Some dogs and owners share a bed — but should they? Ben Randall shares his wisdom on how to make it work.
Of all the questions that I get asked as a dog trainer, probably the most common is this: ‘Should I allow my dog to sleep on or in my bed?’
My personal view is that if a dog is invited into an area — such as your own bedroom or bed — by the owner, then that is the owner’s choice or prerogative. Basically, if you want to, it’s your call.
This is exactly the dilemma being faced by S.L. from Somerset, who has written to us via email@example.com to ask whether or not he should allow his eight-month-old fox red labrador up on the bed at night:
Dear Ben, I have recently acquired a young, beautifully trained fox red labrador, who I hope to work as a gundog next season, but I am unsure if I should let him sleep on our bed? In the past, I’ve been quite traditional and kept my working dogs outside in a kennel. But, in recent years, my wife and I have enjoyed having our labradors in the house with us. So far, we let them on the sofa, but would our own bed be a step too far?
Will allowing your dog to sleep on your bed affect his training? In my opinion, no. Many of my gundogs — including my late dog, Fatty, with whom I won back-to-back Cocker Championships, and many other Field Trial Champions — often spend time in the lounge by the log burner with me.
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As my motto is ‘BG always training’, you won’t be surprised to learn that I see all interaction with your dog — whether that be in the house or out in the field — as an opportunity to do some training, even if it might look a little unconventional. I believe that, if a dog is with you for long periods of the day, there’s always time to train and strengthen your bond and partnership and that’s far more beneficial than them being stuck in a utility room or kennel for hours on end.
I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years and understand that even experienced dog owners come up against issues that they are not sure how to handle. However, with a little common sense and patience, it’s possible to train your dog to work well in the field, as well as being calm and happy around the house. You can learn more via @beggarbush on Instagram and my dog-training app (this link will let you get a free trial) or ask me your own question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, in essence, I think it’s totally fine for you to allow your young labrador to sleep on the bed, if that’s what you and your wife are comfortable with, but it is important to follow these guidelines.
Ben’s three top tips for allowing your dog to sleep on your own bed
1. Establish a routine in the lounge first
My dogs are often allowed on the sofa, but in most circumstances — and I say most, because they are sometimes naughty — they wait to be invited up onto the sofa with me and my family when we are in the lounge and they are in a relaxed and settled mindset.
However, I must stress that I would not allow my own personal dogs to do this if I did not trust them not to chew, damage or scratch the furniture. As it is, if we’re not in the lounge with them, Nell, Tweed and Roe do like to pull the throws off the sofa and snuggle up on them on the floor, but I think that’s OK, even if it looks messy!
Nonetheless, I strongly believe that it’s important to supervise your dogs as much as possible when they’re in rooms away from the kitchen and you can’t keep your eye on them. So, to begin with, I always recommend that, when the dog leaves the utility room, kitchen or his or her bed area, they are supervised until such time that they can be trusted on their own.
Remember that, with all my training, I like to break things down and introduce things gradually. Initially, therefore, my dogs would be on their own beds in the lounge area and then invited, as above, onto the sofa when I feel it’s appropriate.
2. Don’t invite them upstairs until they’re perfectly behaved in the lounge
Once you’ve established the ground rules for the lounge and you’re still keen for your dog to sleep in your bedroom, start to adopt the same routines in that space, too.
To begin with, I’d allow my dog supervised access up the stairs, then ask him or her to sleep on their own dog bed in the bedroom. As previously explained, if you wish your dog to sleep on the bed, that’s your choice. But I always suggest that it is done in a calm and relaxed way and that you give a command rather than just letting them jump on the bed whenever they fancy it.
3. Make sure they don’t have access to anything dangerous
When a dog is downstairs with you — whether that be in the utility, kitchen or lounge — for a high percentage of the time, you would normally be able to keep an eye on them and make sure that they’re not getting up to any trouble.
However, if your dog is allowed upstairs on its own, I’d always be concerned that he or she could potentially get hold of things that they shouldn’t — such as tablets, cleaning products or anything you’ve left in the bathroom or bedroom bin, which they could chew, swallow or even be poisoned by. So, be mindful of that and dog-proof the room by moving anything that’s potentially dangerous — including any socks that might be drying on a radiator — up out of their reach, so that they can’t get their paws on anything that might hurt them.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk
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