Yes, what does a dog need from you?
First, a dog needs a Leader
If you are not a leader, then either your dog will attempt to fill that void or another dog (if you have more than one) will step in to the role. Some dogs make great ‘second in command’ leaders for other dogs. Some dogs make great secondary leaders for very young children, I used to have two dogs that were guardians and playmates of my young children.A leader makes decisions based on experience and on being able to be proactive, to be problem solving. A dog’s brain, no matter how intelligent for it’s species, is not designed to be proactive, is not designed to solve human problems on his or her own. Yet, humans are continually stepping back from the leadership role with dogs (and other animals), not because they don’t want to lead their dog, but because they do not understand how a dog’s mind works. A dog lives in the NOW, in the Present, not the past and he or she does not dream about what could be…. like people do.
For example, if a person saw two people struggling in a physical battle, he or she would think ahead… “what are the consequences to me if I jump in to help?” or ” how can I help this situation?”, or “I’ll just call the police and get out of here, I don’t want to be involved!”.
When a dog sees 2 other dogs fighting, he or she wants to jump into the blood battle and will. I see this all the time when 2 dogs in a group take offence or one wants dominance over the other, once the fight starts, all the others want to jump in. Why? That’s just it, the dogs jumping in don’t know why, they don’t stop to think about it, unless there is a Leader in the group. If there is a dominant dog leader in the group that has established him or herself as the leader, that dog will step in or will stop the fight before it even starts. I love dogs like this in my play groups. However, I, as the human, have to have leadership over the dog leader, as well as the others to have any control or respect from the group as a whole! Cesar Milan, has shown this time after time, how the dynamics work within a pack. Sometimes there will be a dog leader that will really stand out from others…
Here’s a short personal story line…
Our family used to own a dog like this. His name was Bellows and he was a Belgian shepherd. Bellows could determine who the trouble maker was, and would focus on that one dog. He would transfer that to humans too. One day, my 7 year old son and I were play fighting with plastic swords outside, making some exaggerated noises like we were fighting a real battle. As the mother of 2 sons, we played a lot of these sort of games. Well, our Belgian shepherd watched us for a minute or two and decided to step in and stop the ‘fight’. My son suddenly yelled out in surprise and said that Bellows had grabbed him.
We both stopped in confusion and looked over at ‘Belly’, who was looking a bit confused himself and worried now. My son told me that Belly had grabbed him at the hip, by his shorts. We knew our Belly very well and knew this was not aggression on his part. We determined rightly that Belly had simply tried to break up what he thought was a fight. Belly was simply stepping in as ‘second leader’, to stop the aggressor, my son. As a dog, he was not able to work through in his mind, that we humans had no intent to injure one another. Belly saw two people he loved, hitting each other with sticks (plastic swords) and just re acted to stop it. It was that simple.
How do I become pack leader to my dog?
It’s really quite easy but requires consistency, which many wanna be dog trainers fail miserably at. On a minute by minute basis, or should I say moment to moment, every single contact with your dog gives you the opportunity to teach him something. For instance, if you insist on your dog sitting before you pet him or give him a treat, have him Sit and Wait at the doorway, with the door open before you give him permission to step through, ask him to Wait before he’s allowed to dive into his food bowl, have him sleep on his own bed not yours, you are teaching him that you are the Pack Leader.
One other behaviour that is very important is that your dog should move out of his favorite sleeping spot, (or out of your way generally) if he’s in your way. You should not step over or walk around your dog. A submissive dog does this for a dominant dog. Do you want to have submissive dog status? The only exception that I would make in this case is for injured, sick or very feeble old dogs. I would not make them move for me, I would walk around them.
It’s easy to teach them to move out of your path… you just keep moving towards them, bumping into them gently if necessary until they move. You can also use the word Move! as you do so, especially if you are in a rush. They will learn to move when you tell them to!
Note, little children should NOT be the ones training dogs, they should be taught to follow the adults example, only AFTER the dog has been trained by the adults.
From your dog’s point of view…
if your dog is allowed to sleep wherever he wants to, including taking up your favorite bed space, to eat from a bowl whenever he wants to, to push his way in front of you through a doorway, walks in front of you on leash or worse pulls you like you are the sled…. your dog has taken the position of Pack Leader. Dogs like these NEVER have good manners around people. Dogs like these jump up on people, bigger dogs often injuring the people they jump up on, tend to bark a lot, especially when you don’t want them to, they don’t do well being left alone because after all “Pack Leaders shouldn’t get left behind”. Dogs with Leadership status have no reason to obey you.
These dogs often damage their owner’s property, chewing up the blinds, rugs, bed covers, chairs, couches, because after all, they ‘own’ all of it anyway. They have not been taught to wait patiently and quietly until their owner comes home, so they get anxious, making a mess on the floors, and destroying their owner’s property. That is how a dog’s brain works. Dogs with no firm boundaries taught to them, often cannot be kenneled at a Boarding facilty, ever, because they have never been taught to accept confinement. Dogs like these, often find themselves euthanized or given up for adoption or abandoned.
I personally see a few problems with allowing dogs on your furniture and on your bed. First of all, is the fact that your dog isn’t going to have as many showers as you do before climbing onto your bed. Hair, body oils, dirt and even bugs will wind up on your bed and couch. No, I am not a germaphobe, but common sense tells me that I am inviting a lot of dirt, bugs and bacteria to my bed from my dog. My dogs like to roll outside, they like to eat some very disgusting things outside. I’ve seen spiders and other bugs catch a ride in their fur, I’ve seen the body oils that they leave on the walls, the hair that gets swept up or vacuumed. I’ve seen how filthy their own dog beds look inbetween laundry washes. I don’t want that in my bed. Of course, your dogs might be much cleaner than mine 🙂
Secondly, in a dog’s world, sleeping or sitting in prime spots like a human’s bed or on their favorite furniture, is teaching your dog that maybe you are only the Pack Leader some of the time…. even if you follow through on other pack leader training .I have noticed that one can get away with having fewer boundaries in the case of a submissive dog, but a dominant type of dog will take over without strong boundaries.
Thirdly, pets are tough on furniture, many years ago, we did allow our house dogs on our couches, as a result we had to replace TWO of our couches during those years. Our second couch set we had to cover with blankets to prolong it’s usefullness but even that was not enough. That set had to be thrown out.. By the time we bought our third set, dogs were no longer allowed to share our furniture and that furniture was eventually moved to our basement family room. Our present (and 4th set) living room furniture is dog free and is still in great shape after 10 years. Our house dogs had very cozy comfortable beds of their own and never felt deprived. I do have an old couch in my Pet Hotel though that my dog guests are allowed to jump on and lie on. An old couch or chair that is designated for your dog’s use is similiar to giving them their own dog bed on the floor. Dogs know the difference.
Yes, I know many of you are going to object to my opinions on this subject
There are people who convince other people that dogs should be raised like children, that they should have the same rights of sleeping on their human’s beds and taking over the couches. These same people go so far as to make new dog owners feel guilty if they don’t want to share their beds with their dogs. There are also many people who will say absolutely No to sharing beds, furniture, even their home. I know people who believe fervently that dogs should Never live in the same homes as humans, that they ‘belong’ outside. My opinion is that there should be a balance of somewhere in between.
As I already mentioned, we have done it both ways, some of our dogs were allowed free use of our couches many years ago, and we had one or two dogs that liked to sleep in our sons beds every now and then. The first dog that we allowed on our furniture was a toy poodle that destroyed our couch and suffered from such severe separation anxiety that our floors were a mess if we left her in the house alone for a few hours. We treated her like a child and that was our mistake. I have made improvements in the training and handling of each dog we’ve had since. 35 years of observing & raising my own dogs, 23 years of handling and observing other people’s dogs is not life experience that you can dismiss and say it doesn’t mean anything.
If you still insist, after reading about my observations and experiences, that your dog should share your bed and furniture, then at least, teach your dog to get off when you tell him to. To only go onto your furniture when you say Okay. . You may want to put some padded covers on your furniture to protect it if you have no funds to buy a new couch set. If you are firm with all the Basic Manners that your dog should know, your dog is well house trained, does not destroy your belongings, never shows aggression towards anyone, is content to be alone at times, can be kenneled when needed with no problems, then allowing him or her on your furniture and bed is not going to change that.