By Luan Egan
Many relationships are established in bed. Sure, nooky is nice, but if you can’t settle down and get a good night’s sleep together, the prospects for a long-term relationship look dim. Restlessness, snoring, hogging the bedclothes, it all make settling in for the long haul a challenge. But when the disruptive party starts to growl, show teeth, even snap or bite, someone’s got to sleep on the floor, and it better not be you. Sound like a case for Divorce Court? I’m talking about building a healthy relationship with your dog!
I have never had a problem with Bed Buddies. I do not have this issue because I never allowed it to take root. It has, however, become an issue for some pet owners, and then we have to look at why.
May I offer some suggestions?
Cuddling on the furniture with your dog is comforting, and something that many dog owners expect to enjoy. But one has to take into consideration how the doggie mind works. Many like to resource-guard, be it food, attention, where they like to sleep. They like it, you reward it, by allowing them to get what they want. If you left a bowl of candy out, and did not set any limits on your kids sugar intake, don’t be surprised if they don’t have room for dinner, and are swinging off the chandelier. Once they have a taste for gluttony, it is harder to scale back. You need to set boundaries, and if you are not clear on them from the get-go, there is no one to blame but you if things get out of hand. But don’t give up. It may take some time, and a commitment to upgrading your skills, but you can still have the companion of your dreams.
Your dog jumping up on the couch, chair or bed may be seeking a comfy place to relax, but from the start, it is a privilege that you have to have some control over, even if you don’t mind the hair on the furniture or a head in your lap while reading or watching the telly. From day one, I recommend NEVER allowing your dog on the furniture unless you are confident it will get off when told to. If you do find yourself in a battle of wills that you did not anticipate, think of the old saying “you get more flies with honey than vinegar”. Better to lure the pet off or away with a ball or tasty treat, and reward it for leaving the confrontation. You are not spoiling, you are using your brain cells to de-escalate and control the situation in a positive way.
Teach your dog “Off”. Off the furniture, paws off you (jumping up) and paws off the counter or table. Some people use “Down” for this behaviour but this can confuse the dog as the training command “Down” is usually used to achieve a lie down. This is something that I work on when on walks, and I will teach my dog to jump up on a park bench or low retaining wall, walk along it, and off on the other end. In the house, attach a short leash (short enough not to trip on) to your dog’s collar and leave it on. That way you have something to take a hold of and patiently lead with, rather than reaching for the collar. I also use a body harness with dogs that have issues with being taken by the collar, with the lead attached to that. Most aggression is caused by fear and anxiety. Often, they anticipate being taken by the collar as a step towards punishment, and react by fearfully snapping at the hand they think will dole it out. It takes time to desensitize them to being controlled and led, and having a less stressful “handle” is a huge help.
There is no need to be harsh. But if you don’t trust him to stay off when you tell him, go back to crate training, or shut the door (or employ a baby gate) with him on the other side. Do this until he is 100% reliable in getting the message. Crate training is a highly recommended tool to ensure compliance and acceptance – done properly your dog will accept the crate as a good place to relax in for short or moderate periods of time or travel. There are many trainers and training manuals available to help you teach your dog to accept the crate in a positive way.
Practice “Down” or “Lie Down”. Not only is this a very useful tool to have in your arsenal, but teaching a dog to lie down and stay down will also teach them self control. Teaching your pet “Off” the bed and to “Lie Down”, and “Stay” on a mat beside it will go a long way to establishing a healthy relationship and mutual respect between dog and human. Plus, once you have mastered “Lie Down” around the house, you can try achieving compliance while increasing the distance between you and your dog, out in public and then with distractions. Nothing impresses more than having a dog drop on command at a distance, and it can help eliminate unsafe situations. I command my dogs to lie down on the forest trails if a cyclist approaches. I can’t boast 100% compliance, but I usually get two lying down and one standing still pretty quickly. It keeps them off the path and focused on me until the danger of a collision is past, and I often get a “Wow” along with thanks from the cyclist.
My dogs sleep on the bed. They all know it is a special place. They sometimes squabble amongst themselves over who got there first. I growl “Off” and the bed clears like magic. Likewise if I wake up in the middle of the night because my backside is hanging off the edge or my feet have no place to go. A simple “Off” clears the bed with little complaint and I can settle comfortably, then I say “okay, up” and my bed buddies reassemble and settle down.
You make the rules, the dog follows them, and feels rewarded for doing so. You are happy, the dog is happy.
Dogs crave structure and routine. If you don’t provide it, they might decide that they can make it up their way. Don’t be daunted. It’s not that difficult to be firm but fair while being affectionate. You can do it.
Now enjoy your bed!
Border Collie Philosophy
by Luan Egan
Washing down the kennels this morning
and I got to thinking about how
sometimes human behaviour is not so
very different from dogs.
Perfectly nice dogs that find themselves behind an artificial barrier will often bark, snark and snarl at each other. Even if a gate is opened, they will often prefer to find opposite sides of a fence and be rude for no obvious reason. If they don’t really know each other and are allowed to continue, dislike intensifies. Dogs should be encouraged to meet in a neutral setting.
Perfectly nice people, communicating on social media and by e-mail, seem to be prone to fence fighting and barrier frustration as well.
Please, have a coffee date, sniff butts , go piss on a tree and get on with things. Thank you.