How to take your sofa back and your dog will still love you!
I am going to start with a truth which I tell all my clients; Not all dogs are treated equally. Small dogs get away with a lot more ‘undesirable or bad’ behaviour than big dogs. In fact I would put it to you that owners put up with 3 or 4 times the amount of bad behaviour in a small dog than they would tolerate with a larger dog.
Does your pet have a favourite spot on the sofa or your bed? Of course they do as I’m sure you do. We are all creatures of habit. But are the habits good or bad ones?
I know clients who have had to race to bed before their large dog got there or they would end up sleeping on a sliver of mattress. Or their favourite chair is no longer Their favourite chair it is now the dog’s favourite chair.
When I ask these owners as to why they have given up their comfort or beloved favourite spot they always answer with ‘it makes them happy’ and have a kinda dreamy look on their face as they look at their darling pooch sprawled in luxury and snoring lazily on the said favorite chair or sofa spot, while they take the ‘less favoured’ positions around the room.
Is this such a big deal? I hear you ask, does it really matter?
Well the answer is Yes, to both those questions because the canine is a species, much like ourselves who lives in a family orientated structure. Much like our own. Within this structure is the people or animals that look after the rest of the family, mum and dad, grandparents, the older, more experienced family members. Were you ever told as a child to not touch that as it was granddad’s or get up and let your mum sit down? That’s because there are certain benefits or perks to having a responsible role in the family. Why not, you look after the family, you bring home a wage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. You keep them safe.
So lets look at it from the dog’s point of view. If the human gives out a lot of signals that are inconsistent, like for instance, they let you up on the sofa beside them for cuddles, great! Next day is the same. The following day you’re not allowed up but you wait til they go out of the room and you sneak on. Your human returns and sits back down and cuddles you again, great! What is your dog learning? That you know your own mind and have rules it needs to follow or that you are a bit of a push over?
Lets add to that. What if your dog has taken on the role of the responsible one for the family, you, your husband or wife, the kids and the cat? What if your dog took his role very seriously about the safety of his family. He chases off trespassers (barks out the window or in the garden), he takes you all out for a walk (he pulls on the lead and has bad recall), bringing you back safe. He might even tell you off if you over-step the mark (by growling or even nipping you). Wouldn’t you want the most prized position in the house for doing that job?
I hate to be the one to break this to you but you are probably not the real decision maker of the family in your household if any of that last paragraph sounded any way familiar to you. Dogs, like humans need boundaries and rules. If there are none of these in place as the dog grows up and matures they will make up their own set of rules to create some kind of structure to their lives, just as we would in a group of human strangers. It is in our instincts and our dogs to have someone in charge to keep the young and the weak safe. With someone making decisions and rules, everyone knows their place and hopefully everyone will survive.
So what if your dog doesn’t see you as that someone?
Usually some sort of chaos ensues in the household as the dog starts making up the rules as he goes along. Remember a dog with little or no experience of the world will be learning everything from scratch. He learns that the approaching footsteps to his door makes him uncomfortable and feel threatened so he starts to bark, the footsteps retreat (most likely the postman, paperboy or delivery man) and the dog has just learnt a valuable lesson. Barking makes the stranger go away.
So if you become your dog’s responsibility, in his eyes. Does it make sense that he feels he has to follow you around the house, especially as you sometimes have the habit of disappearing, sometimes for hours, and then re-appearing again? Does it make sense he feels the need to rush ahead and see what’s on the other side of the door, or that bush, or around the next bend in the path? He’s only doing his job! Right?
If any of this has made sense to you as you’ve read it and thought about it, make one rule today that you will stick to. The dog is only allowed on the bed/ sofa/ chair on your terms and when he is invited and be consistent.
He will love and respect you for it.
Read more about Consistency is the key to Success
Please feel free to leave a comment if you found this article useful or you are having trouble taking back your sofa!
Bernie, The Dog Owners Coach