Monday, January 10, 2011

Great Debates: Allowing Dogs on the Furniture

TJ asked me this weekend - "When should we stop letting the foster puppy on the couch?"  It's a question we had to cover ourselves with Maggie back in the day.  And I honestly don't remember when exactly we stopped allowing her to cuddle on the couch with us but I'm pretty sure it happened when she both started demanding to be allowed up and was able to jump up herself.

When puppies are tiny babies, they often end up snuggled on your chest as you try to get just a few more winks in before starting your day.  After all, you've been up all night with them, right? Which turns into the puppy being lifted onto your lap every time its activity level starts to wind down and is ready for a nap.  Pretty soon, the puppy starts demanding to be allowed up.  This happened in my house this morning.  I was checking email, FB, the usual morning routine.  Gena hasn't figured out how to jump up on the couch yet so she placed her front paws up and barked.  And barked.  And bark-growled.  And barked again.  I think it's time to stop allowing the puppy on the couch, TJ.

To let the dogs up on the furniture or not?  It's a question that each new pet parent has to ask themselves and one for which there are two distinctly strong opinions in my own home.  For several years, I agreed to my husband's no dogs on the furniture rule.  I occasionally broke said rule, much to the consternation of my husband.  You are causing behavior issues with them, confusing them.  To which I replied, It gives us the opportunity for more advanced training.  Teaching them to ask permission, which pieces of furniture are strictly off-limits and which they can ask to come up.  Allows us to utilize cuddling with us on the furniture as a reward.  But when Maggie's incontinence problem started to rear its ugly head, keeping them off the furniture was a necessity.  So for several years, they were only occasionally allowed up on the bed for a quick nap.  I never allowed Maggie to be up for very long due to her pee issues.  But now that those medical issues are firmly under control and accidents are but a memory of the past, we are back to having differing positions on the issue of our girls and our furniture. 

Bottom line?  This is a personal decision for any doggie parent.  There's no right answer and used properly, can strengthen bonds and become an avenue for training and reward (in my opinion).  I will respect TJ's position when it comes to the couch...which I must admit I did break with the fosters - at 3am, it was nice to have Maggie agree to amuse the puppy and give me some sleep if I allowed them to cuddle & play on the couch.  She is very talented at this type of negotiation.  But when I'm blog-writing in bed, watching a movie or TJ is out of town, the dogs may be allowed up on the bed with me.  The key here is that it's not an always.  Generally, if he's out of town for a couple days, I'll allow them to sleep with me some of the nights but not all.  When they start to demand it or Sadie "misunderstands" me talking to her as permission to jump aboard, they get the reward less often.  I make them sit politely before asking them to come up.  In the event that they jump up without my permission, I make them get off immediately.  Sometimes, I allow access after proper permission-seeking behavior.  Sometimes, I tell them to go lay down on their own beds.  I hope to someday convince TJ that it won't be the end of the world, the beginning of major behavior issues and the destruction of all of our belongings to allow them this reward.   But I have a feeling this is an area where we will continue to agree to disagree and compromise somewhere in the middle...no couch...sometimes, and sparingly, bed access. 

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