Keeping the Dog Off the Bed
February 11, 2005 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Training the dog not to sleep on the bed … [MI]

My husband and I have set a bad precedent by letting our dog sleep on our bed. It wasn’t a problem at first because he stayed in one spot at the foot of the bed, but over time he’s begun sprawling. Now we find ourselves waking up in an “H” formation, with the dog stretched out horizontally, paws in the air, and the two of us clinging to either edge of the bed. Yeah, it’s adorable, but it’s killing our sleep.

I know, I know, close the door. Technically, that would solve the problem, but I’d like to try to teach him the skill to stay off the bed voluntarily so that the solution isn’t dependent upon a barrier (the closed door). He’s a smart dog, and trains pretty easily, so I’d like to give it a shot. The problem is that training involves reinforcement, and we can’t reinforce it when we’re asleep. What can we do? We’ve tried making it more appealing to sleep elsewhere, but he doesn’t seem to want his bed at night, and while he’ll curl up with his favorite blankie for a little while, he always finds his way back onto the bed at some point while we’re asleep. Any suggestions?
posted by boomchicka to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bad precedent indeed. I think you have to bite the bullet on this one and close the door. Pets, and dogs in particular, want to be close to their owners and do what you do. You can try directing your dog to its own bed at bedtime, and over time this may work, especially if that bed is in your room. But I would simply shut the door. It's not a sin to be firm with your pet. Good luck.
posted by terrier319 at 8:55 AM on February 11, 2005

I would highly suggest crate training. I'm not sure how big your dog is, but everything I ever read when I got my dog, including a chat with the vet, indicated this was the best way to go. The theory being that dogs prefer a den and will prefer the crate as their own little home. This has worked with my Dachshund quite well. Her crate is in our bedroom.

Also, by putting the dog in the crate it reinforces your role as the Alpha dog. Dogs like knowing their place in the pack, and that's a subservient role to you.

We reinforced the crate experience by actually feeding her in the crate, praising her when we put her in, and giving her treats when she went in on command.
posted by TeamBilly at 9:01 AM on February 11, 2005

I suspect that you will have to use a barrier (i.e. a tether) initially, but I would not banish the dog from the bedroom. You've changed the rules, you have to retrain your dog, but banishment is unfair. You must be consistent with whatever you choose to do.

The first thing I would do is train a "get off the bed" command. Pick the word you will use ("off", "floor", whatever) and be consistent (write it down). All you need to do is say your command, pat the floor and make encouraging sounds, and treat and praise like mad when the dog jumps off the bed. I would then make the bed entirely off limits (even for cuddles) at least until the dog has been reliably sleeping in his bed for a few months, if then. Any time he jumps up, use your command and praise and treat. Also make a point of praising and treating him for staying on the floor, you need to make staying on the floor rewarding.

I would make sure the dog has a comfortable dog bed to sleep on, that is big enough for him to stretch out on, in your bedroom, and reasonably close to your bed. I would then purchase a tether designed for in-house use, ensuring that it is long enough for the dog to move around, and lie comfortably both on and off his pet bed, but not long enough to tangle him up or allow him to try and jump on your bed. I would then train a "go to bed" command with lots of praise and treats. Either that, or crate train him with the crate in your room (I don't think that crate training reinforces that you're alpha (and you're not the alpha dog, you're a person), I think it simply allows us to take advantage of the dog's natural denning instinct for our own convenience, I don't think role establishment enters into it (not least because most wild canids all den together, the alphas don't sleep outside the den and push the subservient dogs into the den, which is what crating is). Dogs absolutely do like knowing where they stand, I don't at all disagree with that, but I do think people spend way too much time worrying about being "alpha" and attributing all manner of behavioural issues to dominance problems rather than simply finding ways to train their dogs which are reasonable, fair and make sense to the dog. /rant).
posted by biscotti at 9:11 AM on February 11, 2005

Also, be sure to use a flat buckle (or snap) collar or harness to tether, never tether a dog on a chain collar or any kind of slip collar or halter.
posted by biscotti at 9:13 AM on February 11, 2005

My dog sleeps under the convers with his head on the pillow, so really I guess I don't have much advice to give.

Although I will be watching this thread carefully for advice...
posted by hummus at 9:40 AM on February 11, 2005

How old is your dog? Introducing a crate to a dog that's had free run of the place can be a very tough transition. I know it was for us when we tried it with a 3yr old. Biscotti has some great points, if I could add to the crate discussion it would be...

1) The crate is a good place, not a bad one...never use for punishment. Give the best treats ever when they go in, a Kong filled with Peanut Butter and kibble is delicious and time consuming. After a few minutes of finishing the treat, the experience of being alone has subsided.

2) Definitely start with the crate in your room, but you might try introducing it a little at a time. We consulted with a behaviorist who said to go as far as starting with intervals of 15seconds, 30sec, 45sec, 1min, 2min, get the dog acclimated and comfortable.

3) When using the crate, always remove any collar. It is possible to get caught on something and injure the animal.

Overall, I think the ideas about the comfortable bed in the room and the "off/floor" training would work great. You'll never be able to stop the mid-night "cuddle" but you can probably reduce it greatly.
posted by Yukon at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2005

Hummus: That's pretty much how Dexter would sleep if we let him; believe it or not we have enforced *some* sleeping limits. I once woke up with his face an inch from mine; scared the bejesus out of me. It wouldn't be so bad if he would just stay parallel to us, so he didn't push us into odd positions.

Yukon: He's 4, and we've had him for two years. We've never crated him because he was house trained when we got him, and he's not destructive. He's been allowed to sleep on the bed the whole time we've had him; it wasn't every night at first, but his frequency and bed real estate have been increasing lately.
posted by boomchicka at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2005

A crate is a great idea. We have our dog's create in our bedroom and he loves it. It's his private and safe space. He goes there when he gets in trouble ( we don't punish him and put him in there, he's just comfortable there) and sleeps there at night voluntarily.

We got him after he was house trained and didn't have a crate at first. He would always try and jump on the bed or do what ever he could to get close to us when we were sleeping. We got the crate, showed it to him, made it comfortable and put some treats and toys inside and we haven't had a problem since.
posted by gus at 10:53 AM on February 11, 2005

My dog also sleeps under the covers with her head on the pillow...If I wanted her to sleep on the floor, the best way to do it would no doubt be to sleep on the floor myself.

Have you considered getting a bigger bed?
posted by duck at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2005

Our pup stays in a crate during the day but sleeps in our room at night. She's tethered on a leash - we wrap it around the leg of a chair. She does better at night when she's in the room with us, but this limits her movement to the area around her bed. After finally getting the kids out of our bed, we're not letting her in!
posted by SashaPT at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2005

« Older Shutting Down...   |   Email Etiquette Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.