Allowing Your Dog on the Furniture

Alice's demeanor changes when on the couch

Oliver is just as happy laying on his own bed on the floor

How many people let their dogs on the furniture or on the bed?  How many like to hug or cuddle with their dogs while they are on the furniture?  If you do, you need to read this.

ATRA has heard of several incidents of dog aggression against people over the years that occurred when the dog was on the furniture.  With the last case in particular, the dog mom decided to affectionately scratch her dog and talk with her dog while the dog was on the bed.  Without warning, the dog attacked.

To give you some insight into what happened, you need to see some things through the dogs eyes.  First, when a dog is allowed on the furniture or on the bed, that elevates his status in the pack - and the pack includes the humans in the family as well.  If one of the humans in the house is not an alpha person, an alpha dog will take advantage of this when they are on the furniture.  While many dogs do not have a problem with being allowed on the furniture, too many others do. 

Second, we all just want to love our dogs.  Those hugs feel wonderful.  The dog seems to enjoy that scratch behind the ear.  We look lovingly into their eyes.  Hold it right there.  This last part about the eye contact works just fine for your significant other, but add this to the previously mentioned elevated status of an alpha dog with aggression tendencies on the bed and it may be a recipe for disaster.  A dog on the furniture or bed is closer to eye level, making it much more likely that a person will approach them and look at them straight in the eyes.  A dog interprets eye contact with dominance.  He feels you are trying to dominate him.  He gets mixed signals since he feels more important being allowed on the furniture.  

If you are taking a rescue dog into your home, you need to be a little more cautious about your house rules for the dog.  Remember that many of these dogs do come with an unknown past and we want to give them the very best chance to succeed with your family.  This means you need to establish yourself as their leader and alpha member of their pack.  Alpha doesn’t have to mean you need to be a drill sergeant and rule with an iron fist.  It does mean that you set the rules.  One of the rules should be not to let them on the furniture.  Instead, have several cushy dog beds spread around the house so they know they have a special place to call their own - but on the floor.

What should you do if your dog does jump on the furniture or bed?  What if they start growling and do not want to get off?  Try getting their leash out, snap it on their collar and walk them off.  Do NOT grab them by the collar.  Grabbing their collar is another situation that is often met with dog aggression and a possible bite.  Dogs don’t like being grabbed by the collar. 

Two good books dealing with this and other related topics are How to be Leader of the Pack by Patricia McConnell and Grrrr! by Mordecai Siegal and Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis.