Get OFF my bed…
About 8 years ago, I brought home the sweetest little pit bull puppy that obviously gave the BEST snuggles around. The issue at hand was never that she was possessive, bossy, or rude about sharing furniture, in fact it was a personal choice to teach our dogs to avoid the bed. However, I found myself largely pregnant with my first baby, and being high risk, I ended up on bed rest for 5 weeks! To most that know me, that was literally a nightmare! I don’t hold still for long, and being forced to lay in bed all day and watch the world pass me by was literally killing me…enter Karma. After a lifetime of never sharing my bed with a 4 legged beast, I opted for companionship over all else, and caved. The first time I invited her up on the bed, she seemed confused, and looked like she was seriously breaking a rule…that’s because she was. It was my choice. This dog has never displayed an issue with sharing that concerned me, HOWEVER, after a few years we decided our white bed just couldn’t handle being shared with her dirty paws anymore. So I told her to get off my bed…
Okay, so this is where things get complicated a bit…it was a serious challenge to get her to stay off now because of the habit WE had created. She was under the impression (because we allowed it) that she was allowed to get in and out of our bed as she pleased, so we had to change that. She is so sneaky! I would send her to her bed, and she would wait for me to fall asleep, then creep ever so softly onto the bed. Every morning I would wake up to her face about 2 inches away from mine in a gentle slumber. How can you stop her if you can’t see her climbing up on the bed? You can’t. BUT you can set her up for success, and help her learn to keep her body to her own space, and to wait for permission if granted.
After evaluating our situation, and personal wants for our pack, we decided it would be best for Karma to learn to wait for permission if she wanted on the bed, and that was MY way of handling the change. She works as a therapy dog, and is often invited into a hospital bed to snuggle, so I wanted to be able to help her understand that she needed permission to do so. Our choice was to introduce commands that grant her permission to join someone on a bed, remove sleeping in the bed at night, and that works for us. Was it hard to get there? YES! It was a NON STOP “Karma, get OFF!”(removed dog)…”Karma, OFF!”(removed ever-loving dog…)…but it was worth it in the end. With persistence and consistency we were able to get it under control, and that’s what we wanted! Not every dog needs to sleep in bed 🙂
*Don’t be crazy about it! You decided to tell your dog no more furniture, or maybe you needed to because of behavioural issues, but it all comes down to you. It’s YOUR house, and YOUR dog, do what works best for you, and sets your dog up to succeed in your home. If you don’t want to fight for pillow space every night, then DON’T!
*Start out by offering your dog a bed of their own. It will help out tremendously if you can offer a space of their own to go to. We introduced the “OFF” command, removed the dog from the bed, and directed her to her own space. REPEAT. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME…
*Don’t wait to remove them from the bed if they invite themselves up. The MOMENT they put even one foot up, it’s “OFF!” and make sure to follow through! In fact, you can even tell when they THINK about getting on the bed, so I give her a good verbal correction and send her to her bed BEFORE she physically tries. I can’t even stress enough how important timing and consistency really is!
*Consistency is key, just like any form of training, you can’t possibly teach occasionally and expect reliable results. If you don’t want them on the bed, DON’T let them on the bed. It’s as simple as that.
*IF by chance you have a need for your dog to occasionally be on a bed (Karma visits Primary Children’s Hospital, and the kiddos love her in bed with them) we simply taught “paws”, which is asking her to put just her front two paws up on the bed, or “Up!” which means the whole body. We used the clicker, and a treat and worked the command to death until she caught on, now she is VERY reliable, and knows all 3 pertinent commands related to furniture.
Confusing? That’s okay…think of it this way, you’re giving the dog a CLEAR understanding of when they can, and cannot do something, by giving it a command, and reinforcing it by only allowing them to use the space if you essentially give them permission. Remember, by adding a command that allows permission to be on furniture you need (again) 100% CONSISTENCY! That means, make sure the rules YOU set, and the commands YOU build are always followed the way they should be.
In all honesty, I do often recommend against allowing dogs on furniture when I’m addressing clients, because it does come with occasional repercussions, and it’s just easier to never start the issue. I always joke that “some dog’s can’t handle the power”, and I stand by that, no matter how silly it sounds, however some dogs do just fine coexisting with people and animals while sharing furniture. So do what’s best for your home! If you don’t have behavioral issues that stem from problems with furniture use, then by all means, snuggle away! If you have a white bed in a house full of dogs, maybe sharing a bed with muddy paws may not be the best option!