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Where Should Your Puppy Sleep?

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

When an owner calls me about a behavior problem with her puppy, one of my first questions is, "Where does he sleep?"

The most common answer is, "In our bed" or "In bed with one of the kids."

My next question is, "Does he get up on the furniture?" Again the usual answer is yes.

Now, don't get me wrong! Most dogs who sleep on their owner's bed or furniture are perfectly well-behaved.

But when we look at dogs who DO HAVE  behavior issues, most of those dogs also  sleep on the bed or furniture.

Siberian HuskyWhy is that important? Because we begin solving behavior issues by establishing the proper leader-follower relationship with your pup. And one of the best ways to establish that relationship is to control resources.

From a canine perspective, the leader  of a family or group controls the resources. Food  is a resource. So are sleeping spots.  Therefore, from a canine perspective, the leader should get the choice sleeping spots. The followers sleep in spots that are less good. The way your dog views the world, that's the right arrangement.

So one of the quickest ways to earn a pup's respect is for you to reserve the best sleeping spots for yourself. You (and the other humans in your family) sleep on the human beds.

Your follower pup sleeps in his crate, or on a dog bed.

It might seem like a simple thing to us, but when you control the sleeping spots, a canine finds that quite impressive! It's so easy to earn your pup's respect by taking small, simple actions that say, "I am the leader and you are the follower."

Is it ever okay for a dog to sleep on your bed?

Sure! If your dog is....

  • 100% housebroken
  • respectful of you and your spouse
  • and has no behavior issues.

What about sleeping with the kids?

That should require even better  behavior. The dog should meet all the criteria above AND be polite with the kids – no jumping on them, nipping, or grabbing food or toys from their hands.

Even if your dog meets all the criteria above, there are other reasons you might not want him sleeping in your bed:

  1. A puppy (or a small adult dog) could get hurt by jumping or rolling off the bed in the dark. You could even roll over yourself and squash him.
  2. A dog who sleeps on your bed could come to view you more like a littermate than a leader. That's the last thing you need if you're trying to enhance  your leadership image. Some owners make things even worse by trying not to "disturb" the sleeping pup. If you roll over and the pup groans or opens one eye and you stop moving, this unfortunate pattern might progress to a growl or snap if you accidentally bump into him.
  3. If you're married, a dog on your bed may position himself, deliberately or accidentally, between you and your spouse. Um... psychologically, that's not good.

So it's up to you. Personally, I prefer my dogs to be safe and secure in their crates or pens at night. But I've also had lots of dogs sleeping on my bed – always fully housebroken, respectful adult dogs with no behavior issues.

Should you let your dog on your furniture?

Again, a dog who is an adult, housebroken, respectful, and has no behavior problems... sure. My dogs are allowed on the furniture. But they didn't start out  allowed on the furniture!

  • A dog who is not housebroken? NO. Non-housebroken dogs are easily tempted to pee on soft cushy surfaces.
  • A dog with respect issues or behavior problems? NO. Not until those issues clear up. Many of these pups have come to view sleeping on the furniture as a right  rather than a privilege.

tricolor SheltieRestricting the furniture to humans elevates those humans in the eyes of the dog. That is a psychologically healthy attitude for a pup to have, especially when he has behavior issues.

If your puppy tries to sneak onto the furniture, keep a leash on him in the house so you can shoo him off. When you're gone, put him in a crate or pen, or in a gated room with no cushy furniture. Some owners lay crinkly aluminum foil across the sofa or fill the space with a large cardboard box.

Or try a PetSafe ScatMat,  which is a flexible vinyl mat that you spread on the sofa. If your pup jumps on it, he feels a low-voltage static pulse (like we feel when we touch a doorknob after scuffing our feet on the carpet). It's harmless, but startling. Like all training tools, ScatMats  work well for some pups but not for others.

Now, you might decide to let your pup on the furniture IF you're sitting there and IF you invite  him up by patting the sofa and saying, "Okay." Or if you pick him up and hold him in your lap. This teaches your pup to wait for your permission. That's good.

You should also be the one who tells him when it's time to get.... "Off." Combine it with a gentle waving motion of your hand and make sure he gets off, even if you have to guide him by the collar.

dog sleeping on chairYou can also use "Off" when your pup is usually  allowed on the furniture, but you want him to stay off temporarily.

For example, you might have a guest who isn't comfortable with your pup sitting on the couch beside him. Or perhaps you're sitting on the couch with a plate of food on your lap. Or perhaps you're lying on the couch because you're sick.

Because he is usually allowed up there, he would be confused if he tried to jump up and you suddenly told him "No." You need a different word – one that means "Sorry, little guy, but the couch is off limits right now."

As an example, my dog Buffy lies on the couch with us when we're watching TV. But when food appears, she is not allowed to remain there. We've been so consistent in telling her "Off" when food appears that she now jumps off on her own as soon as she sees a dinner plate in our hands.

Patterns, patterns, patterns! Dogs love 'em.

Remember, it might seem like a simple little thing to us, but when you control the sleeping spots, the canine brain finds that quite impressive! It's so easy to earn your pup's respect by taking small, simple actions that say, "I am the leader and you are the follower."

My book covertraining program is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. It explains, step by step:

  • How to establish good patterns and routines that govern everything your pup does.
  • How to teach your pup to be calm and to look to you for guidance, direction, and permission.
  • How to make yourself important – the most important thing – in your puppy’s life. How to show your pup the clear, black-and-white rules and routines he is to follow. And how to make sure he does.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.