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Ask a Trainer Question Answered

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: July 5, 2012

Here’s the next round of answers for our Ask a Trainer feature on our website. It’s your chance to get dog training advice from the pros at AnimalSense. Stay tuned for more questions & answers, and if you have a burning dog training question, just “Ask a Trainer”!

I recently started living with my boyfriend and we have very different views on my dogs’ place in our home. I of course want them to sleep in bed with me. He thinks dogs are meant to live outdoors. Since we live in the city and not on a farm, he believes that the dogs should at least not be allowed into our bedroom at all. He’s shared articles with me on dominance and how animals come between couples. I would like to know how you feel about a pet’s place in the home, especially in the bedroom. I just want everyone to be happy, including me.

A study released last year shows that more than half of pet owners in the United States allow their pets to sleep in their beds. It’s an issue that divides households with feelings that run deep. Some pet parents would not have their pets sleep anywhere other than with them in bed. Then there are those who can’t imagine sharing the sheets with a furry, four-legged creature.

So, who’s right?

Well, neither. It’s all about figuring out what works best for your family. Dogs certainly don’t NEED to be in the bedroom or in your bed, but they certainly CAN be in the bedroom if they are well adjusted.

First, consider the medical side:

For years, medical studies have documented the clinical value of pets. They can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and decrease feelings of loneliness, while increasing opportunities for exercise and socialization. Sharing the bed with our pets may be a source of psychological comfort and amazing bonding time, but because pets can bring a wide range of pathogens into our environment, that sharing comes with some health risk.

Now, consider the dominance issue:

Dogs no longer live in canine packs anymore. So, us humans are their pack now. Dominance is not about who’s bigger or stronger. The dominant pack member (you and your boyfriend) controls access to space (in this case, the bed or bedroom), food and toys. So, leadership doesn’t really come into play here because by allowing the dogs into (or not into) the bedroom, you are controlling the resource. You also set the rules, boundaries and limitations.

Bottom line: it’s simply a matter of preference.

Perhaps a nice compromise could be having your dogs in crates or their own beds in the bedroom so that they are allowed to share your space but not your bed?

Whatever you decide, you need to be consistent, so the dogs know their boundaries. You can’t let the dogs sleep in the bedroom when your boyfriend is out of town and then expect them to understand their place when he returns and they have to sleep in the basement. It can actually create anxiety in dogs by letting them in the bedroom sometimes and then scolding them for being in the bedroom at other times.

Our philosophy at AnimalSense is that pets are your companions and we work to make life better together, as harmonious as possible. It’s about having a healthy, working relationship with your dog based on mutual trust and respect. If you have that, your relationship with your dogs should not be affected based on where they sleep. However, if you’ve noticed issues with the level of respect from your dogs, seek advice from a professional trainer. In this case, it’s not the bed or bedroom that’s the problem. That’s just a symptom of a more serious issue: an unhealthy relationship.

Now, as far as working out that compromise with your boyfriend… that might be better suited for Dr. Phil.

 


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