I often get asked if it is “okay” to sleep with a dog in bed. This is one of the issues that is actually quite personal. Some people – I would say most people, love sleeping with their dogs but other folks would rather not. And sometimes the “rather nots” do not know how to get their dogs off their beds!
The hesitation of having dogs in bed stems – in my view, from the incorrect idea that dogs are statue thinking creatures and if we allow them on a higher ground (such as bed) they will take the position of the “alpha”. My answer to this line of thinking is to look for real evidence to this effect. We could begin by investigating for potential problems while allowing the dog to sleep on the bed: Is the person able to move the dog out of the way without having the dog respond by sneering, growling or worse, attempting to bite or bitting while on the bed? Is the dog preventing another pet from also sleeping on the bed?
I would instead argue for the Parsimony Principle, which states: that the most acceptable explanation of an occurrence, phenomenon, or event is the simplest, involving the fewest entities, assumptions, or changes should be applied here.
If folks then want to share their bed with their dog, they should go right ahead without any concern for their dog becoming the “dominant” or “alpha”. There is, however, a consideration when the dog resource guards the bed as his own possession. This, of course, is natural dog behavior, but it could also be very dangerous.
Dogs are wired to “protect” what they consider a resource- something that they find valuable or want. A cozy place to lie can fall under this category.
When a dog resource guards a person’s bed, it is possible for the dog, in its effort to hold on to the possession, to sneer, growl or even bite. If this was the situation, I would argue that having a dog on the bed at anytime is not a good idea.
I have worked with a couple of clients whose dogs would jump up on the bed and prevent one of the owners to get into the bed!
So what is the solution here? If people are good about following with a management protocol, and closing the door to the bedroom is, of course, the easiest thing to do.
Alternatively, one can teach a dog an “off” cue that the dog learns as if it was learning a fun game. In essence, the dog gets paid for jumping of the bed (and staying off). If the dog jumps on the bed he is asked again to get off and then he is rewarded for doing so! Viola! Problem solved.
Another sticky issue arises when one person wants the dog in bed and the sleeping partner does not. This is a typical example of how folks have different expectations and relationships with their dogs, and frankly I think it has very little to do with one person loving the dog more, and the other one loving the dog less.