’t right next to him which annoyed the crap out of me and embarrassed me to no end.

    However, now that it’s been a few months, I realize that most people don’t even remember that Ace was whining. They just remember how nice it was that he was there. And I will always have those memories and pictures of him.


  13. …on the upside, you recovered enough to write a post and nobody died during the ten days. Sometimes you have to celebrate the small victories!



  14. Don’t you know? It’s all fun and games until somebody loses and eye! 😛

    I’m sorry it all made you so tense. At least it’s over for this time. Perhaps by the next time you have them over, Shiva will have calmed down some or you’ll have found some better coping techniques. And if not, there’s always more wine!


  15. Well, no one dying is good. 😀

    It took Bella almost 2 years to like my Dad. And she still hate any other man. And any stranger. It’s just something I accept as a part of life. She is who she is.


  16. That’s how Saydee acted when she was with us. It sounds like you all made it through the visit – I think that having family visit is stressful, no matter what! Shiva is the only one that was allowed to vocalize it!! Glad you survived 🙂


  17. If my tenants give notice, Our Best Friend’s barking is to blame. He can peel paint from the walls and tear hair from the scalp.

    Shiva is so cute and such amazing blog fodder you just have to forgive her. Don’t you? Maybe if you share your beer, she’ll be more mellow. 🙂


  18. I’m sorry that it was so stressful for all of you! You are doing a great job with Shiva I think it will just take time, and if it is one of the first times you have had house guests she may be slightly more relaxed the next time and the next!! Do you have a local trainer you could talk to?


  19. At least it made a good story. And everyone survived. And you had lots to drink. Not all bad 🙂 We are just as antisocial and have people over [as in “large group”] maybe twice a year. Luckily, Georgia gets her fill of humans at the park. If she had to rely on us for human contact, she’d be a basket case.


  20. 10 days of processing for Shiva. Followed by the days of sleep/more processing.

    Every time you have folks over, it will get a little better. Sometimes it will be a lot better, and you will wonder, and then it will go back a bit, but never as far back as before.

    One thing my Bailey learned (on his own) was to find a toy to carry around. He’ll bark through the toy, ‘MURF!’ which seems to relieve his stress for a moment, and has the benefit of not making the visitor jump through the ceiling, which also relieved his stress (Sigh, how many of these cycles are self-replicating? We can redirect, we can manage, we can song and dance… in a lot of behaviors, it just comes down to time. )

    So yeah, it gets better. It takes time. We are down to barking at newly awakened houseguests, houseguests that are coming back in from shopping/whatever, and the occasional ‘oh shit I forgot you were still here’ bark…

    Oh, and at the owner of the facility where I train. And at the occasional judge in the ring. And… hmmm. He has gotten TONS better. Wow.


  21. You are not alone!! I think anyone who owns a dog has been there, it’s nobody’s fault because after all they are just dogs and well behave like nature intended. Sounds like all went well and maybe Shiva was just telling them how excited she was to have them there 🙂


  22. Oh alcohol, doesn’t it just make everything better. You described perfectly how I feel after every trip to my Grandparents house on the lake. Guilty the dogs hated it. Guilty that other people had to see and hear how much they hated it. Guilty that I had no idea how to make it better. It sucks and then I drink. That’ll solve everything, right?? RIGHT??


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