I get asked a lot by clients “Should I let my puppy do Y?”. And my answer is always along the lines of “How do you feel about your puppy doing Y?”
For example, let’s take sleeping arrangements. “Should I let my puppy sleep in my bed?”. Dog Trainers seem to have gotten a bit of a reputation for saying that this is a terrible thing to do. I think it’s because so many TV programmes on the subject have shown trainers teaching owners how to get their dog out of the bed. However, because it’s TV and there’s only so much they can put into the allotted time, they don’t show the trainer establishing that the dog being in the bed is actually a problem.
And that’s what it comes down to. Is this a problem for you? Do you want it to stop? It’s not my, or any other dog trainer’s, job to tell you how to live your life with your dog. And if any dog trainer tries to do this, politely show them the door.
There are only a few Shoulds when it comes to your dog that you need to concern yourself with:
Dogs, like us, have certain basic needs which include food, water, sleep and shelter. You Should feed your dog, you Should give your dog access to fresh drinking water etc. These are some very fundamental Shoulds. And I would assume that anyone reading this is already fulfilling these needs.
The aforementioned basic needs are also covered by law – in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it states that dogs have a need for a suitable environment, a suitable diet, to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns and to be protected from pain, suffering injury and disease.
Then we have things like; you Should pick up your dog’s poop and dispose of it appropriately, you Should microchip your dog, you Should have the relevant contact info on a tag on your dog’s collar or harness, you Should only let your dog off the lead if you can keep them under a control etc.
Beyond these, as long as no one is getting hurt, it’s up to you.
My job, and any other dog trainer’s is to establish what YOU want, and in the case of puppies, get you to think ahead as to what you’ll want when the pup’s older. For example, having a Great Dane puppy sit on the sofa with you is one thing, having the adult do so may be another, and if that’s the case, let’s establish boundaries early. And it’s our job to help you achieve these things. We’re not there to judge you, or to push our views or anyone else’s onto you. If you want your dog to sleep in the bed with you, do it. It doesn’t matter what your mum, your best mate or your annoying work colleague with the ‘perfect’ dog thinks.
What you might want to consider, is having a cue word to ask your dog to get down off of the sofa, for example, or to teach your dog to wait for permission before jumping up. Because although it doesn’t matter what your mum thinks while you’re in your own home, if you’re visiting her, you may need to abide by her rules.
So when you ask me, “Should I allow my dog to X”, if it’s not illegal, immoral or causing harm, and you want them to to, then fuck yes. It’s your life together.