I have accomplished a lot with Marge. That's no secret. But, I still haven't cracked the dad issue completely, and it's very, very hard to deal with sometimes, seeing as we live under the same roof.
I have basically scheduled my life around his comings and goings so that she doesn't run up to the door growling at him when he comes home. I have conditioned her to come find me when she hears the door. She sits on her mat near the back door of the house and I feed her treats. Once he's home, I generally don't have to worry any more, even if he goes in and out of the house a few times.
Today, she decided otherwise. She was great when he came home from work - went right in to her crate, got her cookies, and calmly came upstairs with me to see who was there.
But just now, he came in the back door from working in the yard, and she decided that that was extremely scary and not cool.. despite the fact that he came in and went back out just a little while earlier. What changed in the span of just a couple hours? Unless I something happened that I didn't see, it seemed like it was the same exact situation. He was home from work, so that initial "oh my God he's here" was over. So why did she do it?
A lot of times I CAN fault my dad for instigating certain behaviors... this time, I'm not sure I can. Of course, I can't REALLY fault the dog, she has known behavior issues and faulting her is unproductive. But it's a tough place to be in, for sure.
She growled at him the other day, too, when I took a rare opportunity to sleep late, not realizing that he'd be coming home and I'd be needed on what my sister and I have termed "Dad duty."
It's not that I'm not sympathetic of her fear issues. Any one with a brain knows that, especially since I carefully make all of my decisions with her best interests in mind. But, a small part of me is extremely frustrated, and I wish I could ask her, "what the heck is wrong with you?" Mostly, I'm angry that it still happens because of the fact that I always hear about it later from my dad. I'll hear about it when she lays by his feet at dinner time, waiting for food. He'll announce to all those there, "This dog growled at me again" and tell Marge "No, you're not getting any food from me," as if she could understand. My dad sees this contrast in behavior as "stupid," I see it as unsurprising since she's been reinforced by him giving her treats in that position very often.
Surely, the door issue could be solved the same way, but my dad wants no part of it. If he threw treats at her as he entered the door every day and was understanding of the fact that progress with these kinds of things isn't instant, the issue could be solved. But, no, he won't get off his high horse and refuses to participate, even though he gladly gives her food at his own free will throughout the day. I stopped asking him a long time ago.
Another part of me is sad and upset, mostly for the same reasons as mentioned above. I take any issues surrounding my dog extremely personally. It's hard to work on something so much and basically hear nothing good from my dad in return. He won't even acknowledge that she's improved her behavior around him, despite the fact that she will seek him out when he's watching TV on the couch, even if she knows he doesn't have treats. Despite the fact that she frequently jumps up on him and swats him playfully with her paws if he is in a sitting or reclining position. No, those things mean nothing to him. She still growls when he comes home, so therefore, she still "hates" him. It's hard for me to swallow. It would mean a lot to me for him to say that I've done a good job with Marge, or that Marge has changed a lot since we first adopted her. So many other people have said it, but I guess he doesn't think it's true.
Yet another part of me feels like it's my fault. Why wasn't I ready with treats, attempting to distract her from the door confrontation and continuing to condition her that people coming in the door is a good thing? Why did I let my guard down for a minute? Now I'm paying the price.
He's not a monster, really. He's not a mean person. He's a hard-working guy who probably doesn't want to be bothered with something like this at the end of the day. Any time I've gotten really upset over it, he's told me that it's not a big deal, and that it doesn't really matter "if the dog doesn't like him." But, somehow, those words mean less in comparison to the things he says after one of these little episodes. It's not that he even says anything bad - but by drawing attention to it and telling every one, or announcing out loud that he's not going to give her treats any more, he makes me feel really bad.
My dog will never love my dad. My dad will never love my dog. Honestly, there's only a handful people in this world who can handle her fully - me, my sister, and my boyfriend, with my mom a close second. This will never change, and that's okay. But I really, really wish that my dog and my dad could understand each other a bit more so that I didn't have to be on guard and let down as often as I am.
It's upsetting, frustrating, nerve-wracking, and in some ways, kind of makes me feel like a failure. I can direct my dog off-leash over 20 obstacles, but can't get her to stop growling at my dad.