Sharing Your Bed With Your Dog
Q: My Chihuahua/Miniature Pinscher-cross rescue dog insists on sleeping with us under the blankets. All is well as long as no one moves, but if so, she growls and snaps at whatever she can reach. So far she’s nipped my ankle, calf, knee, and bum! We’ve tried her in a crate—she simply can’t handle it; tried her in another room—she barks and screams and our tenant doesn’t appreciate that. She has many beds, a sheepskin, a basket—you name it. Any suggestions are welcomed.— Sleepless in Seattle
Your Chi/Min Pin is exhibiting territorialism over your bed, and that’s not good. Growls, snaps, and barks are basically telling you to get lost. This behaviour spells entitlement, which equals a big fat misunderstanding! It sounds like a little therapy is in order. She needs to learn how to self-soothe and never growl, while you need to establish her area, not the other way around.
Try a corral and crate concept to help re-establish boundaries within your home and give your dog a safe place to snuggle. This new routine can psychologically help your dog to re-adjust her behaviours and will help you to reclaim your bed. Training can refer to many things but primarily it’s about establishing a routine and giving your dog direction on a leash, which creates eye contact and the drive to please you.
The first step in this type of doggie therapy is to go back to “puppy concepts” and to create a den (that you choose) and teach her to self-soothe. Sounds like she missed that step somewhere in her puppyhood!
There are three key steps to successfully use a corral/crate therapy for an adult rescued dog. First, initiate the process while you’re home (always exercise your pup beforehand) and give your dog a bone to chew so that she thinks of it as her bone-chewing area. Always begin with small increments of time in a room that you spend a lot of time in so she gets used to you being there too. Maybe use a weekend to start, giving you plenty of time to implement.
Use the leash to get her in and out of the corralled area. The leash is an important tool for addressing this issue. It allows you to guide your dog in a loving way yet stops you from coaxing or begging. Use the word “wait” to indicate a “hang out” time in this area. Don’t forget to praise and remember to be nice—it’s not a punishment, just a new place to enjoy a chew bone.
The crate is an important tool too, so put it within the corral space. Leave the door of the crate open, so she can go in and out on her own. If you have a wire crate, cover the top and add a comfy blanket to create a cozy environment. After a week of short, successful periods of time spent hanging out in her space, move the corral and crate into your bedroom, so she can see you yet not be in your bed with you. It may take a few weeks of this new ritual before she gets used to this new process but ultimately she will feel safe going into her crate. After some time, you may not need to corral or crate and can replace them with a dog bed. Sweet dreams!
Inger Martens is a celebrity dog trainer and behavioral expert. An author, television and radio personality, she has been dubbed “Best Dog Trainer in LA” by Los Angeles magazine. She is currently excited to announce her new online resource for dog owners, pawsforaminute.com.