Tip – 12 – Dogs on the furniture – dog sleeps with owner
Why do dogs tend to sleep on the sofa, your favourite chair or even sleep on your bed? They seem to love these places and often climb onto them repeatedly even when we repeatedly ask them to get down.
True enough, sofas, chairs and other furniture are extremely comfortable and that’s one reason why dogs like to hang out on them. Another key reason often has to do with dominance. Before dogs became domesticated, the alpha dog, or leader of the pack, would always choose a high sleeping ground as the choice place to sleep. Feral or wild dogs in packs as well as wolves still sleep in this way. The highest ranking member of the pack sleeps at a level that is physically higher than the other members of the pack. This hierarchical nature of the pack is hardwired in modern dogs as well. By letting your dog sleep on furniture that is higher than the ground (the same places you relax and sleep on) you are quite possibly communicating to him/her that he/she is your equal. You may even be communicating that your dog is more dominant than you. This is especially true if your dog regularly exhibits other dominant behaviour and it has the potential to escalate into a real problem, including aggression. These other dominant behaviours include growling at you, leaning on you, eating food before the human family, entering or leaving doorways before you and generally not listening to you etc. A dog that KNOWS that every member of the family is higher in rank, will generally not exhibit these behaviours.
It is therefore good practice, not to allow your dog access to these high sleeping grounds (or high relaxation grounds) in order to assure your position as the leader of the pack. If you are not home and the dog has access to these higher places for resting, than placing certain objects that dogs dislike on the couch or chair in question is a great idea. There are plastic items in most pet stores that have blunt plastic spikes on them that are perfect for this situation. If the dog jumps on the couch or chair, it lands on the blunt spikes which don’t hurt the dog but make it uncomfortable for the dog to lie on.
It is best that the dog’s place of relaxation and sleep be a comfy blanket or basket on the floor. This will prevent possible behavioral problems associated with dominance. As always, all dogs should have basic obedience training and dominance issues should be discussed with your veterinarian or trainer.