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December 3, 2013

Can Dogs Be Passive-Aggressive?

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”  In fact, most of us practice it on a daily basis.     When Eko is snoozing, I let him enjoy the nap while I enjoy the quiet However, in the dog community there
We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”  In fact, most of us practice it on a daily basis.   Rhodesian Ridgeback, dogs, puppies, dog blog, pet friendly, adventure, marking our territory  

When Eko is snoozing, I let him enjoy the nap while I enjoy the quiet

However, in the dog community there is no saying, “Let sleeping humans lie.”  In fact, the motto seems to be, “Wake the humans up as soon as possible.”  Over the years however, Eko has learned that poking my face with his nose doesn’t always make for a happy morning.  I’ll sternly tell him to get back to his bed and I try to catch a few more precious bits of shut eye.

Dogs understand direct consequences perfectly: If A then B.  It’s how dogs learn to understand and communicate with us. (If I sit down then I get this treat)  But I am also suspicious that dogs very well understand secondary consequences: If A then B, but also C.  In the case of our (weekend) morning routine Eko seems to fully grasp that I poke Will in the face then he will wake up but also he will be grumpy.

So here is his problem.  Eko wants to wake up, but how can he do that without the secondary consequence of making me grumpy?  Oh, let me count the ways!

1. The fitful sleeper

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Eko will turn and turn on his bed, scratch his blanket and make lots of muffled sounds.  If I look over my bed, he looks up like “Oh, I was still trying to sleep, but I see you are awake so we might as well get up.”

2. Bed relocation

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Eko will toss his blanket off the bed and then loudly flop somewhere else on the floor.  When I look up to see what that “thud” noise was, Eko pops up ready for the day

3. The sleeper-hold

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If I am extra tired I will let Eko up on the bed for a short time in the morning.  To get me up he will fall asleep on my leg, and I wake up to pins and needles

4. Dragon’s Breath

Rhodesian Ridgeback, dogs, puppies, dog blog, pet friendly, adventure, marking our territoryEko’s last resort before resorting to a poke is putting his face directly next to mine and breathing deeply until his deep exhales rouse me awake

As a kid, I used a lot of these same passive-aggressive tactics to wake up my older siblings when I wanted to play.  It seems that Eko, like I once did, hides behind the defense, “Hey, I didn’t wake you up – you just happened to wake up while I was doing something else!  Therefore you can’t be upset at me.”

Eko’s sneaky behavior also seems to imply that he also understands the difference between using direct actions and indirect actions to achieve a desired result.

So what do you think, am I reading too much into Eko’s behavior or is he as crafty as I think he is?  In the end, I’m not sure it matters because there is no doubt his techniques work!

Comments for Can Dogs Be Passive-Aggressive?

  1. Victoria says:

    i get the nose poke from Muffin and if that doesn’t work then she plops her giant paw on my shoulder and if that doesn’t work she plops it on my head. Rigby just licks my face until i get up and whines a little at the same time – “sort of saying – hey Mom i got to pee”! They get me up regardless but i try not to be too grumpy!

  2. Love the thinking Elko. Making both mum & I laugh… As I have just jumped up on the bed and pawing mum to get her up for our walk. Take it as a good thing. Don’t need an alarm clock and get out of bed and go for a run/walk and you don’t need a personal trainer to motivate you… See Elko is helping to save money.

  3. Evelyne says:

    oh, yes! he does understand what he’s doing and dogs ARE crafty that way! 🙂

  4. I think you are spot on Will – I know #2 very well, except my pet is a cat! Our animal companions can read us just as easy as we read books – when the relationship is close and the rules clearly defined, they get it and they work out how to get round it. Clever Eko!! 🙂

  5. Kuruk says:

    I think Eko is very smart! Me and Nalle don’t wake Mama though. We wait until she gets up and says “Good Morning!” She is Alphamama! Wooooowoooooooo!

  6. Emmadog says:

    I think Eko has a master plan. We rarely wake Mom up since she is a really early riser and often times the cats do the dirty work for us, but if we have to wake her, it is always the nose in the face job.

  7. I don’t think you are reading too much into it at all…my guys do similar things. Maggie unfortunately is a whiner…a very small, dainty whine, but a whine that cannot be ignored.

  8. Delft says:

    Surely you cannot look into those melting eyes and believe they harbour sneaky intentions! And if he doesn’t give off little whines of impatience you should count yourself lucky…
    The nose pictures are simply too cute!

  9. There is clearly a lot of thought going into this Eko. Whee always tell Mummy whee didn’t mean to wake her up and the loud squeaking she heard must have come from somewhere else because whee are good guinea pigs ^_^

    Nacho, Noah, Buddy & Basil

  10. Elyse says:

    Eko, as a highly intelligent dog, knows exactly what he is doing.

    As an adult, I’ve had three dogs. A brilliant German Shepherd (Goliath), a brilliant (but aloof) Bernese Mountain Dog (Charlie), and a dumb as a board English Springer Spaniel (Cooper). Cooper was smart enough to wake up my husband, who didn’t push him off and make him go back to sleep; he never tried to wake me. Charlie would hold it until he burst. Goliath, on the other hand, did what Eko does. He tried being sweet (kisses), flopping on his bed and ever increasingly hard flops of his head on my bed. When I had Goliath though, I was seriously ill. He always let me sleep if I was sick, but always woke me gently when I was not sick. Some days, I just wanted to sleep in, but it was not allowed.

    Dogs, even the dopes (loveable, but still dopey) know exactly what they are doing. I’m pretty sure they spend their days figuring out tactics.

  11. raisingdaisy says:

    Oh yeah, I think Eko is one SMART dog and he knows exactly what he’s doing! Sounds like a little bit of Eko-inflicted karma there, Will….. 😉

  12. harrispen says:

    I think Walter has taken some lessons from Eko. We also have the added pleasure of the dogs waking each other up and starting up with some morning bitey face. Then we get the “oh did we wake you?” looks. Of course the last resort for the pups is to just sit on us. Can’t complain too much, you just gotta love them.

  13. Boomdeeadda says:

    As always I really enjoyed your observations and photo’s of Eko, especially when his nose is on the bed. What a character. I totally agree with you Will, Eko seems to have a Plan B and if that doesn’t work, an extensive list of tactic’s to get you up and adam. Our own goofballs wake me up with nudges and standing on my chest until I relent. It’s usually way too early.

  14. When Cody got into his golden years, the only thing that got him up from his naps was the smells of food. (Sight and hearing were waning, especially sight.) But when he was a pup, my parents were early risers anyways. (My dad usually had to be at work by 4 or 5 am. And my mom was usually up near there anyways.) He was always pretty good about not making many whiny noises unless it was for a treat.

  15. Eko is officially our new hero. He has nailed the passive-aggressive act and for that we give him two paws up!
    Wally & Sammy

  16. Apollo will sleep as long as I do, but Missy… She’ll pounce on Apollo and get him up, and if he’s awake obviously I have to be. Suddenly I have two cold wet noses snuffling around my ears (their go-to poke spot on me). The joy of having dogs.

  17. They are really crafty, I think they learn all those trick at dog school (like parents school, they all say the same things). Doggy sleeps under my bed, we would crawl and drag his blanket letting me know he’s ready. If he sees me moving he would grab one of his toys and put it right on my face. Or try to hi5 my face.
    They are very resourceful.

  18. You’re so not reading into this because Boomer does the same sort of thing! He will actually pull the covered off of you and stick a cold wet nose on your bare skin to get your attention… not cool man!

  19. I prefer more the direct way: first some nose pokes and then I give them some paw pats. Plan B is excessive barking, best near their ears :o)

  20. Chopper's mom says:

    Our dogs are “trained” not to wake us up before the alarm unless it’s a bathroom emergency. However once the smart alarm goes off there is NO snoozing. One jumps, wiggles, licks, tramples all over the bed. The other breathes, nuges the bed or stares until you get up.

    My dad used to complain all the time about how early the dog woke him up. Until one time our boxer stayed over this summer and the dogs woke him up in the middle of the night because they were hot. He turned on the a/c and went back to sleep. The dogs were so comfortable they didn’t wake him up in the am and he was late to work. Haven’t heard him complain since.

  21. swamphare says:

    Of course, I look for answers about passive-aggressive, sneaky, clever dogs, and I find a Ridgeback..

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