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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Great Furniture Debate
Where is your dog allowed to go?

People who say that money is the biggest source of conflict in most marriages are clearly unfamiliar with the clashes over whether or not to let the dogs up on the furniture. These epic battles regularly find their way into my private consultations, where I am repeatedly asked who is right—the person who says dogs should stay on the floor or the one who wants them up on the couch and on the bed. I always handle these mediations with the same four basic steps.

1) I take a deep breath to calm myself for the coming storm. 2) I wish for the umpteenth time that I had a business partner specializing in marital counseling. 3) I explain the factors to consider when making this important decision. 4) I open a discussion with my clients about how these factors relate to their particular situation. So, you might ask, what are those factors?

The main one is personal preference. That is, the answer to the dogs-on-the-furniture question is not absolute and cannot be answered definitively by someone outside of the household. Some people are appalled by the idea of fur and potentially muddy paws making contact with their furniture, and others don’t care at all. Just like with politics, religion and money, there are no right answers that apply to everyone, but life is a little easier and a lot less conflicted if the members of a family agree.

The dog’s needs are also a factor. Dogs who are old, get cold easily, or who have really short coats are often less comfortable on a hard floor, so they may be more persistent about being on the furniture, and it may provide a real benefit to them. Of course, a cozy dog bed, soft blankets or even some towels on the floor may accomplish the same thing. I do feel that it is a great kindness to provide dogs, especially dogs like the ones described above, with a soft, cozy place to relax, and that may or may not involve the furniture. Dogs who are fearful may also be helped by being up on the furniture because that lets them be in close physical contact with you when you are lounging on the couch or drifting off to sleep. It’s true that many people who want their dogs up on the furniture are doing it for themselves at least as much as for the dogs, but dogs’ needs are worthy of consideration.

The dog’s behavior is the piece of this puzzle that allows me the best opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. I don’t buy into the old-fashioned arguments about dogs needing to be on the floor because otherwise they will try to dominate their guardians, causing all sort of horrendous social patterns to ensue. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, that does not mean that dogs’ behavior and manners are irrelevant to the questions of whether or not they should be up on the furniture. Dogs who are pushy can benefit from being required to earn the right to be on the furniture. Those who lack impulse control can learn better self-control by following rules such as staying on the floor despite the temptation of the furniture. Resource-guarding dogs who will defend the bed as they do food, bones or toys are not good candidates for furniture privileges. For dogs with no training who will not move over on the bed when asked to do so or won’t get down off the sofa upon request, it may not be worth the hassle of allowing them on the furniture.

Another avenue I like to pursue with any of my clients who are in the middle of a Great Furniture Negotiation is the possibility of a compromise. Sometimes families decide to let dogs onto only some of the furniture—perhaps just one old couch or chair, or maybe a beanbag. Another option is to cover the furniture so the dogs can enjoy it without ruining it. One common compromise is to allow the dogs up on the furniture only if they are invited, and to require them to get off if you tell them to. This can be combined effectively with the use of covers—invite dogs up whenever the covers are on but not when they have been removed.

When there is conflict, one solution is that the dogs are allowed up on the furniture, but the person who wants them up there is responsible for cleaning the furniture often. Some families have decided to let the dogs up on all the furniture except for the favorite chair of the person opposed. That way, there is always a clean place available for the person who objects to having the dogs up on the furniture. There are families who allow some dogs up on the bed or couch, but not others. Usually the dog with access is older, has better manners or sheds less. Some people are uncomfortable having different rules for different dogs and feel that it is unfair, but the couples who have saved their marriage with this strategy feel that it is worth it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to dogs’ access to the furniture, and sometimes a little negotiating leads to a compromise that makes both members of a couple happy.

There is no right answer and though many people ask me what is “normal” when it comes to dogs being up on the furniture, there is no clear answer to that question. What’s considered normal in this regard is a moving target. Years ago, it was far more common to forbid dogs from being on the couch or the bed than it is now. Then again, it wasn’t so very long ago that it was common to prevent dogs from coming inside the house at all. It was a big change when having indoor dogs became normal. Maybe we are on that same path when it comes to our furniture.

What are your rules (if any) about having dogs on the furniture?

 

News: Guest Posts
Smiling Dog: Buffy

What’s your dog’s name and age? Buffy, 2 years

Adoption Story:

Buffy was a picked up as a stray by a small shelter in Texas. Unfortunately, her chances of finding a forever home there were not good. Thankfully, a volunteer pulled Buffy from the shelter be be shipped up north for a better chance at adoption through the group Black Dog Second Chance rescue in New York. But, Buffy had a suprise in store for them!    Upon arriving to her foster home, it was discovered that she was pregnant! Her new foster home did not feel up to the task of taking on puppies so she was transfered to one with more experience. Buffy ultimately delivered five puppies but two didn't survive.   But this story has a good ending, Buffy and her three healthy pups (Bingo, Bruno, and Brandy) were all adopted into loving homes.   Buffy's foster mom fosters through Black Dog Second Chance Rescue where she has fostered 32 dogs, including four pregnant mammas. She loves that dogs are just so happy to be with people and that they love you for how you are. If you're interested in reading more about the benefits of foster homes or are interested in becoming a foster parent to a pup in need read on.
News: Guest Posts
Oh, the Things Dogs Eat!
Clients share stories of ridiculous consumption

My appointments with clients tend to follow themes, some of which are predictable. I receive many calls about housetraining after the first big snow of the year, and there’s the digging under the fence problems when the ground thaws in the spring. The start of monsoon season corresponds with the Fourth of July, so that time of year typically brings large numbers of dogs who are afraid of thunder, fireworks and other loud noises.

Sometimes, the trends are less expected. There have been times when my week is full of dogs who are aggressive to other dogs on leash or when a surprising number of appointments involve dogs who fear men with beards. (The past few years with big bushy beards being so fashionable have been a tough time for dogs and for canine behaviorists alike.) I’m not sure why I’ll occasionally work with a cluster of dogs who jump on visitors followed by a series of dogs who guard their toys from other dogs in the house.

The last few weeks have involved a larger-than-usual proportion of dogs who have eaten ridiculous things. In each case, I was working with the dog because of an unrelated behavioral problem, but in the course of talking about the dog’s background, the clients shared a story about something that the dog had eaten. (All of the dogs were fine whether veterinary care was needed or not.)

One dog helped herself to a tube of lipstick. She ate most of it, but still managed to use a significant portion of it to decorate the walls, rugs and floor of the house. Rather than become upset, the people actually decided that the light pink color was just the right shade for their new nursery, and they had already gotten paint samples to match.

Another dog had gone into the yard and dug up the family’s recently departed pet hamster. The members of this family were similarly good sports, remembering to be grateful that it had happened while their kids were at preschool so that they were not traumatized by one of their pets exhuming and eating another one.

The most surprising story of what a dog had eaten was not told to me on purpose, but came up when a client and I were walking his dog to help her learn to be calm when she saw other dogs. When I saw that her poop was neon yellow, it begged an explanation. The man sheepishly told me that she had eaten a large number of paintballs. Concerned about the toxicity of paintballs, I urged him to call his veterinarian immediately, which he did. After treatment, the dog was fine, and (in case you were wondering) I have recovered from the shock of the highlighter-colored poop.

Over the years, clients have shared many stories of what their dogs have consumed. There are the usual suspects—tampons, an entire stick of butter, socks, rocks, golf balls, forks, spoons, remote controls, cell phones. And, of course, I really do know many dogs who have eaten the kids’ homework.

Has your dog eaten anything bordering on the ridiculous?

Dog's Life: Humane
A Life Changing Vacation
U.K. veterinarian quits her job to help street dogs in Sri Lanka.
Three years ago veterinarian Janey Lowes was vacationing in Sri Lanka when she was struck by the many street dogs that were in horrible shape. Some had been hit by cars, or deliberately hurt by knives or boiling water. Others suffered from untreated health issues, such as ticks and mange. It's estimated that there are three million dogs roaming the streets of Sri Lanka. Sixty percent don't make it past puppyhood.

Janey couldn't bear to ignore these dogs, so she quit her job at a British veterinary practice to dedicate herself full time to the homeless pups of the southern Dikwella District.

“There are no vets in place to treat these street animals,” she explained. “I feel like all of these dogs are my dogs and I’m the only one to look after them.”

Janey started out tending to these pups on the street with very little equipment. She would stay for months in Sri Lanka, only returning to the U.K. to earn enough money to go back. Since then Janey started We Care, a non-profit with a small team working with her in Sri Lanka. They're currently working on opening a clinic.

The charity has three main goals: treating sick and injured animals, training and educating the local population, and CNVR (catch-neuter-vaccinate-release). Unlike humane organizations in the States, We Care doesn't focus on adoption, since it's not in the Sri Lanka culture. But that doesn't mean they're not making a difference. Since Janey began working in Dikwella, dogs with mange made up 40 percent of the canine population, now it's less than five percent.

"We make a point of returning dogs back to the street. They're missing health care, missing affection, but not freedom. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but it give me the most amazing sense of fulfillment, enjoyment, satisfaction. I love it."

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Five Dog-Friendly Finishes — Plus Five You Should Avoid
Save your sanity and your decorating budget by choosing materials and surfaces that can stand up to the test.

It’s a common situation for pet owners and parents alike: You buy a brand-new couch thinking you’ve purchased a truly indestructible piece of furniture, only to watch it be destroyed within a matter of months by your pet or child. It’s enough to make you feel like you’ll never be able to rectify your love for your family members, furry or not, with your yearning to create a beautiful home. Not to mention the pain it inflicts on your bank account.

There are a few simple things animal lovers can do to keep pets from damaging their homes. Accidents aside, most scratches and bite marks happen because of boredom. Scratching posts, chew toys, basic pet training and plenty of outdoor playtime will go a long way toward keeping your pet happy and your furnishings unscathed. Most dog trainers also recommend creating a comfortable enclosure for young pups, because this helps with house training and keeps them from chewing on dangerous objects.

Still, a surprising amount of damage can occur whenever you turn your back for a few seconds. With that in mind, here are 10 tips for selecting finishes that survive pet- and child-related wear and tear.

Love it: Leather

Accidents and spills wipe up with ease on the only furniture material that looks better with wear. But while leather is great for homes with dogs and children, cat lovers may want to avoid it, as there’s no way to repair a shredded leather couch. 

If leather isn’t in your budget, consider microsuede. This ingenious, durable fabric wipes clean with a damp cloth, so you can easily deal with even the muddiest paws.

Leave it: Hide rugs

Not only can spills and pet stains permanently mar it, but some dogs have trouble distinguishing a hide rug from their rawhide chew. It’s also a no-no in high-traffic areas, as the hair thins with wear.

 

Photo by Ana Williamson Architect - Search contemporary landscape design ideas

 

Love it: Concrete paving

Available in just about every size and at many price points, pavers are a great way to create a playspace for kids and pets that always looks neat. Set them flush so kids can enjoy bikes and push toys, or leave a gap of a few inches and add plantings, as in this photo, to create a greener look. 

Just be sure to ask your installer about sealing. Pavers can become stained by dirt and standing water over time.

Leave it: Gravel

Unless you’d like to embark upon a second career as a gravel sweeper, this is one to avoid. While gravel certainly goes a long way toward forgoing a pet-stained lawn, even larger pebbles can get kicked up during playtime, dinging your doors, getting caught in the slats of your deck and getting caught in paws and shoes, which inevitably leads to damage to indoor flooring.

 

Photo by Samuel Design Group - Search contemporary kitchen design ideas

 

Love it: Ceasarstone

This gorgeous quartz countertop has the look and feel of granite without the worry of chipping and scratching, making it perfect for junior sous chefs. Waterfall-edge details are also great in areas that need to be protected against particularly rambunctious pups or aggressive chewers.

Leave it: Hardwood

I know, I know. This is a tough one. But with pets and kids, you’re almost guaranteed to have to resand hardwood floors at some point. 

If hardwood floors are a must in your home, be sure to keep your dog’s nails short and to clean up spilled liquids and pet accidents promptly. This can go a long way toward extending your hardwood floor’s longevity.

 

Photo by Paul Davis Architects - Browse modern deck ideas

 

Love it: Ornamental grass

Hardy grasses are a great way to incorporate greenery without worrying about Fido staining it or digging it up. And as a bonus, you’ll never spend another Saturday mowing the lawn.

Looking for a more traditional alternative? Wide-leaved fescue and rye hold up better to traffic and are more resistant to the chemicals in dog urine that can cause spotting.

Leave it: Cedar decking

While it can be absolutely stunning, cedar can be easily marred by dog nails, snow shovels and active children.

 

Photo by Chicago Green Design Inc. - Browse traditional landscape ideas

 

Love it: Faux turf

Gone are the days when installing synthetic grass meant transforming your lawn into something resembling a hokey mini golf course. The new turfs are more realistic and just as durable. 

This homeowner made the synthetic grass look even more realistic by keeping the turf area small and breaking it up with other finishes.

Leave it: Microtopped concrete

The luster and depth of a concrete microtopping is surely covetable, but it’s not great in houses with big dogs or rambunctious children. Daily traffic can create deep scratches that aren’t erased by the regular resealing this finish requires.

Culture: Reviews
The Education of Will by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.
A breathtakingly honest memoir

The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog is everything you expect from well-known canine behaviorist and best-selling/award-winning author Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., but it is also so much more. What you presume would be included is indeed there—insights about dogs from science as well as from her own experiences, research into the physiology of behavior and personal stories. If you love learning about dogs through McConnell’s combination of science and tales from real life, you will love this book, and yet this is more than a book about dogs.

It’s a breathtakingly honest memoir from a woman whose upbeat personality, intelligence, success and sense of humor have largely hidden the pain and darkness in her life from others. It takes bravery to share such deeply personal and traumatic details from her life. Readers, even those who know McConnell’s work well, will be struck by how vulnerable she makes herself and how personal this book is. They will learn how much she had to overcome to become the successful person she has long been and to find the happiness that is a far more recent accomplishment.

It’s artfully written, showing her maturity as an author, and true to form, it shows how intricately her life and well-being are intertwined with the dogs in her life. The fear and anxiety she has struggled with for much of her life actually became worse when her Border Collie Will entered her life. His fear and reactivity created all sorts of problems, including exacerbating her own struggles to overcome multiple traumas. She was forced to deal with not just his issues, but her own as well, and the book is the story of how they both moved forward towards happiness, joy and love. Their journey together has had many setbacks, has required a seemingly endless reservoir of hard work and patience, and will never truly be over.

The beauty and power of the book come from the way McConnell weaves her own narrative into that of dogs in general and her dog Will in particular. It is a compelling story that’s both hopeful and sad, as well as gut-wrenching and inspiring. The Education of Will offers insight and understanding into struggles with true terror, guilt, shame and fear, allowing readers to empathize with such experiences and to understand them better. Though it is a serious book about a serious topic, the warmth and humor in McConnell’s writing make it as enjoyable to read as it is riveting.

News: Guest Posts
Smiling Dog: Spooky Boo

What’s your dog’s name and age? Spooky Boo, 6 years

Adoption Story:

Six-year-old Spooky Boo was adopted from a local shelter. She's incredibly gentle and trusting but completely deaf with severe separation anxiety so she had finding a home. Luckily for this sweet girl she found a family who was happy to have her. Three years after being adopted, a freak accident during a walk lead to Boo's paralysis.

Spooky Boo's Determination:

Her dad says seeing her wag her tail again following her accident is one thing he will never forget. She showed sheer determination and refusal to stay down during her first faltering steps when walking unaided. She is a real inspiration.   Spooky Boo loves to run and now with her wheels she has her freedom back (though she has a knack for running over people's toes)! She has a wonderful spirit and zest for life.

 

Dog's Life: Humane
Rainy Weather Hampers Adoptions
Bad weather keeps potential forever homes away in Southern California.
After years of drought, Southern California is finally getting some rain. Unfortunately it's also putting a damper on pet adoptions.

According to the Pasadena Humane Society, bad weather can cut adoption numbers in half, or even more. On one recent rainy Sunday, only 18 dogs were adopted, compared to 65 on the same day last year. This is largely due to less people venturing out in the rain. After all wet weather is usually uncommon in the area, so even a drizzle can cause traffic and confusion. But another contributing factor is the closure of the outdoor kennels during downpours, meaning less animals are available for adoption.

The dogs have heated enclosures to escape the rain, but this is done for safety reasons. The Humane Society doesn't want visitors to slip and the enthusiastic dogs are more likely to run through the rain in an unsafe manner when someone is walking by their kennel. This problem is somewhat unique to Southern California since their dry, warm weather allows them to have so many outdoor enclosures.

Fortunately most of the rain has occurred in the winter months when fewer dogs are brought to the shelter. The Humane Society's busiest time is during breeding season from the end of March through August. The Pasadena Humane Society takes in about 12,000 animals a year and offers any extra space to other shelters that reach capacity. The reduced adoptions can really make a difference in limiting room for new dogs in need of help.

While bad weather also generally means less calls to Animal Control Services, the Humane Society does find that rain and lightening can spook pets and cause them to run away from home. Some end up at the shelter since it's open rain or shine. While the Humane Society is always happy to help, they urge people to keep their pets safe and sound indoors during storms.

The rain can really be problematic and it's interesting to see how it effects human behavior patterns! But if you're in Southern California and looking to adopt a pet, as long as it's safe, don't let a little rain stop you from finding your next furry friend!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pawternity and Mutternity Leave
BrewDog offers a week off—fully paid
BrewDog.com

A beer company based in the UK wants to be the best company to work for, ever, and a new policy gives them a legitimate claim to success. BrewDog just announced that all 1000 of their employees are eligible for a full week of paid leave when a new dog joins the family. They recognize the importance for everyone in the family of spending time with a new dog to adjust to the change. They want to make the transition easier for everyone.

With a name like BrewDog, their new Paw-ternity and Mutt-ernity benefit (officially called Puppy Parental Leave) should come as no surprise. The company has been dog friendly since it began 10 years ago, when their official mascot, Labrador Retriever Bracken, watched the two human founders begin their first batch of beer. Now, employees’ dogs are welcomed at all of their offices and in their 50 breweries and bars worldwide. (Their headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland regularly has 50 dogs at the office.) Customers’ dogs are also always welcome.

Most people have to take vacation time in order to spend sufficient time with a new dog, which means that many are not able to manage it. For years, I’ve advised people to bring home a new dog over the weekend and to take Friday or Monday off to make it a long weekend if possible. Now, I can just advise them to get a job at BrewDog!

I’m sure many people would love to work for this company because of their generous treatment of employees by the management. Treating the people who work for you well is a good investment that pays dividends in loyalty, and also expands the pool of potential hires. Giving people the freedom to adjust to a new dog also lessens the likelihood of future problems that result in missed work days and low morale.

The company founders say that they understand that their employees care about two things above all else—their beer and their dogs. That might be an oversimplification, but then, again, it might not be.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Resource Guarding Toward Different Species
How does your dog react to people, cats and dogs?

Recently, I had a client whose resource-guarding dog reacted very differently depending on who in the household approached him when he had a toy. His responses varied with the species of the individual.

The other dogs in the house are watched closely if they come near the dog in question when he has a toy. He will go still except for his eyes, which track their every move. If they try to pick up one of his toys, he will growl and charge at them. He will take toys from them and hoard them even if they all started out with matching toys given to them by the guardians. If you only saw him around other dogs, he presents as a classic high-level resource guarder—what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine. However, he reacts very differently to the other two species sharing his home.

The human adults and the child in the household can do whatever they want with this dog’s toys. They can pick them up, remove them from the dog’s mouth, walk by them or even step on them. The dog is completely relaxed no matter what happens to his toys at the hands (or the feet) of the people in his family.

The cat can walk by toys, approach the dog while he is playing with a toy or even cuddle up with him when he has one without eliciting any reaction. If she picks up a toy up or lies down on top of one, the dog rushes over and takes it.

This dog lets people do anything related to toys, and lets the other dogs in his house do nothing related to them, but takes an intermediate stance with the cat. He is unwilling to tolerate the cat taking possession a toy, but as long as she does not attempt to do that, he does not object. It’s difficult to know exactly why this dog behaves as he does, though I think it’s safe to assume that he does not regard the dog as a human/dog cross. It’s possible that the dog’s actions are based on species, but the differences may simply reflect his response to each of the individuals in his multi-species household.

Do you have a dog who reacts differently to the various species in your home when they approach his toys?

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