Why does my dog steal my spot on the couch?
How to teach your dog not to steal your spot
Your dog can be a loving companion that you share your life with. Unfortunately, sometimes they just get a little too attached to your couch, or the blanket you let them sleep on, and then they get it in their mind that they should be sleeping next to you all of the time.
So, we're going to talk about how you can teach your dog to stand on his own, and learn not to take over your life and your couch.
The first step to teaching your dog not to take over your life is to understand that it is a serious problem if your dog is stealing your spot on your couch, or anywhere else. If you're like most people, you've already gotten your dog into their own bed, or even on the floor and are having a lot of trouble trying to get them to stand up for themselves and sleep in another spot.
So, what do you do?
The first thing you do is establish the rules. This is something you need to make very clear in advance. You need to lay out the rules in an orderly manner, and your dog needs to understand that he's not in charge. If you're like many people, you love having a close relationship with your dog. Having rules for sleeping or eating is something that you need to communicate to your dog in advance.
Make it clear and simple to your dog that stealing your spot on your couch or eating in the house, is not acceptable.
The second step is to make sure that your dog has some boundaries. What if your dog snatches your favorite blanket and takes it with him or her when they run off? What if they have a favorite toy that they hide? How are you going to react? How much is too much? That's the only thing you have to worry about at first.
It's important to set the limits right the first time. What if your dog starts snatching toys and treats in front of you? It's hard to know where to draw the line, and you need to make sure you know exactly what your dog is doing and how you are going to react. After the first time, you know your dog's behavior better, and you can be more deliberate when you set the rules in the future.
In some cases, the problem is simply due to being too accommodating. It may not be a matter of too much attention, but more about your dog being spoiled.
I was asked to work with a German Shepherd puppy and a rescue, when the puppy was about a month old. He was being a great puppy and seemed to be getting along well with his "rescuer." When he was about six months old, I began to notice that he didn't seem as interested in playing. My first thought was that it was probably because he didn't like other dogs. I decided to have a go at training him to play with a tennis ball. He'd jump up on my knee when I threw the ball, sit on his hind legs and then bring it up to his mouth, ready to grab it, only to then lose interest and drop it. He was just too interested in food and other things to really pay attention to the ball. After a while, I noticed that he'd actually become more excited and attentive when the ball came into the house. It was clear that when a dog is trained to play, he really enjoys it. The problem was that when he had other things to do, he dropped the ball. He didn't understand why he had to pay attention to play or he'd stop playing.
I got rid of the tennis ball, but his dog-napping problem wasn't solved. It was clear that the only time he really paid attention to the ball was when he had to bring it into the house. If he had a ball to play with at home, he wouldn't play. He'd play around the house but when there were no balls to play with, he didn't really want to play. But when I put the balls into the house, he'd pick them up, throw them on the floor and then come up to me, panting with his tongue hanging out, hoping I'd pick up the balls and throw them again.
It wasn't until I'd been training him for about four months that I realized what I'd been doing. It wasn't training to play, it was training to get balls in the house. Now I wasn't going to throw balls out, but I was going to give him time to come up to me and ask for the balls. When he did, I gave him one, and then I threw the rest out. But I didn't play with him, because I didn't think it would be right to play with him if he'd been training me to get the balls.
Training a dog to beg for food is a little different than training him to beg for attention. I'd learned that he needed to learn to beg on his own, and now I'd learned that I didn't need to keep rewarding his begging. At the same time, I also thought it was important for him to learn how to play, because I felt it would have been better for him to learn to enjoy the game on his own than to learn how to play by begging for attention.
It took four months, but eventually I got him to the point where he'd come to me and ask for the ball, and I'd give him one. But I still didn't give him any attention, and he'd sit at my feet and wait until I came home, when he'd ask for a ball. At this point, I'd throw the balls into the house, because he could handle that situation and be on his way. But I hadn't given him any attention, and he knew that he needed my attention before I'd give him a ball.
But there was something about what he did that I didn't like. If he didn't get the ball from me, he'd start running back and forth at the house—and barking at the door—until he got the ball. At this point I'd have to chase him with the ball, which isn't what he was trained to do. After a little while, I'd drop the ball and he'd come in and drop his head and look up at me. At this point I'd toss him a ball and walk away. I couldn't believe I had to do this every time.
I'd ask him, "Do you have to be this way?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you have to chase me?"
"No, that's not what I want to do."
"It seems like you do a lot of what you don't want to do."
What he was doing was instinctive. He was just doing it because he thought that he had to. It was just a reflex that was learned over many years of doing this. He really wasn't that interested in getting the ball. He just thought that I would toss the ball to him. He'd just do whatever he felt like, without a thought that I'd throw the ball.
Of course, he's an intelligent dog, and he figured out the game fairly quickly. He also knew where the back door was, and he'd know if he couldn't get the ball, then he'd use the back door instead. It was more important to him to get out than to do what he'd be trained to do.
I realized that I was going through a change of behavior because I wanted a different kind of dog than I'd bought before. I wanted a dog that was more of a gentleman. So I went through a series of