Do you have a spouse who says, “No dogs on the bed?” I used to. Don’t worry, we’re still married. But (to use some training jargon!) I was able to desensitize him to it.
Full confession, I was actually the one who started this. When we bought our first house I implemented a new rule: “No dogs on the furniture.” This actually worked out well for my Lucy, who frequently flailed in an arthritic disaster when attempting to jump on or off the furniture. But for my dog Beamer, this was a nightmare (a story I will tell at another time).
My decision wasn’t based on preserving my old dog’s joints – although this was an added benefit. It was out of sheer laziness. I was sick of vacuuming the sofas every week. You see, I’m allergic to dogs. Dog fur on everything generally makes me more sick, more often. But I’ve lived with dogs my whole life and managed. No, the real reason was I did not want to be the one vacuuming the sofa all the time.
There was also a little vanity in there. We were saving up to buy our lovely, custom furniture. Though we bought the extra protection plan, I didn’t want anything to happen to our latest investment. Looking back, I feel like an a**hole for abruptly changing my old dogs’ lives this way.
Flash forward a few years and the hubs had grown pretty accustomed to this house rule. When I brought the new puppy home though, I had a case of the guilty itches. I didn’t want this dog – or any future dogs – banned from the furniture. Sure, there was an orthopedic foam bed for the four-legged nugget in every, single, room. I’m talking, kitchen, bedroom, offices, etc. But dog is family. And by gosh, family sits on the furniture.
Besides, where was I going to cuddle the snuggle-pup? Surely, not on a dog bed. I’m allergic! And who would keep me company in my oversized bed when the hubs is away on business? Dog is the only appropriate response here.
So, this is how I changed our house rules and how I got the hubby to like them… I started letting the dog on the furniture ONLY if she was on a blanket. Sure, there were times I was the blanket. Ryan would look at me and say “No dogs on the furniture, eh?”
“She’s not on the furniture. She’s on me.” I’d quip. He’d eye roll and walk away.
She started sleeping on the bed while he was away, neatly situated on top of a sheet to cover our precious bedding. I taught the pup a cue for jumping off furniture – “Floor.” This came in handy the few times she jumped up without being invited. That’s when I could see the veins in Ryan’s forehead start to bulge. But I’d kindly ask “Floor!” And the smart puppy complied.
One night while we were eating dinner out, Ryan blurted out his pent up frustration. The puppy had been home for months. And he was finally telling me what he really felt about the dog on the furniture. He hated it.
I listened quietly as he unloaded. They taught me this in sales (and oddly enough in marriage counseling, too). I listened for his underlying concerns. He was talking about the dog on the furniture, but what really got under his skin were my actions – not the dogs. Changing the rules without asking him made him feel like I didn’t care about his emotions or opinions. Like I’d made some sweeping decision that impacted both of us without taking him into consideration. Fair enough. I’d be just as peeved if the tables were turned.
So, I apologized. And then I compromised. I said, “if this really upsets you so much, then we will teach the puppy she longer has access to the furniture.” He was silent, so I continued. “But we have to be consistent.” I paused again for effect. “We both have to be consistent. Neither of us can invite her on the furniture anymore.” He looked around and then nodded his head.
Two days later I found this under Ryan’s jacket *on our beloved sofa!* when I came home from work.
I called out to Ryan some version of a “What tha hell?” He smiled coyly as he shrugged it off. “She tucked herself in like that,” he insisted. Jokes on mom. Dad actually doesn’t mind the dog on the furniture anymore.
You see, the reason I emphasized “consistency” when I made my peace offering is because as a dog trainer, I know that consistency is a huge piece of the learning puzzle. But also, I had flashes in my head of all the times I’d caught Ryan inviting the dog on the couch. Heck, sometimes he was the one snuggling her on the sofa! And I suppose that was the straw that broke the camel’s resolve on this one. He enjoyed snuggling her too much to go back to the way things were.
If you live with a spouse who says, “No dogs on the bed,” you have your work cut out for you. I was once that spouse. Had Ryan tried to do what I did to him in this situation, I would have fought him on it. Unless he offered to vacuum the furniture every now and then. We all have our reasons for wanting to keep the dogs off the furniture. I used to think dogs on the furniture meant you are competing for alpha status – How stupid! But having walked in both sets of shoes, I can attest that (even being allergic to dogs) life is better with dogs on the bed.