Should Your Dog Be Allowed on the Bed?
Let me start this article off by saying that there are millions of dogs sleeping in people’s beds and without a problem. However, there are a number of dogs sleeping in people’s beds that create a lot of problems the worst of which is usually aggression.
And as I write this I sigh because I had to deal with this exact issue with my handsome, man dog, friend, Frisbee.
As I mentioned in many posts, Frisbee suffers from fear aggression. I tell his story in a series of 8 posts you can find on this site.
As I was working with a trainer to help with Frisbee's fear aggression I was told I couldn't have him on the bed or on the furniture, at least for a while. This was heartwrenching for me because I loved that time to just snuggle with him and be physically close to him.
As I was following my instructions, when I wanted to be close to Frisbee, I had to curl up with him on his giant pillow on the floor.
But I understood the reasoning and knew it's what I had to do. Here's why.
It’s a documented fact that when you put a dog in your bed or on your furniture it becomes an equal. If your dog is an equal why should it listen to you it’s just as important or has as much authority as you do?
Like I mentioned a moment ago there are dogs that sleep in people’s beds that are not a problem. This is usually a dog that has been trained or at least knows its place in the pack.
So now back to the question should you allow your dog on the bed and the answer is generally no? Not unless your dog has been trained properly and knows his place in the pack.
Let’s talk for a moment about those dogs that do have a problem like aggression. Usually, this type of aggression is directed at members of the family which could include the kids, mom and dad, or even the other dog. Your dog could become possessive of you and your bed so if a child comes in to say goodnight, your dog might react unfavorably.
The only problem I had with Frisbee in bed is he didn't like to be moved. If I tried to move him he would growl at me. Just a warning to back off...which I did. If I needed him to move I would call him off the bed and then allow him back on.
We had bigger problems with Frisbee on the couch. The trainer referred to this as his "hot spot". In other words, if he was comfortable on the couch and someone disturbed him or startled him, (mostly non-family members), he would likely react unfavorably. He basically acted like he owned that space.
So how did we fix it?
Simple...we quit letting him on the couch. If he got on we said firmly, off and pointed to his floor pillow. He's a shepherd so super smart and learns fast so teaching him to get off the couch or stay off was pretty easy.
Initially, if your dog is struggling to be off the furniture give them something to keep them busy and preoccupied at first such as a bully stick or a puzzle treat toy like the one below.
The same technique applies at night. Just make your dog get off the bed and even give them a reward, like some treats, for laying in their own bed on the floor. If they try to jump on the bed just say NO, firmly and point to their spot on the floor.
You can also use a crate if your dog is comfortable in a crate, which many are.
This guy obviously has no problem laying in his bed and your dog won't either once you teach him/her that is their space. For us, it was easy to get Frisbee off the bed. The first night I had to keep telling him and I gave him treats but after that, he knew his place. Now he sleeps with us again when he feels like it but many times he still prefers his big pillow on the floor. It's his choice now.
If you have trouble at first getting your dog to stay on his pillow or bed on the floor try using a puzzle treat toy. This will keep him occupied for a while and will also teach him to associate his bed or pillow with something fun and yummy. You can check out our puzzle treat ball that we highly recommend by clicking here.
If you're still having trouble with keeping your dog off the bed or the furniture or with being able to establish yourself as the leader, you might want to consider obedience training or working with a trainer in private at your home.
By the time we realized we needed a trainer it was too late for any kind of group training so we've always had someone come to our house.
If you hire a trainer, you should make sure your dog is taught these basics"
- Walking on a loose leash
- Sit on command
- Down command
- Sit stay
- Down stay
- Recall – the come command
These exercises are actually going to establish you as the master and it will show your dog its place in the pack.
I have previous blog posts on this site that discuss each of these commands and even included a video of me teaching Frisbee these commands. If you want, you can start by watching those videos and try to teach your dog these things on your own. It's really not hard because dogs are hungry to learn and to please and they love having that one on one time with you. Good treats don't hurt either.
So after the training is completed and your dog knows its place you can invite him back into the bed. If there aren’t any additional problems you can allow him to stay in the bed. You might actually find that you sleep better without your dog in bed and they might like it better also so be prepared for that as well.
If your dog reverts to its old bad habits then you need to just repeat the process above and try again. The more consistent you are, which isn't easy at first, the better your results will be.