oh gus… i don’t usually post about dog issues. but this one has me feeling sad, and maybe i’ll get some helpful advice. gus has fear-aggression towards other dogs, and i have an appointment with a trainer who specializes in aggression this week. we had a phone consultation today, and she told me that gus can no longer sleep in our bed. i never thought i would let a dog sleep in my bed, before getting gus. but he’s small and incredibly cuddly, and we curl up together every night. it will to be so hard to make the change! and even harder for him than me. he’s going to bark and cry all night. i’m willing to do whatever the trainer says is best, but i have a lump in my throat just thinking about it. for those of you who aren’t dog people, i completely understand. before gus, i wasn’t so crazy about dogs myself. funny how things change… advice anyone?

52 thoughts on “

  1. oh my, i feel for you! penelope slept in our bed before we got paisley. it helped to make the transition to the dog bed by having another dog for her to snuggle with. sounds like with ‘doggie aggression’ another dog is out of the question?

  2. Sienna sleeps happily in her crate, so it can be done. I would guess that what the trainer is trying to do is establish your superior position, which is hard to do when you’re in bed *Grin* Take it as a step, once you are controlling the dog aggression, and are in charge of the situation, you can try bringing him back. Think of it as a break, not a divorce… I hope the trainer can help.

  3. Hey Lena, I know how you feel my sweet/loving and cuddly pitbull is anxious around other dogs too. She also barks loudly at the doorbell. Other than that, she’s a joy. You have to just remind yourself that you’ll be doing a good thing for your pooch and he’ll learn to be comfortable nearby you but not right on the bed. Have you thought of putting his pillow underneath the bed? Or right next to it? Perhaps if you do this right as you are about to go in the bed, he’ll get used to the new routine. You could also bribe him onto the pillow with a bone. If your trainer does not work out, my best friend’s boyfriend is an amazing trainer. In fact we need to get him to come help our girl out with her “issues”. Let me know. Good luck. You can always cuddle on the couch in the morning!

  4. Good luck, Lena! Just try to remember that dogs don’t (supposedly) take things personally. If you set up a really cozy bed for your pooch, maybe it will be preferable to your bed! I really empathize, though. Deedle got in the bad habit of running into our bedroom in the middle of the night and jumping on the bed to sleep, and I was worried we couldn’t break her of it, but we have. When she would run in, we’d just kick her off and tell her to go to her bed, and she did! I couldn’t believe it.

  5. i think he’ll be okay. i’ve made ollie sleep on the floor a few times and after a little bit of whining he usually goes right to sleep. just give him lots of blankets and he’ll be happy!

    whats the connection between sleeping in bed and aggression? i kind of just accepted that it as the nature of the breed but i guess it’s better to work on it!

  6. ooh i can’t give you any advice, i’ve never had a dog, but i wish you lots of luck! bon chance! and i’m sure it’ll all work out!

  7. Oh dear. I’m so sorry you are having these troubles. I have been working with a trainer and Cooper lately (not for aggression) but I do think the training really helps. Cooper sleeps with me most of the time, but he also will sleep in his bed, and if I lead him there he stays. I think it is good to be able to reclaim your space from time to time. It will be hard, but it will be good for Gus in the long run. Hang in there:)

  8. oh no, lena, i feel your pain! i can’t imagine not sleeping with gertie! but, trainer knows best… what trainer are you using? good luck!

  9. Nooooo— this makes me so sad, and OMG Gus is just the cutest thing in the world. If you can’t sleep with your dog, who CAN you sleep with?

    Can you get a second opinion? What would Caesar Milan do? 😉

  10. Gus looks so sad!! But be happy because I love your blog so so so much. I am 12 and I have my own jewelry business with a site on Etsy. I’m always coming to your blog to check out your posts for inspiration!! Hope you and Gus do ok. Cambria

  11. this is so sad, poor you, poor gus. hope the trainer will be able to help you. sadly i have no advice for you.

  12. This super cute dog probably loves you more than anything, and with training and praise he will be fine. It will be worse for you, not having him in bed to cuddle 🙂

    When we had our baby we had to shut our dog out from the bedroom for months. It worked. You might be able to have Gus on his dog bed in your room, though. Good luck!

  13. Maybe he can have a armchair, right beside your bed? Morran sleeps in bed too. I had decided that she shouldn’t before I got her, but then she was so small and cute and so sad when she couldn’t be where we were… after a few hours and still nine years later – she’s in bed.
    I hope everything will work out. My only advice is to not shout at him, stay calm (sounds so easy and is so hard). Good luck Gus and Lena.

  14. Hi Lena,

    I went through the same thing – fear aggression – with my last dog. We worked with a trainer, and found it invaluable – she still couldn’t go to the dog park, but after training she could wak past another dog without turning into Cujo. We did continue to let her sleep in our bed, but established dominance in other ways…always having her sit for food, at doorways etc. but it really does depend on your dog. I’d say have him sleep on his own til it’s under control & then let him back in bed and see how it changes his behavior. Try cuddling with him til he falls asleep, replace yourself with a pillow and then quietly leave the room(this worked for my inlaws when they dog sat – within a day or two she was sleeping through the night alone with no howling). Dog aggression can be so depressing & frustrating but there is light at the end of the tunnel!Good for you for addressing the issue rather than just letting it go.

  15. thanks everyone, for the helpful comments. it’s making me feel better!

    cal, the trainer is stacy alldredge from Who’s Walking Who.


    i’m cautiously optimistic that the training will work…. but she has a lot of experience with fear and aggression, so it seems worth a try.

  16. i’m so sorry to hear about gus’ issues. but it’s true, this will be harder on you than on the dog. we had to lock our cats out of the bedroom. they weren’t very happy for a few nights, and now when we let them back in, they’re on their best behavior (they were being destructive at night).

    hopefully your trainer can help you figure out something that works! poor gus! he looks like a sweetheart.

  17. WOW – I am going through this same thing. I have a small Chihuahua. I don’t know what to tell you, but if a trainer told me Lottie could not sleep with us, I would find another trainer. It would kill her, truly. And it would drive me to drink. Lottie is the sweetest thing in the world, and she completely ignores other dogs. Hers is more FEAR, not fear aggression (i.e. as long as no dog approaches her, she is fine. If a dog approaches her, she takes off or hides under my legs or if the dog is persistent, she will lift her gums/growl/snap). I recently purchased 3 books to help me work with her: For the Love of a dog, How to help your Shy Dog, and Dog Fears. I’m starting with that, as for the most part her fear is manageable in my area. Most people do not let their dogs approach willy-nilly. If they do, I speak up.

    Good luck, and if you want to email me to talk more about it (I’ve been working on it for the last year) please do!

  18. I feel for you! We had to banish our pup from the bed (because he was taking up half the bed). He cried a lot and woke up at 3 am for about 3 weeks, but now he loves getting in his bed. Be prepared to stay strong! Good luck:)

  19. i know how you feel. my dogs bark at other dogs on the street and it’s getting worse and worse. i’m thinking to hire a trainer soon as well. my dream is taking them to out door restaurants and not worry about them going crazy when they see other dogs there.

    if it works with gus, please let me know. my dogs still sleep in our bed.

    ps: my stister in law’s dog cried for 3 weeks to get crate trained at night. she’s very happy sleeping in her crate now. : )

  20. I know it may be cheesy, but I would really recommend watching the dog whisperer on National Geographic and reading his (Caesar Millan) books. I was never a big dog fan even though I had a dog myself growing up. Watching the show really taught me a lot. He helps you pick up on the signs of unease before the dog gets to the point where it lashes out. I’m sure the trainer will help too. Its hard when the dogs are small and so cute like Gus. I would want to cuddle too! But don’t feel badly about trying to help him and keeping him out of the bed. You will help him in the end. Be open(within reason)! I wish you all the best. -Alison

  21. Thanks for posting about this Lena. I never knew what was wrong with my dog until you said “fear agression,” and it sums up exactly what the symptoms are. It’s great to hear that help is available. Good luck with little Gus.

  22. Oh Lena, how heartbreaking, I totally understand. My coco is the same kind of doggy, very bad with aggression/fear issues with other dogs. I can say that once this issue is fixed, it should be ok to let him back in the bed, but you have to be strict about all of the training with him. I wish you luck, and Coco sends a nice big sniff and a tail waggle.

  23. aww gus. i feel so bad for you. my dog sleeps in my bed and I wonder if he hates other dogs for the same reason.

    but still. . . aww gus.

  24. Hi Lena, I hope the training is going well! 🙂

    I guess it’s hard to give advice because every dog acts differently depending on their sex and size but usually once the fear aggression is under control getting a dog to sleep in a crate becomes easier (maybe because they feel more secure within themselves).

    We didn’t have fear aggression problems with Magnolia (maybe because she’s a girl and a lot taller in stature) but I remember seeing on a tv show that you should bring treats along when you walk Gus. Then when you see a dog approaching just walk in the opposite direction and pull him towards you (then you can give him a treat and praise). This is so Gus starts associating other dogs approaching him with happy things!

    Then once he gets used to that after a week-fortnight try walking him down the street and when you see a dog approaching ask Gus to sit and wait till the dog passes. If he gets agro then pull him away like before, but if he behaves (which I’m sure he will!) give him a big pat and treat.

    It was so hard for me to not let Maggie in my bed (sometimes she sneaks in in the morning) but hold your own and try and stick to the training. It will be worth it in the end… you can do it Gus and Lena!!

  25. hi lena. i love checking in to your blog- you’ve an exquisite sense of style. in regard to your sweet gus, my advice is to please not to follow this trainer’s advice. my border collie is in treatment for the same issue with the behavior clinic at the university of pennsylvania. her doctors are amazing and have/would never issue such a mandate! please seek another opinion- this would be a horribly misguided thing to put your little one through. he is incredibly handsome, by the way, and i hope you will find an alternative way to work through this. warmest wishes, gina

  26. hi gina marie,
    thanks for your comment. i would love to ask you a few questions. please email me!

    lena (at) lenacorwin.com

  27. we have a little terrier, buster, who is also aggressive towards other dogs but would never do anything since he is so afraid. i read an article somewhere that said that because he is supposed to be a hunting dog and have more exercise than anyone could hope to give him, he has made a new job for himself. buster is now ‘protector of his world’. mainly, me. i have found that instead of yelling at him when he chooses to act out it helps to thank him. it tends to be more calming and lets him know that what he’s doing is alright (since really its very natural) but that he can stop because i am aware of the impending danger.

    p.s. he doesn’t sleep in our bed and never has so i don’t know how much that has to do with it but i wish you the best of luck!

  28. I had to train my Olive not to sleep on the bed (she’s a bigger dog and kept hogging the blankets). It was much easier than I thought once I had found a really nice squishy doughnut style bed for her. It’s warm and the sides come up around her back so she feels cozy and safe. When I first brought it home I hopped into it to show her that it was comfy, and then encouraged her to hop into it with me. I kept it as a bed in the loungeroom initially, so she could sit in it by my feet, and then it became her bedroom bed. It’s not so hard, the most important thing is to be consistent. Best of luck.

  29. Hi Lena, Hope you are doing well. I can’t imagine not being able to sandwich myself between my dogs. Especially in the winter! If it were me I would definitely try other alternatives. I like the idea of making him sit when someone comes to the door, etc. I feel like allowing your pups sleep in your bed make them feel like they are more of a pack with you. I’ve also noticed that my dogs are much more well behaved when they are allowed to sleep with me in the bed. Not quite sure why. Best of luck! ~Mike

  30. aw! i would be sad too if my little Nori pup couldn’t sleep with us. I am not sure what the point of that deprivation is, but it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion, especially if the consultation was just over the phone. However, i have heard that allowing your dog to sleep with you makes him think you are “pack mates” and that can cause issues with authority and possessiveness. Good luck!

  31. hi lena,
    i dont have dogs and my little knowledge is limited to chinchilla.. (yah.. chinchilla for realz)
    hope the training is going well.
    just compelled to leave a comment cuz it’s so much similar with a baby too!! 🙂 how funny. the kid slept with us while infant and boy.. “training” was tough..

  32. Our Dog also has aggression problems and had to move out of our bed. We got her a “slumber ball” from foster and smith and she really took to it. (theyre not the prettiest but you could slipcover in your lovely fabric)
    We added one in the living room to keep her off the sofa. (in addition she has some bed wetting issues from being 12) she seems to prefer this bed.
    They can easily nest and spin into it, it comes up on the sides to make them feel more comfortable like they are in a den.
    Good luck! I feel for you.

  33. We had the exact same problem! So, we bought the dog a special bed and put it next to ours and at first he hated it and I tried to pat his head when he was in the bed and he just got up and walked around the bedroom and barked and peed on the floor, it was totally annoying. But, after like a week he started to get used to it and he only barked every so often. We started laying down in bed with the lights on and reading until he fell asleep in his own bed and that helped. I think it took about 7 or 8 weeks before he was completely ok with it. It’s been like 5 months now and sometimes he gets up at like 1am and gets a drink of water and then walks back to his little bed – he is such an independent little man! Also, I sleep a lot better without being cautious about kicking him in his slumber?

    BUT – this totally did not fix his dog-to-dog aggression? He still does the same crap. Hopefully your trainer has a more detailed plan, though.

    Also, it made me really miss cuddling with him so sometimes (not close to bedtime) I bring him up on the bed. And, we spend a lot of time on the sofa together…

  34. We have the same aggression issue with a dog of ours and considering he’s part staff. terrier the aggression is a bit more serious. However, we too recently got a trainer who specializes in aggression and he thinks it’s fine to have your dog (aggressive or not) sleep in bed as long as you train them properly so that they listen to you in any circumstance. Just something to thing about. Good luck with it all!

  35. i’m so sorry, lena. i can’t be helpful, but i really feel for you! what a hard situation. i hope you guys can figure it out without too much pain.

  36. we just adopted a dog and i’m so nervous about doing everything right! but there are five billion different opinions on what’s right. we’ve been watching cesar millan on dvd and we’re also doing positive reinforcement training (which is sort of a different approach from millan).

    good luck, i’m sure you’ll see improvements soon, whatever you decide! do keep us posted…

  37. i warmly (and strongly) recommend you to read the wonderful book THE CULTURE CLASH by long-time dog trainer Jean Donaldson.

    and then you should be really careful who you take advice from – there is so MANY opinions concerning this and that when it comes to dogs and dog training. read the really good books that are updated on new research on dogs behavior – and trust your own gut feeling from there.
    🙂 all the best, annelill

  38. my dog’s behaviorist strongly recommends THE CULTURE CLASH to all her clients, as well. i haven’t read it yet, but was glad to see it mentioned here- a good reminder 🙂

  39. aw, poor gussy. i know how cuddly wee dachshunds can be : ) we make baxter sleep on his bed in the living room (after months of him sleeping beside our bed, until the random barking at any little noise got too much) and then he comes into the bed for a snuggle with me when my husband gets up for work so it’s sort of the best of both worlds. and bax really will only settle down to sleep on his bed once he’s covered completely with his blanket, it’s like his cozy little den so maybe you could try that with gus, too – good luck with it all.

  40. Not a dog expert (though I have two) but I don’t understand the sleeping with owner / fear aggression connection. My two (not small) dogs sleep on my bed and are completely without aggression. In fact the behaviour of the first dog improved almost overnight from the moment I let her on my bed; admittedly her problem was overexcitement rather than aggression but still …
    I wonder whether trainers are sometimes too quick to generalise. Each dog is different – well, the ones I know are anyway.

  41. That dog is so cute there is NO way I could “kick” him out of bed.

    Neither one of you will get any sleep so you might as well keep the pooch in bed with you.

  42. Put a piece of your clothing (t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc) you have worn, sounds gross I know, and put it in his crate/bed with him. That way he can smell you. Worked for me.

  43. Oh no! Originally, I banned Mallow from the bed, which was the cat’s domain. Eventually I caved. It would break my heart to ban her again, but I’m sure Gus will adjust.

  44. It’s so hard to hear them cry, but treating them more like dogs and less like people really changes their behavior for the better. Also, as much exercise as possible. I have three and trust me I’ve been there. Good Luck!!

  45. I know this post is a little older, but I hope its okay if I comment? Please follow up the suggestions about the book Culture Clash, and take a look at the work of Dr. Patricia McConnell (an animal behaviorist) who writes for Bark Magazine. If your doggy minds you under most circumstances, his fear aggression isn’t likely to be solved by increasing your status in his eyes. He needs to be reconditioned to associate positive things with other dogs approaching him, and this is a process that will take a long time. I can’t imagine what will be gained by adding a significant stressor into his world – like this disruption of his sleep routine. Yes, he’ll tolerate it, but dogs are very stoic. Should he have to ask permission to get on the bed with you? Yes. But he doesn’t have sleep agression (does he?) so why make an issue of where he sleeps? Trusting you as his leader is an important part of his psychology, but re-training him to walk past other dogs is a matter of true behavioral conditioning, and what’s crucial is incremental improvement and awesome rewards! We have greyhounds, and the dominance based training approach is just not an option with them, because of their shy, somewhat anxious personalities. In our experience, positive reinforcement and clicker training have been really effective and give you new skills as well as the doggy! Be persistent, and good good luck with your adorable pup!

  46. We have the same issue with our female german shepherd and went through a training class called shy/fearful here in San Diego. Here’s a book that might help: http://www.amazon.com/Scaredy-Understanding-Rehabilitating-Your-Reactive/dp/0976641402/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208104979&sr=8-1

    Best of luck! It’s not easy, but the training is usually worth it. We are able to take her to the dog park again and she’s still really protective of me, but manages to behave.

  47. Umm, not sure what happened to the book URL, but it’s called Scaredy Dog! by Ali Brown.