Spoiling My Dog

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Have you ever sheepishly admitted to spoiling your dog? Maybe you wonder if it's okay to spoil your dog?

  • "He sleeps in the bed with me..."
  • "He gets two cookies right before bed..."
  • "We let him on the furniture..."
  • "I feed dry kibble and wet food combined..."
  • "She licks our plates clean before we put them in the dishwasher..."

I've heard these confessions several times, but you know how I respond? "Hey! It's your house and your dog. You decide what you want to allow."

As a professional dog trainer, I don't actually have a problem with a lot of the things people sheepishly admit to letting their dog do.** Instead, I counsel folks to make the decision that's best for them while keeping a couple guidelines in mind:

1) Invite only is preferred. This applies to several behaviors, but jumping is a great example. I actually don't mind if you want your dog to jump up to greet you. Go for it! However, I do recommend that you make it an invited behavior rather than allow the dog to jump by default. Default jumping doesn't seem to like a problem until your wife is 9 months pregnant or your 95 year old grandfather is visiting. Better to have the dog default to four on the floor and then jump when invited (and walking into the house doesn't count as an invitation).

2) Consider the beauty of options. We often get focused on the here and now with our dogs and lose sight of the unpredictable future. Ensuring you have plenty of options comes in handy and keeps the household stress to a minimum.
Letting the dog sleep in bed with you is a great example. In the majority of cases, there's nothing inherently wrong with your dog sleeping in your bed. I don't like dogs in my bed, but that doesn't mean you can't have dogs in your bed.
However, it is smart to make sure that your dogs are comfortable sleeping in multiple locations with and without you. What happens if you get sick and have to spend a week in the hospital? Or if you have a knee surgery and can't have 60lb Rover sprawled out next to and across you?
Better to give yourself a little "insurance" and let him practice sleeping crated every once in a while.

PRO TIP: those "spoiling" activities can actually work really well as Life-Rewards for your dog! Ask for a behavior he knows really well (like Down or Touch) and the reward him by inviting him onto the bed, feeding a small piece of dog-safe human food, or letting him pick a new toy from your pet store haul.

**I generally put behavior into one of three groups: good, bad, and grey-area. Sometimes people are feeling guilty about a grey-area behavior that really isn't an issue, and sometimes they're oblivious to a bad behavior that needs to be addressed ASAP. Out of concern for the entire family's well-being, I will speak up in those instances and communicate the need for change.