Dog’s Eye View: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’
August 6, 2015
I thought I might hear from some of our readers when I wrote in a recent article (June 4, 2015) that our senior dog, Beretta, a whippet, slept under the covers in our bed. Some folks might say that this is bad or spoiled behavior and that dogs should never sleep in their owners' bed. I still hear this a lot when people are seeking help with their dogs' unwanted behavior.
My response to this relates to the nature of their dogs' behavior. I would probably say that if their pet dog is lying on their bed and growling at them or threatening them when they try to go to bed at night, then that's a problem. This dog should not have "owner's bed privileges." The word "privilege" is key. It's not a right. Any location, such as a couch, owner's bed or a special sleeping area, needs to work with the rest of the family.
In Beretta's case, there is no such inappropriate behavior. He's pretty easy-going, and he also has couch privileges. His "brother," Stuart, on the other hand, does not. Size is one factor here. Stuart weighs about 70 pounds. Additionally, he tends to initiate a behavior and run with it, and pretty soon, he's trying to run the show. This is not a problem for me. I arranged a lovely bed for him on the floor. He's content, and so am I. We've not created a problem where there doesn't need to be one.
There's a saying: "One man's drink is another man's poison." I believe this applies here. For some reason, folks tend to lump dog behavior into one basket, i.e. all dogs should do this or that and certain behaviors are taboo, no matter what.
I knew a dog that was allowed to sit in a chair at the dinner table. Is this encouraging dominant behavior over the owner? I don't think so. I think this person just enjoyed this particular way of relating to her dog.
Some of our very large breeds of dogs are taught to put their paws on their owner's shoulders. Have you seen this? It's pretty impressive. I can only think this is one of the most fun things these dogs are allowed to do. Why not? The dogs are usually encouraged to do this and are positively reinforced with lots of praise and hugs. If a dog is allowed to do this without being invited, I think he could knock a person down if they weren't prepared.
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A cousin of ours had a Russian wolfhound (Borzoi), "Anastasia," that was quite keen in the obedience ring. She was a very animated worker and scored very highly in competitions. At the completion of one of her performances, her owner clapped his hands and opened his arms. This sweet dog hurled her big Borzoi body into his arms. The look on her face was priceless. I can only say it was "doggy delight." Some grumpy observers were mortified upon witnessing this. Is this dog dangerous or out of control? No.
The very uniqueness and adaptability of our beloved canines allows for a myriad of interesting relationships. It's important to look at the whole picture when evaluating what we might think is "good or bad" behavior.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 25 years of experience. She can be reached at totalteamworktraining.com.
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