Should Your Dog Sleep on the Bed With You?
by Robin MacFarlane
Dog trainers seem to be divided on the topic.
Whether or not a dog should sleep on the bed is a common question.
Many dog lovers sheepishly confess to having their dog in the bed with them when I am inquiring about the daily living routines of their canine friend.
With a hint of shame, some owners will express that "they know they shouldn't but they do let the dog sleep with them."
For those who don't want to read much further, let me share my short version answer to the age-old question about the dog's sleeping arrangements.
If it's not broke, you don't have to fix it.
What I mean by that is, if your dog is not causing problems in the household particularly in terms of claiming objects and space as his own, you probably don't have to worry about it.
I do feel it is important for puppies to start out sleeping in a crate in order to help expedite learning some housebreaking routines. Plus, crate training teaches the valuable skill of learning how to tolerate and be calm when confined. You never know when a situation might arise which requires the dog to be transported in a crate or stay overnight in a boarding or veterinary facility. A dog that has learned how to sleep alone and can be crated without much fuss is one that can be more easily cared for by others, should the need come up.
But other than those reasons in the puppy phase, there is no hard and fast rule that a dog cannot sleep in the bed with you.
IF there are no significant behavioral problems going on with the dog, it really doesn't matter where they sleep or relax.
I want to point out that a lack of obedience training does not necessarily constitute a significant behavioral problem. A dog that gets excited and jumps to greet visitors when the doorbell rings is not the same as the dog who growls and nips at you when you enter the house or try to sit next to her on the couch.
It is these type of problems, possessiveness of space, growling, baring teeth, nipping when being asked to move, that cause me to make significant changes in the dog's daily living routine. One of those major changes will include the dog being banned from access to the furniture or bed.
A dog who is behaving too big for her britches around the house and controlling who sits where and who touches what, needs to be demoted from CEO status to the janitorial position.
Suddenly that dog must learn that nothing in life is free and access to coveted space in the house is reserved for the dignitaries, ie. the human beings in the house.
One of the key components of reorganizing a dog's ideas of self-importance has to do with claiming space. Coveted spaces and who is allowed to occupy them is a universally understood nonverbal communication tool.
The person behind the desk, or at the head of the table, or is on stage at the podium is known to be in charge of the room.
The person who holds themselves erect with chest out and looking forward usually gets the crowd to part way more easily than the meek one that is looking at their feet and trying to shuffle by.
The mighty Lion who choses the highest, jutting rock formation to sun himself on, isn't asked to move by the subordinates in the pack. He may chose to share, but no one makes him. It is understood who is controlling that space and all others are willing to yield to it as needed.
Our dogs are equally adept at understanding who is in control of space around the house. If your dog is more than willing to get off the couch or move over in bed when asked with no growling or threatening posture, then you don't have a problem.
As long as it's not broken, you don't have to fix it.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.