Letting a dog sleep on the bed can result in relinquishing the leader position in the “Leader / Follower” relationship. Canines are wired by nature to defer to the pack leader. Privileges of the leader are to eat first, best spot to sleep and mating rights. Subordinate dogs always seek higher office.
When you allow bed privileges you elevate him to a leader position, above the husband in this situation and the dog’s growling is an attempt to defend his new improved position. In this situation, never attempt to remove the doggie from the bed by your hands, bites can happen.
The solution is to attach a short (3-5 foot) “lead line” to the dog’s collar before he gets upon the bed. Have the husband approach the bed with some “high value” treats (small chicken , liver or hot dog pieces). Offer the treats, but only provide them when all four paws are on the floor. If needed use light tugs on the lead line. Do not pull the dog or drag him off the bed and provide the treats when dog is on the floor. Both members of the couple need to do this training to teach the dog that he/she sleeps on the floor or in a crate with manna from heaven (treats) making this condition “doggie heaven”. Everyone, especially the wife, in this situation must not provide any positive reinforcement, food, petting, verbal, toys or other stuff, if the dog is on the bed.
I can’t tell you how many times in my behaviorist career I have watched a client (human) shout “sit”, or “down” or “come” at their dog and the dog just stares at them. The client tells me the dog is stupid or un-trainable. I then take hold of the lead do some basic training and in a few minutes the dog’s butt reliably hits the ground each time I say “sit”. Do I have a special power? No. What I know is that dog’s don’t understand English, Spanish, Russian or any other human language. I don’t care if the dog is the smartest Boarder Collie, Rotti, Poodle, you pick your favorite brainy canine breed, they don’t understand. Dogs can associate a consistent sound as a cue to execute a specific behavior.
Many people believe dogs, especially their dog learn and understand language like children do. They believe if they keep saying something the dog will eventually understand it and do what is asked. No way! Think how you would feel if I kept shouting “Gremple” at you in an increasingly angry and irritated tone. You would feel anxious and frustrated. That is what your dog feels too and will do something to relieve the resulting stress. You can only expect your dog to perform a behavior by voice command once they have associated the sound of the command with the physical action. In another blog I will talk about how the chasm between verbal command and behavior is crossed. The thing to understand is dogs don’t understand language, they associate sound or visual signal with an action to get a reward. You can teach a dog all the behaviors you want with a whistle, clicker or anything that makes sound. Actually, you don’t even need sound, it can be done with visual signals, again content for another blog.
Let me conclude this blog with an example story. I went to a client’s home for a consult. The man said his dog would not learn commands. After a bit of small talk I asked him to show me what he does to get the dog to do something. He went to the sliding glass door and shouted “come” to the dog in the backyard. The dog started to excitedly run around the yard. The man yelled “come, come, come”, again and again louder and louder. He said “see what I mean.” The man then went out the door and chased the dog. Finally he dragged the dog in and said, “see my dog is stupid.” I told him I disagree and the dog is a genius and learned “come” perfectly. It’s just that “come” means play the game chase me around the yard. In just a few minutes I showed the owner how to get the dog to come to him on command. Since the dog already associated “come” with play, we used a different command.
A common issue I have been asked to help dog owners with is a dog growling and or snaping at them or other human family members if they go near the dog’s food bowl when it is eating
Aggression like this is known as “resource guarding”, typically associated with toys and food. The solution to this problem is to establish the leader / follower relationship between the person and their dog.
How can this be done safely? I recommend the following:
- Tie a long string around the bowl and extended the string across the room.
- Fill the bowl normally and let the dog start eating
- Walk across the room
- Pull the string so the bowl moves 6-8 inches toward you
- Throw a bunch of “high value” treats (small chicken, liver, hot dogs pieces…) near the dog and in a high pitch voice say “Good dog”. The dog will stop eating from the bowl and eat the treats.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 every time you feed the dog, however each time increase the amount you pull the bowl toward you by 6 to 8 inches, so on feeding #2 it is 12 to 16 inches, feeding #3 it is 18 to 24 inches, each time including the “rain of treats”
- Continue this process until the bowl is at your feet without any aggression during feeding.
- If the dog shows any signs of aggression go back to the distance where there is no aggression for a few feedings and then try bringing the bowl closer.
- Once the dog is eating at your feet throw some treats about 4 to 6 feet away and when the dog leaves the bowl with food to get the treats, pick up the bowl. When the dog comes back to resume eating from the bowl, put it down and let him/her resume eating.
- Work to the point that you can do the treat-throw, pick up bowl and give the bowl back several times during the feeding.
- The final stage is to walk up to the dog while feeding and pick up the bowl without aggression.
Congratulate yourself for using Progressive Successive Approximation behavior shaping. If you use this process, decrease the amount of food in the bowl to accommodate the extra treats as not to overfeed the dog.