Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Dogs on furniture

SHOULD YOU LET YOUR DOG ON THE BED OR COUCH?

A while back, I did a poll on how many of you let your pets sleep in or on your bed (and apparently there is a BIG distinction for some people between “in” and “on”). 

Perhaps not that surprising from a dog loving community like this, but 68% of you said “Yes, have them in the bed!”

So – what’s the opinion of this particular dog behaviourist when it comes to having dogs on the bed or the couch? I’m sure you’re expecting me to say ABSOLUTELY NOT, no dogs allowed… but you would be wrong.

The reality is that this is a completely personal decision…

What do I do at home?

For us, we’ve decided we’re quite happy to have our little Jack Russell Tommy jump up on the bed for a snuggle in the mornings, or laze on top of the dog blanket on the covers on a sunny afternoon (my co-trainer and partner Kim can share the blame for this!). My two big boys aren’t quite so welcome (they take up too much room aside from everything else) but they do occasionally also put their heads on the bed for a big pat. And if I’m being perfectly honest, Monty my Giant Schnauzer (the famous Driving Dog) HAS been known to jump up on the bed for a laze about too, especially if we’re away and he’s missing us. 

And Tommy is certainly welcome on the couches at our place too. I love having him nestle in beside us when we’re having a cuppa or watching TV in the evenings. For me, it’s a lovely part of our relationship and bond. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone! My son would wholeheartedly disagree, and prefers to have his dog sitting only on the dog bed by the door when in the lounge. His way of connecting with his robust dog is a bit different – lots of rough & tumble play, hiking and outdoors time together. This is fine too!  Set your own family rules. 

When is it not advised?

The main exception I would make to this is for dogs that are showing dominant traits or resource guarding. In this case, allowing them on furniture can lead to further issues so I don’t recommend you do it with them. Some people also just want to play it safe and say “no” and that’s fair enough too.

If your dog is showing dominance, or growling at you while on furniture, then I suggest you create strong boundaries around those places and focus on clip station and crate work as well as establishing an effective “no” command. Dominance tendencies do need to be dealt with in a timely and correct fashion.

Similarly if you have a dog with separation anxiety that you’re working on, generally it will be best to not have them sleeping on your bed with you at night as this can exacerbate the issue… it’s best for them to have their own sleeping space.

If you’re going to have dogs on the bed or couch, here are some things to consider:

+ Keep in mind that if you allow your dog to sleep on your bed or let your dog up on the couch, it may be difficult to get them to sleep anywhere else happily

+ If you’re struggling with behavioural issues with your dog, having them on the bed may make it more difficult to solve those issues. Establishing some clear boundaries can make it easier to train your dog, for example when it comes to dominance aggression or resource guarding issues, I’d recommend you don’t let your dog sleep on your bed as she needs to know that it is your space and that you are in charge of the  household’s resources (which includes sleeping spaces). Also if you’re working with a dog that has separation anxiety, having your dog in bed with you every night can exacerbate this issue.

What about puppies?

+ If you get a puppy, start as you mean to go on. This means, if you don’t want your big adult dog sleeping on your bed, then don’t let your puppy do it now as it will be too challenging to change the behaviour once it becomes a habit. 

+ When getting a puppy, even if you DO want to have them sleeping on the bed, I recommend you start by having them sleeping in a crate. First and foremost, this is for house-training purposes. Using a crate really helps establish house-training. It’s also important that your pup does feel comfortable and happy in their crate, particularly as you may need them to at some point in future (e.g. when staying at other people’s houses or when you’re going on holiday and your dog is going to be kennelled). If your pup never knows any different, they may become stressed when unable to sleep on your bed with you. I would suggest you don’t allow your pup to sleep on your bed until they no longer require to be let out to toilet in the night, and they sleep happily in their crate all night without crying and whining. When initially letting them on, don’t do it every night – keep some nights in the crate to maintain that habit and ability. Unless you love them right on you, most people end up preferring their dog sleeping in their own beds beside yours. Tommy is allowed up in morning if he’s cold, but doesn’t sleep on our bed all night.

To make it work best, I would suggest:

+ Establishing a rule that your dog only jumps on the bed when you invite her, and only when you are already in the bed. If she jumps on the bed first, call her off and ask her to sit and wait, hop in yourself, then invite her back up. 

+ Ensuring your dog also has another safe space where they are happy sleeping – a crate or dog bed. Keeping up the practise with this will help ensure your dog doesn’t stress out if there is a situation in which they are unable to sleep with you. 

With this knowledge, go forth and do what works best for you! Many people love the security, warmth, love and companionship that comes with sharing a bed with their dog or cat or having them up on the couch, so if that’s you then enjoy!

 

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