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Discussion Starter #1
I've just been wondering about something. Naima is not aggressive, but when she sees or hears something that doesn't seem "right" to her she does bark (she does have kind of a high-pitched, aggravated little bark for things like not being able to get at a ball that's rolled under a chair or something, but the bark I'm talking about is a deep "grown-up" bark and growl).

Sometimes when I'm walking her at night, she'll start barking at something in the distance. At first I used to think that she was just seeing things, but then often a little critter or something (this IS Florida, so you never know what's out there!) goes scurrying by. I wish I had eyesight like that.

Anyway, what I was curious about is this: she sleeps in the bed with me at night. The bed is by a window that looks out into the street. Sometimes Naima will start barking at something out there--often it's a neighbor walking, or something like that. I'm perfectly happy to have her do that; she doesn't get carried away, and will usually stop if I take a look and tell her it's OK and thank her. But when she does it she very often lies down with her front legs across my legs. It seems like a protective gesture to me, but I was thinking that maybe she's also thinking that I'm keeping HER safe that way! Either way it seems sweet.

But in your experience, do protective dogs tend to want physical contact with their owners as part of the "protection" when they sense possible danger?
 

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Sounds like alert barking. That is the original work for dogs, warn of things that are different. In time it gets better, she will figure out that people walking by on the sidewalk at any hour is fine but if people come up the walkway alerting is okay. She likely is feeling happy and content that she got to do some grown up dog work and that you appreciated her efforts.

Reward that alerting, you don't want it to go further than that. Only experts with need should have real guard dogs that back up alerting with action.

She probably is using her nose and ears more at night. Bucky doesn't and is visibly more unsettled walking when he cannot see as well.
 

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Most dogs who are being "protective" typically move out in front of their owner, or between their owner and the threat. If they seek physical contact, they may want protection. Also, some dogs just like sleeping touching their owners.

Young dogs like yours bark at everything. They don't seem to know whats normal and whats not yet. If Ralphie sees something as threatening (like the blow-up snowman from this morning, lol) he'll stand facing it, legs spread, ears up, hackles raised, and growl real low in his chest at it. He doesn't usually seek physical contact with me unless he is frightened, in which case he'll stand between my legs.
 

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I also think that sometimes dogs that are bored are more quick to alert bark. Or they want you to know about the minutiae that they hear that we can't. Or it's their job. Mine (German Shepherd) alerts to EVERYTHING (he's 3, going on 4). I tell my husband that he's the Lt. Dan of our house (from Forrest Gump). He's always 'gettin' a feelin' about somethin' and saying (barking) "Get Down! Shut up!".
 

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My Mosin likes to press his body against me when I need "protection". Typically he will walk at an angle so he can see both behind and ahead of us. BUT, when just barking at home he puts himself between me and the perceived threat without touching me. If I stand up and touch him he ceases barking and looks at me for comfort to tell him it's okay and there's nothing of import to bark at right now. She might just need reassurance that you are there, since she is young and unsure of threats.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, everyone.

I'm perfectly content with her "alert barking"; I'm not looking for her to be a guard dog (although in the highly unlikely event that someone attacked me or something I'd probably appreciate any help I could get, as long as Naima didn't get hurt!). We live on a somewhat secluded street and there have been a few burglaries around here in the past, so if she sees fit to bark at someone walking outside with a flashlight at 11 p.m. I'm good with that.

It's true that she's still figuring out what, exactly, a "threat" is--for a few days she seemed to believe that the Christmas tree was putting us all in imminent danger :) .

I just thought it was cute the way she lays her body across my legs when we're in bed and she senses a "threat" outside. It does look/feel kind of like a protective/possessive gesture, but I can certainly see it as a way for Naima to feel more secure herself. Maybe I'll take up barking, too.

She does seem to act kind of pleased when I check out whatever it is she's barking at, and then tell her it's all good and thank her for the warning. I think she does like having a "job"--she seems to be a relatively serious dog, for a 9-month-old. I like that.
 

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Not every dog alert barking is being protective of anything. Some are just nervous or freaked out something they saw or heard and it has nothing to do with their person. I would say that generally a dog who is barking at something but also seeking contact with their person is nervous and looking for reassurance, not being "protective".
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Not every dog alert barking is being protective of anything. Some are just nervous or freaked out something they saw or heard and it has nothing to do with their person. I would say that generally a dog who is barking at something but also seeking contact with their person is nervous and looking for reassurance, not being "protective".
That may well be the case, although she's not really a fearful or nervous dog at all in general--just cautious about anything that seems new or out-of-place. And often if she's barking at something outside she does it far away from me in the house, and won't come to me if I call her--she just stands and barks until she's satisfied that everything is OK. The lying across my legs thing is only at night in bed--otherwise she doesn't seem to come to me for protection. If we're outside and she sees something to bark at she usually just sits down to bark and observe until I'm able to get her to continue on our walk.
 

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just cautious about anything that seems new or out-of-place. .
I would put that in the same category as nervous.

Nothing you describe strikes me as her being protective. Just alert barking like a normal dog, or being a little weirded out by something. Those things are not the same as protective.
 

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I would put that in the same category as nervous.

Nothing you describe strikes me as her being protective. Just alert barking like a normal dog, or being a little weirded out by something. Those things are not the same as protective.
I meant not overly nervous--I think her barking is appropriate and "normal." And I'm not in a tizzy over whether she's being "protective" or not--that's certainly not what I have her for, or why I love her! I was just curious about the one behavior because I thought it was cute. In general, she's a calm and relatively "issue-free" puppy, with behaviors I'd consider perfectly reasonable for her age. She has no fear of new people or other dogs, and will happily approach and greet them.

Yesterday during a storm there was a simultaneous bolt of lightning/very loud thunder-clap right outside our window. Even that didn't faze her (fazed me, though!).
 

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My dogs bark unexpected things, too . . . like, say, a garbage can that has blown into the street or a kite. I don't sense any fear in it. More surprise; something they feel a need to comment about.

As for night barking, remember your dog's hearing is much much much better than your own. My dogs bark at armadillos . . . which seem silent to me. I guess they can hear them digging, even with the windows shut. I don't like armadillos. Sometimes I let them out when they bark. They've caught and killed a few that way.

I'd say lying on your legs is more looking for a reaction than trying to protect. Like, 'Mom, I hear this. Don't you hear it too? Whaddaya think?' Does she also look at you when she does it? And of course, if you react positively, you're rewarding the behavior, and it becomes the 'right' thing to do, and she'll do it again next time.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
My dogs bark unexpected things, too . . . like, say, a garbage can that has blown into the street or a kite. I don't sense any fear in it. More surprise; something they feel a need to comment about.

As for night barking, remember your dog's hearing is much much much better than your own. My dogs bark at armadillos . . . which seem silent to me. I guess they can hear them digging, even with the windows shut. I don't like armadillos. Sometimes I let them out when they bark. They've caught and killed a few that way.

I'd say lying on your legs is more looking for a reaction than trying to protect. Like, 'Mom, I hear this. Don't you hear it too? Whaddaya think?' Does she also look at you when she does it? And of course, if you react positively, you're rewarding the behavior, and it becomes the 'right' thing to do, and she'll do it again next time.
Yes--she barks when something seems "out of place"--the giant tree that suddenly appeared in the living-room, a truck parked in the street where there was no truck before, etc. Then she checks it out and gets used to it.

And she must be able to hear and smell stuff that I don't hear or smell all night around here--that's when a lot of the critters start to really rock 'n' roll! I'm amazed she goes to sleep at all! And the neighbors out walking their dogs late at night with flashlights--that can look kind of creepy even when you're pretty sure who they are. So I don't blame her for barking and, as I said, there have been some burglaries around here and it's pretty secluded, so I don't mind an extra pair of eyes/ears/nostrils/lungs paying attention.

I think she actually usually lies down on my legs AFTER I've taken a look, told her it's OK, and thanked her. She usually continues for a while with a low growl and an occasional bark. It's like she's saying, "OK, if you THINK things are all right I'll stand down, but if you're going to be so casual about our security I'm just gonna lie here for a while and watch and be the responsible one." :)
 
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