Bad Manners Case File: The Little Dogs Who Liked to Bark

February 10, 2011 | By | Comments (0)



Larry You already have met one of my dogs: Sticky. She’s the one who behaved so badly on an airplane a few weeks ago that other passengers were practically weeping.

But when I was telling the story about the yapping and the whining and the snuffling, there was one little detail I forgot to mention: my second dog. Meet Larry.

 Larry is a barker, too. In fact, when we got him a year ago, we probably would have named him Barky, except for the fact that one of my oldest friends once had a dog named Barky who ate a pencil and died. Although this untimely death happened thirty years ago or so, my friend is still healing.

So, Larry. The problem with Larry (and Sticky) used to be that they would stand on the back of the sofa and look out the window and bark at passersby on the sidewalk. This was when we lived in Northern California and was, by the way, the only bad thing about living there. Otherwise, it’s paradise.

 A good thing about moving to New York City was that Larry and Sticky Sticky 1 moved to an apartment, on the ninth floor, where they can’t see anything to bark at if they look out the windows. (They can kind of see one corner of Alec Baldwin’s apartment, in the next building, if they stand right at the edge of the window and press their faces to the glass and crane their necks to look up a few floors. But they haven’t shown a real interest.)

 For months, everything seemed quiet…until the other day when I ran into my next-door neighbor in the elevator. She’s a really great neighbor, who gave us welcome flowers at Thanksgiving and a scented candle at Christmastime, and so I said, “Hi, how are you?”

And she said, in a very polite way, “Do you know your dogs really miss you when you’re not home?”



What was she talking about?

 “When you’re not home,” she continued, “they stand at the door and bark and cry, pretty much the whole time you are gone.”

I was shocked. I apologized. I felt terrible. Her apartment is connected to my apartment by one (relatively thin) plaster wall, so when Sticky and Larry stand there and bark, it must sound really loud.

  “Yes, “ my neighbor agreed, but not at all in a mean way, which made me feel even worse.

 So here's my new two-part plan. Before I leave the apartment, I zip Larry into his travel crate (with his favorite stuffed animal) and put the crate in my office and close the door.

 Part 2:  Since Sticky has a huge amount of anxiety about her travel crate, I let her run loose, but just in the back half of the apartment, where the only things on the other side of the walls are the elevator shaft, the recyclables bin and the building’s service elevator.

I don’t know for sure if the plan Both  is working, because when I’m not home, I obviously can’t hear if they’re barking. But when I return, things seem…quiet. A side benefit is that crating Larry prevents him from running around and peeing on the legs of sofas and chairs —maybe because in the crate, he doesn’t feel he’s been left behind with the responsibility to defend (or mark) his territory.

But like many etiquette dilemmas, this is one that you can’t necessarily solve in an instant. Situations evolve. Do you think I’m doing enough to address the barking problem?

Should I ask my neighbor if things are quiet enough now, or should I wait for her to approach me, if there’s still a problem?

And…what should I do if Larry and Sticky evolutionally adapt to the new situation, and return to their barking ways?

(Photos courtesy of Quittner family archives)