Dog Sleeping in the Bed

Posted by kjd
Dec 27, 2009
Is the dog that sleeps in the owner's bed leader of the pack? The dominant dog? Most experts seem to assume this as fact. Having a problem with your dog? Get him out of the bed. Want Dog A to be dominant. Then let Dog A in your bed and keep Dog B out.

I think this theory, like many, depends.

Loki was a very dominant unspayed GSD female. She wouldn't sleep on my bed but prefered a round pillow of her own. Halla was a very submissive spayed GSD female. Loki was already about 8 when Halla (one) came to live with us. There was never any question as to ranking between the two. However, Halla had one bad habit. She chewed everything she found on the floor, especially at night when we were in bed. All my shoes were ending up with one piece taken out of them. Realizing that nobody but me would see a hole in the sheet and everyone would see the hole in my shoe, I had Halla sleep in the bed with me. She would lean off the bed, in Loki's face: "Nyah! Nyah! I get to sleep on the bed and you don't!" But Loki was still the dominant one.

Two years later, when Loki had to be put down for cancer, Halla refused to return to the bed: "That's for puppies and I'm now an adult!" (She also stopped chewing inappropriate objects.)

Of course, neither dog had read the right books. That may be why they never realized Halla became dominant once she started sleeping on the bed.

[At this time, I knew nothing about "making" a dog the dominant one. I petted the dogs in the order they reached me. They left the house first so I could shut and lock the door. I believed you fed your animals first and did so. Still, they never questioned who was leader. :eek:I stopped an un-neutered male from mounting an in-season female with a sharp "No!"]
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 28, 2009
Hi kjd,

I have been very interested in relationship between dogs (which people sometimes call "pack order" or "ranking") and dogs and cats as well.

I personally don't think "the dog that sleeps in the owner's bed is necessarily leader of the pack". If fact some dogs like to sleep on his/her own bed rather than in the owner's bed. It all means that a certain dog has an acess to something he wants while others don't, and it becomes his privilege. If a dog is given a privilege, you can give somewhat more power to that dog over the others. However, I still don't think that by itself can sort the pack order when the dogs live with humans in a human household.

I don't think dogs and cats that live with humans need to have a clear hierarchy like wild dogs or wolves. There are many reasons but the major reason is that they are fed by people so they don't need to scavenge for food, neither they need to protect themselves from their enemies.

However, each dog has different personality and you can label one "dominant" and other "submissive", etc.

Among my three dogs, it is obvious that Holly is the most dominant one. It is not because she bosses the other 2 dogs around, or she snaches the other dogs toys or food away. In fact, she is the opposite: she lets her younger brother and sister take her toys away and let them attack her (the younger two play attack Holly from front and back and she handles both of them!). The reason I call Holly dominant is because:

1) Even though she is a spayed female dog, she marks alot on walks
2) She is very calm when she sees other dogs
3) She has earned our trust the most (she has been with us for over 5 yrs) and the other two dogs look up on her (with help of us giving Holly privileges that the other two don't have)

Holly is so smart that she doesn't like to get too close to puppies or kittens because she doesn't want to get in trouble by hurting them inadvertently. She doesn't show any dominance to Noah and Daisy (our other dogs), Oliver (our adult cat), and Lilly and Belize (our foster kittens). However, when Noah got attacked by Molly (one of our former foster dogs), she was the one that ran to Molly and grabbed her neck down to protect Noah but without drawing any blood.

I hope other people will join this discussion because my opinion is only based on my observations and experiences with my own dogs and foster dogs/cats so it can be biased.
Posted by kjd
Dec 28, 2009
Did Holly ever have a bad experience with puppies or kittens? My first GSD, Freya, once took a cookie from a small cousin. You can imagine him balanced with both arms out, the cookie in one outstretched hand. She thought it was for her and was mortified when he began to cry. Although nobody scolded her, she stayed well away from little children after that. I remember these two huge men who came to the front door. Freya started barking furiously at them. Then this tiny little girl came out from behind one of their boots. Freya promptly disappeared behind the couch and wouldn't come out until the little girl was gone.

My most dominant dog was Thor. He never turned a hair around aggressive dogs. When one attacked him, on his way into the car, he completely ignored it.

Loki's dominance was more outspoken. She would put down other dogs in their own homes, which I found rather strange. My youngest brother had a female, never leashed, who used to charge barking at her, then quickly hide behind my brother. One Christmas, she was loose in my mother's house. I came to the house and, not realizing the other dog was there, let Loki loose inside. Ten seconds later, the other dog was across the living room, on her back in front of the couch, screaming bloody murder, with Loki on top of her. She never got near Loki again! (My mother and I both found it amusing. Obviously, had Loki wanted to hurt her, she could have done so before we could have stopped it, so she was in no danger. But my brother had been boasting to our mother about how brave his dog was and how she attacked GSDs.)

I also hope others jump in. My answers on this forum are usually based on my experiences.