December 12, 2016

Let Me Sleep on it – by Tony KnightDog Listener

Throughout my life with dogs, there have been times when I have shared my bed with them – as a child, my cocker spaniel Sandy would sleep on – or sometime under – my bed on a regular basis. As a grown-up I have on occasion slept in the same room as my dogs, either in hotels on our travels around Europe, or from time to time on the floor at a relative’s house near Dover to break up the journey down to my home in Southern France. This latter situation has caused great excitement, especially to Pru, who would relish the chance to get comfortable on the mattress when invited. I have “fond” memories of being woken up, perched on the edge of the bed with two dogs in a line beside me. Fortunately the fall to the floor was not far…

As is usually the case in the dog world, there are conflicting opinions and advice regarding whether or not your dog can sleep on your bed or not. As you would expect, I will tackle this subject from a completely different angle to everyone else and you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to do it. Personally, I see no problem in having your furry friend on your bed (that is not code by the way) but there are a couple of rules to keep in mind. The obvious benefits include warmth, security and contact -pack animals like canines and humans feel safe in company. For those who worry about potential health problems, provided that everybody is clean and wormed (whether you choose to worm the people too is entirely a matter for you) and the person isn’t actually allergic to dogs there should be no problem. Of course, it is also a good idea to make sure that they are housetrained… again this can apply to the people too!

Having said all that, I have helped people for whom the bed is actually the centre of a behavioural issue with their dog. Some have come home to find their pooch has peed on the bed, while some couples have told me of the awkward moment when the dog allows one of them into the bed without a problem, but will growl when the other partner attempts to join them.

Both of these issues come under the spectrum of my work, and the ultimate reason for both is the same. However, in each case there is a different specific reason. In case one, toileting on the bed is a form of marking the territory which serves three purposes – warn others who are not pack members to stay away from their turf; establish their smell as a way to show everyone who is in charge and help lost members of the family to find their way back home. This all stems from responsibility; my job is to show people how to convince dogs that they don’t have to do any of this.

The rules of bedtime not only introduce this idea of trusting the owners with the decisions (therefore, why worry about where everyone is) but also directly show the dog that the owners are to be respected. The growling dog on the bed is clearly saying, “I will choose whom I let on here with me… and it ain’t you, mate!”

The only thing to remember is that if you do want your dog to be on the bed with you is to make sure that you are in the bed first. Dogs understand – and use – the idea of thrones as a way to establish who goes where in the pecking order. A dog that growls when approached is also letting you know that you had better not invade their personal space without permission – there are rules to be obeyed. If your dog is already on the bed, call them off. If they refuse, rather than go up to them to take them off – which means you go to their throne – you can always pull the dooner off the bed. That works a treat…

Once the bed is dog-free, you can get into bed and call them back up. If they jump up without being called, they should be put back on the floor (although if this is during the night while you are asleep, don’t worry too much about it if you don’t mind sharing the bed). With a small dog, gently pushing them off is easy, but even with a big dog you can do so with your feet as long as you don’t say anything while you do it. The rules are then clear to your dog; you can join when only when I say. This puts you above them in the pack structure which also helps with dogs that have other behaviour issues due to not coping with the top job.

This rule for the bed applies equally to the couch too. When the dog respects your personal space, you can call your dog up and enjoy the cuddle. The one thing I cannot help you with is the snoring – Pru could make a room shake