Should my dogs be allowed to sleep with me?

Question: should my dog be allowed to sleep with me ? (couch/bed) – Maureen

Question: I have two labs, recently single and now I let both dogs sleep in the bed with me. The female lab growls and nips the male all the way up the stairs into the bedroom and into the bed. She is fine once we are settled. Any tips to stop this or do I just stop her from getting in the bed? – Ginny

Let’s tackle Maureen’s question this week provides a nice segue into Ginny’s, so let’s tackle those. Maureen asked whether or not her dog should be allowed to sleep in bed with her. I was asked this question at the orientation for a class a couple of weeks ago. The answer is; it’s entirely up to you! There’s no reason that furniture privileges should be anything other than a matter of personal preference. My dogs always sleep with me. It is a good idea to treat bed and couch privileges as privileges; not rights. Your dog may have access to the furniture as long as he adheres to the rules of the house. For instance, perhaps you only allow your dog up on the bed once you’ve explicitly invited him. Or maybe once in a while your dog doesn’t want to sleep and keeps you up with his fidgeting; in that case, you should be able to tell your dog he needs to sleep in his own bed for that night and not have him make a terrible fuss over it.

The one real problem that can arise with furniture privileges is guarding behavior. While I don’t usually hear about one dog guarding the bed from the other only on the way to the bed, as in Ginny’s house, it’s not particularly surprising. Ginny, you can go one of a couple ways with this.

  1. The first thing to do, if you want to really work to address the problem, is to teach your female dog that it’s more rewarding to exhibit some other behavior on the way up the stairs; such as not growling and nipping at the male. Be prepared to take the stairs one at a time, and use your body to ensure that your dogs do the same. Use a clicker or verbal reward marker like “yes!” to mark when your dog does the correct thing and your no reward marker (“eh-eh!”) when she acts out against your other dog. Each step she takes without growling or nipping should be ‘marked’ and rewarded by the opportunity to take another step up the stairs. Treats would probably provide even more motivation and perhaps even a good distraction, but with two dogs, would probably make the situation far too logistically complicated to be feasible. When your female does growl or nip, give your no reward marker and take her back down the stairs and into another room before you let her try again. It may be helpful to have her on leash for this exercise. Ideally, you would have both dogs on leash so that your male dog doesn’t charge around you and get upstairs. So you may want to ask a friend to help you do this exercise a few times; one of you can hold each leash.
  2. The alternative, which is mainly a management technique, is simply to confine your female dog downstairs and bring your male up to bed first. Then let your female come up. There is some chance that she will still aggress when she gets to the bed, and perhaps even be more agitated. So again, you may want to try it on leash first to see how she reacts. But it may well be just fine.

Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.

 

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