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How Passive-Aggressive Is Your Dog?

Who says dogs aren't that complex? We take a look at eight passive-aggressive actions pups use to get their point across.

Heather Marcoux  |  Sep 3rd 2015


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our June/July issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Passive-aggressive behavior is at the heart of many relationships between humans. But is your canine BFF capable of the kind of saccharin-flavored sabotage exchanged between bitter roommates or competing coworkers? Some say the emotional lives of dogs just aren’t that complex, but I’ve got proof that plenty of passive-aggressive planning is happening behind those puppy dog eyes. Let’s take a look at eight passive-aggressive actions dogs use to get their point across.

1. Selective hearing

If your dog can hear you just fine when you say “dinner,” but she suddenly goes deaf when you yell “bedtime!,” chances are your passive-aggressive pooch has acquired the affliction more commonly seen in human teenagers. The good news: Selective hearing is completely reversible — in both dogs and teens — with training and patience.

2. Binge blocking

You’re all settled on the couch and ready for a Netflix binge when your dog appears in front of you, leash dangling from his smiling mouth, like your own passive-aggressive personal trainer. Who needs to burn brain cells when you could burn calories?

3. Puppy pouting

Boxer by Shutterstock.

Boxer by Shutterstock.

All dogs need to know what the word “no” means, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it. Some pups respond to their least favorite word with passive-aggressive pouting performances that outdo those of even the most petulant human child.

4. Phone policing

Just like some significant others, dogs often want to know what their people are doing on their phones. They try to paw, pull, or nose-nudge smartphones out of distracted hands as their owners look at other people’s pets on Instagram. That’s why I came back from the bathroom one day to find a chunk torn from my phone’s case and a couple tiny little tooth marks etched into the device — a gentle reminder to keep my wandering eyes on my own dogs.

5. Doggie self-serve

Dog with empty bowl.

Dog with empty bowl by Shutterstock.

A dog dragging his bowl around the kitchen and a diner patron reaching over the counter to refill his own coffee are sending the same passive-aggressive message: The service here sucks.

6. Sigh language

Some dogs bark or whine to get their way, while other passive-aggressive pooches, like my boy GhostBuster, simply sigh — repeatedly and loudly. GhostBuster’s demanding breathing has dramatically impacted the decor in my living room. Once home to a human-only sofa set and a perfectly lovely dog bed, it now contains a third, mismatched sofa that was hauled up from the basement after GhostBuster used his hyperbolic exhalations to campaign for couch equality.

7. Dogspreading

Ghostbuster dog-spreading by Heather Marcoux.

Ghostbuster dogspreading by Heather Marcoux.

It’s like manspreading on public transit, only it takes place on couches and beds. Taking up more than their fair share of the furniture is the signature move of many passive-aggressive pooches.

8. Bedroom eyes

Many first-time dog owners — including myself — started out believing that they’d never slumber next to the hairy body of a comatose canine, but passive-aggressive pooches are often persistent — and pathetic — in their pursuit of the big bed. What would you do if your mutt decided to abandon his own dog bed, preferring to sit straight up with his chin resting on the mattress in an attempt to be as close to you as possible without getting in trouble? (Seriously, what would you do? Because I let him on the bed and now I can’t roll over.)

Is your pup passive-aggressive? Tell us how in the comments!

Read more about life with Ghostbuster by Heather Marcoux:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.