CANINE CONNECTION: Let your dogs in your heart and (maybe) on your couch

Don't go pushin' Fido off that cushion

Do you have a couch dog or a couch hog? Or is your dog not allowed on the couch at all? 

The couch dog is the kind of dog that cuddles up beside you when you are watching a video or reading a book, unobtrusively resting their head on your lap.

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The couch hog is the kind of dog that shamelessly lounges on the couch when there is a perfectly good dog bed on the floor and doesn’t budge when you shimmy in beside them. If you try to shove them over a bit they may give you a playful kick with their back legs while throwing you some shade, implying that you should be the one to lie on the floor.

And if your dog is not allowed on the couch, that’s perfectly fine. You have your own boundaries of behaviour for your dog in your home.

Dogs may choose to lie on a couch, or your bed for that matter, for the same reason we do: it’s comfortable.

For the most part dogs are simply being dogs when they lie on the couch. There is no malicious intent behind their hiney being on the BarcaLounger other than comfort.

And since dogs are pack animals, they like to be where their pack is, which means they will want to be with you on the couch.

But is allowing your dog on the couch the right thing to do? Are you giving your dog mixed signals about who’s in charge?

Sharing your furniture with your dog is neither the right nor the wrong thing to do. It is a personal training decision.

Also, allowing a dog to share your couch with you isn’t going to give your dog any misinformation about your leadership status. The reliability, predictability and consistency of your training and interaction with your dog is what counts.

Leadership is more about consistent guidance than it is about what couch cushion your dog is sitting on.

But if you are going to allow your dog on the furniture you do have to consider a few things, such as guests. If you invite guests over they may not be all that excited about sharing their perch with your pet. This also applies to visiting another person’s home with your dog. Your dog will assume the same house rules apply at a stranger’s home and may feel it’s perfectly normal to jump up onto their leather couch, much to the dismay of the host!

Another thing to consider is your dog’s temperament. Some breeds and mixes of certain breeds have a more sensitive nature with regards to their personal space. Much like some humans, they don’t like being encroached on when resting and the result could be a dog that growls or even snaps if you attempt to shoo them off a couch or even if someone was to sit beside them.

If that is the case, then a dog with this personality is best suited to having their own space to retire such as a dog bed on the floor away from activity or even a crate away from the encroachment of other humans.

If you do have a grumpy couch potato do not get angry at your dog, instead realize that your dog is attempting to communicate with you. It is best to calmly walk away, and then call your dog to you from another room.

For safety reasons, it would be best to revoke all couch privileges and then teach Fido the right behaviour, which is to go to his own bed on command and be calm and comfortable there.

When dealing with any type of aggression and issues with impulse control, it is best to get help from a professional rather than attempting to correct the behaviour on your own.

For the most part allowing your dog on the furniture is perfectly fine. Sharing a couch with your dog for a cuddle and a Netflix binge is normal and under the right conditions can be a lovely bonding experience. But make sure it is right for your leadership, training and lifestyle needs.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at k9kinship@gmail.com.

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