The subject of dogs on furniture crops up very regularly when I visit clients’ homes. (Not something that is happening as I write in November 2020!) More times than I can count, clients turn to me shame-facedly and say “I bet your dogs don’t sleep on the furniture!”

My answer to that is “Actually, yes they do!” In fact, I trained Pip that it was OK because in his first home he had been punished for being on the sofa.

So why is it that while the dog is snoring away on the cushions, the humans are agonising over it? Where does this guilt and shame come from?

It probably all stems from that old nugget ‘Dominance’ or ‘Alpha’ theory that suggests that as pack animals descended from wolves, our dog’s motivations are all about becoming ‘Alpha’ or ‘top dog’.  It then became a useful ‘catch-all’ to explain every perceived dog behaviour problem.

e.g. “He’s pulling on lead because he’s trying to dominate you.”  

Humans were told to do everything in their power not to concede power or leadership to the dog. Never let the dog eat first, go through a doorway first or indeed sleep on the sofa. Being higher, or in the comfy spot, was considered to give the dog elevation, not just literally, but of status too.

Thankfully this theory has been thoroughly debunked, and is not a part of any well-qualified trainer’s repertoire, so if you are given advice along these lines, especially if it involves pinning the dog to the floor to remind him who his leader is, run very fast in the opposite direction. (Not going to mention any names, but suffice to say, just because someone is on telly, doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing 😉)

If you would like to read more about where this outdated stuff came from, and how rubbish it is, here is an interesting article written by Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA.

Unfortunately, some of the rules that went along with the theory remain in the social consciousness, so owners have this mental patter of what their dogs should or shouldn’t do, including that dogs shouldn’t be on the furniture or in your bed. Guilt.

Then there’s the matter of not knowing how to train a dog to stay off the sofa. Failure.

But the reality is, most people actually like having the dog snuggle up next to them on a cold evening. Shame.

Well, I am here to give you permission to have as many dogs as you like on your sofa, in your bed or anywhere else you choose. (You might want to check with any co-habiting significant others first!!) Dogs go on the sofa because it’s comfy, because it’s near you or holds your scent when you're not there. He is not trying to take over the world!

There is no law that I am aware of, dog training or otherwise, that prevents humans from having dogs on the furniture. As I tell clients ‘your house, your rules’, which means if you want your dog with you on the sofa, go for it.

If you would prefer not to – that is fine too.

The important thing is that you decide for yourself what your acceptable boundaries are. For example, I don’t have dogs on the bed most nights, but only because they hog all the covers and I get no sleep. But on a lazy Sunday morning, or on holiday in the caravan with us – there’s always at least two extra bodies in the bed.

If one of your boundaries is that the dogs must move if a human is in need of a seat, then it’s a good idea to train the dog to move off the sofa on request. If I’m honest, I will commonly sit on the floor rather than disturb one of my slumbering pooches – but if you were having someone important visit, it gives you chance to brush off the worst of the dog hair before they arrive.

 And if you really don’t want dogs on the furniture, here’s a couple of key concepts to support your training:

  • Don’t leave the dog in the room unattended. You know he will only practice getting comfy – and then, aww he looks sooo settled, let’s leave him this time….slippery slope.
  • Put lots of value into him being where you would like him to sleep instead. (Yes, that does mean feeding him for being in his own bed.)

Hope that helps!

Does your dog sleep on the furniture? Does he have his own chair? Drop me a comment and let me know.

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