“My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.”
― Edith Wharton
Photo by Brittany Graham Photography
I’ve long maintained that dogs are perfect creatures, who, being already perfect at being, well… a dog, are naturally inclined to continue in this state of perfection. In other words, nothing they ever do is incorrect for a dog.
Therein lies our dilemma. We are humans. We are asking our dogs to live as humans. That’s a pretty amazing culture shock for them. My job is to help with the mediation. A marriage counselor who opens the lines of communications between humans and canines.
BEING RULED BY RULES
To that end comes the rules. Ah….the rules. Among them, “Is it okay for my dog to be on the bed”. I’m not big fan of rules. They tend to be restrictive without taking into account circumstances. One size fits all mentality to a spectrum that encompasses Chihuahua to Great Dane, and everything in between. That makes no sense.
So instead of asking yourself, or worse, someone else, “Should my dog be allowed to….?”, take a look at it in another way. You are Pilot. You are Leader. Anything your dog does is correct, unless you don’t like it.
Example: Darwin, the first dog I had as an adult, was allowed to sleep in my bed. On the couch…pretty much anywhere (yes, I rued the fur and the extensive amount of laundry created by said fur, but it was overshadowed by the amount of cuddling and snuggling that happened). I was single at the time, so a spouse and a dog in my bed was nothing I had to contend with.
Then situations changed. I got married when Darwin was close to 10 years old (I’m a late bloomer). I now had a spouse and a 70 lb. dog to contend with, and my husband and I are both six feet tall! That’s a lot of bodies, even for a king-sized bed. So we decided that Darwin was no longer allowed in bed.
Yes, he sulked…for about 10 minutes. But he seemed to love his new fleece-lined orthopedic bed. Even if he didn’t, I had addressed his needs (a new, comfy bed). After I take care of his needs, I am allowed to handle my wants however I deem fit. I didn’t kick him out of my bed into the cold, dark basement. I moved somewhere warm and comfortable, and I am allowed to make that decision because I am Pilot. I am Leader, and I seek to do what’s best for the pack, which includes all members, human, dog, and yes, even feline (just because I train dogs doesn’t mean I eat cats!).
After Darwin left us too soon at the age of 13 (isn’t it always too soon?), Sparta joined our pack. Sparta is a behemoth of a 100+ pounds shedding machine. The thought of her on our bed never even crossed our minds. She isn’t allowed on the furniture, either.
Enter Orion, my 5 lb. Papillon. While I’d worked with numerous small dogs, I’d never actually owned one. With two small children in the house and lots of energy, the little guy can become overwhelmed quickly, so we allow him on the furniture, as a respite. Plus, I like cuddling with him while I’m reading, knitting or blogging. He’s allowed in bed only by invitation, however, at night he sleeps downstairs with Sparta.
WHAT’S ACCEPTABLE AND WHAT ISN’T
So instead of rules, look at it like this:
- Does this behavior affect my ability to Pilot my dog? Obviously if your dog is biting, guarding resources or stealing your food, they are indeed taking money out of your Piloting bank. You need to answer them with a “no”; and
- Am I ok with this behavior? Your dog can sleep in the bathtub or on the kitchen table for all I care, as long as you are ok with it. Does it bother you that your dog rolls in mud puddles, or chases squirrel? If it doesn’t, then ignore the behavior. Play tug (again, as long as you remain in control of the game and can end it when you want). Wrestle to your hearts (Sparta frequently beats me…but the moment I give her the signal we are done, we are done.)
As long as you have money in your Piloting bank, you can do whatever you want. Most importantly, enjoy your dog.