We have a rule in our house: no dogs on the couch.
So, why am I vacuuming dog hair off the furniture?
As you can see in the photo above, Maximus (all 105 pounds of him) feels quite comfortable on the couch and especially enjoys resting his big head on a pillow. This does not look like a “No Dogs on the Couch” house. At all.
With our first dogs, we made it through about three years of keeping the them off the couches. Letting small dogs on the furniture was one thing, but we were proud owners of two female German Shepherds, Sasha and Marta, and we didn’t plan on fighting them for couch space or constantly lintbrushing dog fur off our clothes.
And then the June midwestern thunderstorms rolled in and Marta, age 1, started shaking.
She whined, she cried, she hid under our legs, she drooled . . . she jumped on the couch beside us. She panted, wimpered, and lay her trembling little head on my lap and, well, seriously, how was I supposed to keep her off the couch then? She needed me. Anyone could see that. So Marta was allowed on the furniture only during thunderstorms.
That worked for a while.
Then we started finding Marta on one particular chair in the family room at nonthunderstorm moments. And then on one particular loveseat in the living room any old time she pleased. At first we told her to get down each time, but the distinction between when she could and when she couldn’t be on the furniture was lost on Marta. Or perhaps she just didn’t care.
Before we knew it, Marta had her own furniture.
After Sasha passed away and we added Eva and then two of her puppies, Max and Nastia, plus one year later, Lilija–we maintained the “Marta is the only dog allowed on the furniture” rule quite successfully.
I mean, someone or other might pop up on the couch or loveseat from time to time, just to see if they, too, could come to claim their own furniture. But since we always chased the other dogs down, they learned that furniture status applied only to Marta, the old girl.
Then Max started hopping up on the couch next to my husband. “Male bonding,” John called it. And instead of chasing Max off immediately, John pet him and talked to him and let him fall asleep . . .
What happened to our rule?
“Well,” John explained, “Maximus is the alpha male: this his house. If anyone is allowed on the furniture, it should be him.”
“But NO DOG other than Marta is allowed on the furniture!” I reminded him.
“Explain that to Max,” John chided.
So now, Max knows that he is welcome to the furniture as long as I do not see him. As soon as we make eye contact, I point at him and make a little half circle movement with my finger and he knows that means: get down.
Which is why he tries to avoid making eye contact with me when he’s on the furniture. In the picture above, he is actually looking down at my feet to see if I’ve left the room. Nope, Maximus, I’m still here, and you are getting off the couch.
Observing this new phenomenon of a nonMarta dog on the furniture, the other dogs have started to try their luck. Why not? Both Marta and Max seem to have scored furniture.
So the battle for control of furniture ensues between me, the alpha human female, and Maximus, the alpha German Shepherd male. In the meantime, I’ve bought more lintbrushes.
What rule does your dog disagree with? Are you trying to reestablish that boundary or have you let it go?