Affection Can’t Hurt

24

This is a guest blog post that touched us deeply. Its author, Jenny Efimova, KPA CTP, is the founder and owner of Dogminded. Efimova offers private dog training in and around Boston, Massachusetts, as well as virtual training for puppies and dogs and their humans. One of her mottoes: “How we teach dogs matters as much as what we teach them.”

Yesterday I shared a few stories on my Instagram page about the false belief that showing our dogs affection and allowing them on the couch or bed may cause behavior problems, including separation anxiety. Since then I’ve received *dozens* of messages from people expressing relief and gratitude and sharing how guilty they have been made to feel for treating their dogs with basic compassion and kindness.

This is heartbreaking and I want to reiterate a few things: One, dogs are social animals who have uniquely evolved to live with and alongside us. Social contact is a *basic need*. They seek comfy places next to their humans for no other reason than that they like comfy places next to their humans.

Not allowing your dog on furniture, ignoring your dog, or rationing how you show your dog affection does not provide “structure” or help resolve behavior issues. This is magical thinking, something that we compensate with when we lack adequate education and skillset to address behavior issues with science and evidence-based interventions. And in the year 2020 it does not have a legitimate place in the world of dog training and behavior.

It’s also abject cruelty and ignorance to advise people to withhold attention, affection, and comfort from their dogs who are already suffering. Separation anxiety, for one, is a disorder not something that results from too many cuddles or access to the couch.

Blaming people for their dogs’ behavior problems they did nothing to cause is especially egregious and has to stop. People don’t deserve to carry this guilt, nor should they be made to shun their dogs and treat them in ways that are contrary to the very reasons we bring dogs into our lives.

Dog training is an unregulated industry and the information you find is not created equal. So please beware of advice from self-proclaimed experts on social media, vet your sources, and follow your instincts when something feels wrong.

I’ve been there and if you have too, you know exactly the feeling I’m talking about. It’s the sense of moving through your own discomfort because a “professional” told you so. I know we can do better than this. Our dogs deserve better.

Jenny Efimova can be reached through her business website: https://www.dogmindedboston.com/

24 COMMENTS

  1. Great advice! The opinion of someone who doesnt believe that other species (other nations) dont have the same need for affection & closeness to someone they love as humans? Really old fashioned is the kindest way I could put it! And cruel!

  2. We have a new puppy and we have had puppies before but I guess forget they bite every thing. Doing pretty good on potty but the main thing now is biting! She has toys but bites ! I’d love a way to stop this. Like I said have had puppies before.

  3. While I agree with dogs on beds and couches, I have a multi-dog household a specific dog that cannot handle all the love, he is super jealous and we have found when allowing him to be on bed and couches this behavior increases . So I think there are certain circumstances this is fine for and others need to be a case by case basis

  4. My father had a German short haired pointer he used to hunt MAYBE 2 times a year. He had the poor thing on a 3 foot chain in a doghouse in the corner of our backyard. I use to sneak out and pet and love on the dog and when he caught me, I would get my “butt tanned” bcuz he said I would “ruin the dog” and he wouldn’t hunt anymore!! I’m glad now I endured the punishment for the sake of one of God’s greatest gifts…..the love of our dogs! Always have believed they need and deserve our love. Thank you for this article. God bless you!
    LaDonna Whiteside

    • In the bad old days when people used to keep dogs outside on chains (60’s) my neighbors had a lovely Weimaraner, Dusty, also a hunting dog. Fortunately his chain was on a long overhead slider, and they welcomed my 2 sisters and I who were dog crazy kids with no dog of our own, and let us pet Dusty, who was a sweetie, whenever we wanted to.

  5. I don’t allow my dogs on the sofa or my bed because there wouldn’t be enough room for me. However, I do shower them with affection because we all would like to know that the people in our lives think we are wonderful and so it is with dogs. They deserve it.

  6. My dogs are allowed everywhere except in the cats’ safe room.
    We have bought appropriately sturdy and spacious furniture and most of the dogs prefer to sprawl on their comfy dog beds or the cool tile floor.
    Every one of them will want to snuggle on the couch occasionally.
    Nota huge deal in our house..

  7. What do you mean by rationing affection/ ignoring the dog doesn’t help separation anxiety? I believe that only showing the dog affection while they’re showing desirable behavior is a valuable tool that is helpful for all behavior problems, including separation anxiety. Thus, if a dog is showing undesireable behaviors you wouldn’t show them affection at that time. For example while crate training you return to the puppy (from ignoring them) once they stop crying if they cry to reinforce the quiet behavior.

  8. I never let a dog on my bed but they always slept in my bedroom next to me. They were good dogs and got a lot of love and affection. My youngest got a dog at ten and like most children the dog slept with her. She went off to school and the dog stayed home. The dog insisted on being in my bed. She is so sweet and loving. I missed a lot of comfort from not letting a dog in my bed. A dog in bed cannot get close enough to you. What joy. Next dog or dogs will be allowed in my bed after being “ potty” trained.

  9. My little Terrier Mix rescue is the most important being to me regardless of the species. I wouldn’t tell her no regardless of where she wanted to lay, as long as she’s safe, I’m fine with her choices. I have only one companion at a time. Makes a huge difference. Life is way too short to impose rules on a precious canine companion.

  10. We love our adopted rescue dog. She has free reign of everywhere in the house and a huge fenced in yard. She is allowed– actually encour– to snuggle with us on the sofa anytime she wants. I feel she is a member of the family and our home is her home too. The only one place she is not allowed is our bed: at 100lbs she is a bed hog! (We know this from a couple road trips where she slept with us in a hotel room bed).

  11. We raise our GSD since 8 weeks old and he’s been our “baby”. As we’re in the fall/winter season, we tuck him in with a blanket on his own bed/couch in our bedroom ’cause he doesn’t care dog bed even he has one. He prefers couch or sofas just like the rest of us. It’s a great feeling snuggling next to our doggie on the couch by the fire and we all enjoy the attention we get! 🙂

  12. Our little chihuahua Lucy came to us after our cat who was the “top dog” had the full range of my bed and Lucy slept downstairs with my son, not too long ago we lost our beloved cat to old age and Lucy suddenly realised she no longer had to lookout for the cat and immediately took over my bed she snuggles under her blankets all night right next to me
    my son is so peed off because she abandoned him for me..! LOL

  13. My husband doesn’t like animals on the furniture so I respect that. Our dogs get love, affection, high quality food, walks every day, training (they love training, they are Labs), regular vet care, social interaction and more. They aren’t allowed on our bed but I have been known to snuggle with them on their beds. ;o)

  14. I find this article rather illogical
    Affection can be shown in many ways, as can love and caring.
    It does NOT equate to sharing bed. I love my children and never shared a bed with them. This was not lake to lack of affection either, rather the best arrangement for us all to get our best nights’ sleep.
    Neither is allowing dogs on the human’s furniture necessarily a sign of affection, nor is not allowing on the furniture sign of lack of affection.
    The dogs have their own beds as well as favourite resting/sleeping places, in summer they prefer the kitchen tiles  In winter they have a choice of cosy crates outside, because they sleep outside.
    That is their ‘job’ — burglar alarms and prevention. They do not share crates with each other either.
    This is the ideal solution because none of the dogs are happy to be in bed all night, and as well we no longer have to get up in the middle of the night to let them out to toilet, then wait for them to decide to come back in.
    As for being on or furniture – the stuff we use is too small from them.
    Personally I see the Laissez-faire way of keeping dog as lack of care! Both dogs and children need to learn to behave responsibly and to behave well in public.
    We CAN, and many of us do train, with great affection.

    • Ps Open crates on our extensive veranda.
      Also the cat is not allowed in any bedroom — she’s supposed to be keeping the Kitchen part of th4ehouse Rat-free 🙂

    • I mostly agree with you BUT not with putting a “house dog” outside at night. I have owned protection trained dogs for more than 25 years and they alert and protect very nicely from inside our home. It’s unkind to put any dog who is acclimatized to the indoor temperature, to abruptly be forced to try to adjust to a significant drop in temperature. Oh sure, they may survive but probably lie there all night shivering in their “cozy” outdoor crate.
      Any house dog in cold weather should only go out to potty and for short brisk walks. Dogs that are 100% outdoor dogs should be provided with an insulated doghouse and abundant dry bedding.

  15. I love cuddling with my dog on the couch would not have it any other way. But I have talked him there is time and place for it when I have to work I have to work. He learned very quickly.

  16. The only reason Diana pawPrints is not allowed on the bed is for her own health. Both Caesar and Ramses were allowed on the bed and in their senior years they both had back problems. Ramses so severe he had to be on pain meds. It was only after an x-ray that I discovered how much pain he must have been in. Arthritis in four vertebrae and almost no discs left. And only after he died did it occur to me that it must have been from 10 years of jumping OFF the bed. Caesar also had back problems but in a different spot and not so severe. So until I can build a ramp, Diana is not allowed on the bed. Then she will be taught to use the ramp to get on and off. Even though she is a big girl, 100 lbs, I do not want 10 years of that jolt of hitting the floor to injure her discs. She doesn’t like to jump anyway, which is why she does nosework and not agility.

    We get our cuddle time out in the garden. When I’m on my garden seat doing whatever, she will just come and stand right in front of me and lean in. Whenever she feels like getting some love. And I let her do it. And she knows it.

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