Hey! You bought Chester a lovely, deep, brand new bed, supportive in all the right places, ticking all the cool bases, and whaaaat! Where do you find him? Right back on the sofa. Where he *knows* he belongs.
Because, of course, what his super duper bed lacks is the most important person in his life. You. And nothing can quite match the sofa with you, or your scent.
Maybe you don’t mind him being on the couch. But if you’d like your dog to sleep on his new bed at least sometimes, here’s what you can do.
Don’t forget, dogs love to cuddle
Dogs cuddle for warmth, using us as we may use a blanket. But they also cuddle to show their affection for us and we, in turn, definitely pick up on this.
That’s why it feels so satisfying when your dog snuggles up unprompted. Yes! He loves me. That most rewarding of feelings with your pet: mutual affection.
A bit of quiet time with your dog next to you on the couch can help you relax, ease any worries, and be a real pleasure for the both of you.
When he sneaks up onto the couch, he is simply doing what comes naturally and fulfilling his pack instinct for safety and warmth. On the sofa with you, he is in the bosom of his family, where he feels most safe and comfortable.
And if you’re not there — well, your scent is the next best thing. For that same feeling of warmth and security, your dog will seek to curl up where he feels closest to his absent owner. Even if he may get in trouble for it later.
And really, he wants to sleep with you
Oh yes, the same instincts for protection, closeness and warmth apply for sharing your bed.
You’ll remember that dogs are pack animals. Their ancestors not only hunted together, but also slept together at night for warmth and security. Think of a litter of puppies. As soon as they’re born their instinct is to crawl up close to one another and sleep snuggled in a pile amongst their brothers and sisters.
Who can be surprised your dog will seek to replicate that feeling of warmth and cosiness — but now with you?
Though, of course, some breeds are more inclined to snuggling than others — retrievers, for example. If your dog isn’t so keen to sleep on your bed, don’t think he doesn’t love you; more than likely it’s simply because he’s finding it too hot.
Now, you may love having your dog sleeping with you. Even if, in his efforts to sleep as close to you as possible, he spends half the night pushing you out of the bed, and the other half your partner.
But if you don’t want your dog on your bed, or if you’ve got tired of it…
How do I get him to choose HIS bed?
To get him to warm to his own bed (if you don’t want him on the couch or in your bed) you have to lead the way. No, not actually lie in it (!), but demonstrate to your dog just how desirable his bed is.
Your dog is constantly watching you, and learning what you like and approve of, and then adjusting his behaviour based upon your emotional responses.
So, in body language and verbally, show your dog that you feel positively about the bed, and he will begin to feel the same way. Earn your dog’s respect through consistent use of obedience commands (such as sit, stay, and down) and each time he looks to get on the sofa, redirect him to his own bed.
Training is all about repetition and consistency. Persevere and he’ll begin to get the message, and you’ll start to get some more room on the couch. After he’s spent some time in his bed, it will take on his scent and he will begin to feel at home, safe and comfortable — in his own bed.
Relax and enjoy
Sharing the sofa with your dog will not encourage him to feel he is the dominant being in the household, but it’s a good idea to make it clear that sharing is on your terms.
For example: no jumping about or rough play on the sofa, and no chewing treats etc. And when you say ‘Off!’, he must get off right away.
Nevertheless — you know ‘just any bed’ simply won’t do
Because this is about more than your dog. It’s about you as well, and you love your dog. You want the best for him. He’s one of the family.
So even if he might be happy with any old bed, you won’t be. You won’t want a bed that doesn’t give his joints enough support. You won’t want a bed that’s too small for him, or so big that he can’t snuggle down.
And in the end this stuff matters. Because he’s your dog. And you’re his human. And your dog can rely on you doing the right thing.
And so to bed
But where? Well, that’s up to you.
In the past some trainers or ‘experts’ have suggested that letting your dog share the sofa, or particularly your bed, can give him ideas above his station — that he’ll start to think he is the alpha or dominant player in the household. This way of thinking has largely been discredited by modern behavioural scientists.
In wanting to share your bed, your dog isn’t trying to take over the world. He just wants to stay close to his favourite human. And letting your dog share your sofa or your bed can be a real pleasure for both of you.
But you may prefer to keep him off the furniture and away from your bed — for any number of possible reasons, from finding he disturbs your sleep to wanting to prevent your furniture take on his doggie smell. In which case, that’s simply your choice.
His place of comfort and safety and cosiness can also be his own bed, because you have convinced him, by your actions, that it’s a great place to be. And of course it is a great bed, because you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s looking at you kid.