A lot of clients ask me about my feelings about dogs on the furniture or sleeping in bed with them. Usually, it seems they are expecting me to say, "No. Never," but actually, the answer to that (like anything in dog training) is a little more complicated.
For me personally, I enjoy a thorough snuggle session on the couch while watching tv with my dogs (sometimes, admittedly, with all four of them at one time. It's no easy feat, but I do it regularly).
That being said, that situation may not be ideal for a lot of my clients.
Furniture Is A Privilege, Not A Right
My thoughts on this boils down to one thing: Being up on furniture for most dogs should be a privilege, and not a right. Here are some examples of rules I use in my own home and with my clients that you may find helpful:
- Older dogs with more "seniority" (in age and residency) always have a spot available to them. Young, rambunctious dogs get last choice of seating. Humans always get first choice, followed by older dogs, dogs higher up in "seniority," small dogs, and lastly rambunctious puppies. This is more important than you think. Older, senior, and small dogs often need a retreat from younger or bigger pups, and sometimes the couch or chair can be a safe space for them. If you as the human running the household can hold that place sacred for them and protect their space from puppies or young dogs that are just learning the rules, it's going to be all the better for the dynamic in your home.
- Furniture is invite-only and the privilege can be removed at the whim of the humans in the household with no "talking back." I can occasionally be lax on the "invite-only" half of this equation for my older dogs, but for my young pups, it's a must. Also, a dog will lose the privilege of being up on the furniture or in the bed if I receive any sort of bratty behavior when I ask them to get off or stay off. This can be a sign that it is not viewed as a privilege, and that your relationship with your dog needs a little work. At that point, I remove couch privileges until that is resolved.
- Dogs with any sort of aggression issues are not given furniture privileges AT ALL. If your dog is aggressive to you, resource guards from you, fights with other dogs, is reactive, or otherwise has unresolved aggression issues, allowing them on the furniture, in my opinion, is a huge no-no.
- Dogs that are spoiled or bratty are not given furniture privileges AT ALL. If your dog "protests" your instruction, fake "nips" at you when you enforce a rule, counter surfs, gets into trouble right in front of you left and right, etc. it is a sign that you're dealing with a spoiled or bratty dog. This dog sees every day life with you as a right, and not a privilege, and needs to be reminded of boundaries before they can get the cozy spots next to you.
- Don't forgo crate training your dog in order to cuddle them in bed. You may notice a theme here. Sleeping with you in bed is a privilege. Train them for the hard stuff at first- i.e. crate training, and once they're good with that, they can earn a spot next to you in bed. However, they should happily and easily be able to go back into the crate at night when you'd like them to.
I have seen a lot of success personally and professionally with these standards.
Tell us- what're your thoughts about dogs on the furniture? Are you more militant? Do you provide any sort of structure to dogs on the furniture that has worked for you?