The Right Bed in the Right Spot

by | Feb 24, 2024

sleeping dog

One dog’s comfort …. 

Is another dog’s idea of hell. But we are usually the controllers of what our dog’s get to sleep on and where we place it. 

Training is something that is done TO the dog. Learning is something that happens FOR the dog.

Merrick is no more likely to sleep on an extension cord than wear high heel shoes, but this is a CHOICE for Miika (photo thanks to Angie Lee). Not every choice is explainable. 

Training is something that is done TO the dog. Learning is something that happens FOR the dog.

Many times our dogs compromise their choices to suit our lifestyle, especially our Collies. These compromises can add up until there is just one too many and we get a clear message that changes need to be made. Often those changes are not the foremost “issue” but a relief of earlier compromises can seem less important to us and of significance to your dog.

It is rather like living with a tricky cupboard door that never shuts properly and you have put up with it for years. A 10 minute investment with a screwdriver can sort the issue and, wow, this added smoothness to a simple everyday action gives pleasure instead of frequent, but low level, irritation.

Look closely at resting. This is as important for our dogs as it is for us. It is where batteries are re-charged, bodies are re-stored and knowing how overboard Collies can go in all they do, this restorative rest is easy to overlook. Your collie is very likely to forego good rest so that they can be forever on duty.

Resting and sleeping are not necessarily the same state. A dog can be restful and semi-alert to the changes around them, able to respond and make a decision whether their response is needed or not. They can settle and not sleep, just watching the world go by with a good degree of contentment. Or they cannot settle and are continually getting up and moving around? Perhaps they need a few minutes of moving around to be able to settle; that dog version of checking the house is safe: windows all shut, doors locked, light off before a restful sleep can be enjoyed.

sleeping and resting

Several preferred resting places, or just one?

This is firstly about their location of choice. Some dogs will want to find a spot in the house where they will not be left out of the action. This may be near a main doorway and anyone leaving the house or changing rooms can be monitored. It can be the bottom of the stairs, most annoyingly.

Or their choice may be the other extreme where they feel a need to go to their own den.

I have one of each. Todd is the doorway guy who fortunately gets up as I approach and Zip is the under the table, under the bed, under the desk, even under the car (parked in the fenced garden).

What does it tell us about their choices? Do they need to feel safe to rest, or feel safe they are not missing out?

Does this location change as the activities of the house changes? They learn our routines and will adapt to our activities.

Does this change from one season to the next? One of my Gordons was a veteran sun seeker for best sleeping choices combined with the bottom of my bed. She would shuffle along as the sun moved around, taking possible 2-3 hours of Most Serious Nap, until around midday I would hear a thump as she rolled once too often and fell off the bed. I don’t often see Collies as sun seekers but the activities of the neighbours will certainly shift Todd’s On Duty Sentry Post. He likes to know what is going on. This window, that door.

How much choice to they have? Can we designed their living routines to accommodate their preferences? Do we see evidence that their choice is good or are they wandering around unable to settle and rest?

teenagers

Have they had the option to choose between hard and soft (e.g. floor and blanket) low and raised surfaces (e.g. floor and chair)?

Is it obvious which they prefer, or do they alternate? Collies are not always comfort lovers or put personal comfort as a priority. Duty often comes first. Do they prefer a place of elevation for viewing purposes or comfort?

Is the location suitable but the surface not? Can we move their bedding of choice to match the location of choice?

Can they take themselves to another spot to sleep if there are visitors or children’s activities or if they find the current TV programme alarming?

Are they able to move away from activities, noise, situations that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Where do they go when you use a vacuum cleaner, mower, drill, or other noisy tools? Does the dishwasher or washing machine bother them? A ceiling fan or air conditioning unit? Can they move from heat to cool and vice versa.

I have underfloor heating which is delightfully warm to walk on barefoot, until you hit the cold spots (stone tiles) but I often see the dogs deliberately seeking these spots. Their feet are always in contact and giving them information.

teenagers

If there is another dog in the house, can they take themselves away from them to sleep if they wish to?

Do the dogs sleep in proximity to others? Is there a sense of needing to protect the young or move away from their high levels of wakefulness?

Do they “heap” or sleep separate? Collies are not known for heaping unless very young, unlike other breeds that always want to heap. If your Collie shares life with a heaper they can find is most unsettling to be used as another dog’s pillow.

If they sleep close to you to they like physical contact or a degree of space?

Do they get to rest and chew or play with their toy quietly ?

Where is their preferred spot for a serious session with a bone or food/chew activity? Is this the same as their resting places?

Do they adopt a variety of sleeping positions, or do they tend to curl up tightly? Does your dog ever sleep on their back with their belly exposed?

How do they lie? Always on the same side or are they equally variable. If they go round and round before curling up is this always the same direction?

It is often regarded that a dog that is fully relaxed will sleep akimbo (upside down) but if your dog does not it does not mean they fee l unsafe but that their spine may not find that position comfortable.

Certainly as they begin to age sleeping patterns and choices may change. It is important we know what is normal so that we can monitor these changes.

 

Build yourself a picture library or journal of their resting and sleep preferences. Be aware that some of these choices are conditioned by us as they are crated or given chews or bones in selected locations and these have a reward history.

I have noticed when I travel to the States that beds are often places under windows with the head end next to the window. As a Brit this always seems odd to me as we prefer the wall opposite the window. I wonder if this is cultural, practical or really anyone’s personal choice? Does it make a difference? Don’t talk to me about Japan: sleeping that close to the floor was something of a nightmare (I made up the couch).

Good sleep where we feel safe and comfortable is important for us all.

sleeping dog

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Key Reading

What is a Trainer?

I know what I am, as a trainer. But does my view of “A Trainer” coincide with, or even overlap with yours?

Why add fun?

When an activity gives intrinsic pleasure we do not need to add fun.

The Experienced Dog

Knowing your dog has receive sufficient preparation does not mean every eventuality, but a range of different conditions so that when the unexpected happens they will draw on their skills and solve the issue.

A Road to Nowhere

When familiarity is stripped away we seek recognisable signposts that will take us back to comfort and security. This is survival instinct. It is worth listening to as it keeps us alive.

Dogs are Born To Learn

We can build tremendous learners when we get beyond the idea that “dogs are trained”.

Cue Seeking is Connection

Connection is very individual and to be authentic we have to observe, slow down, understand our dogs and meet them where they are.

Do you see what I see

Doing better is the reward from doing the work. This work needs to be the right work at the right time with the right intent done in the right way.

Chasm opening up?

The more I see “sit, down, come, stay heel” as the essential basics the more I am moving further away from the general view of living with dogs.

Not Today and Not for My Sheepdogs

Standard protocols of extinction, impulse control, counterconditioning are quickly grabbed off the shelf as satisfactory solutions. These solutions are unlikely to help your collie, your sheepdog as the focus is heavily on suppression of who they are and why they live.

Construction or suppression

Looking at the way the behaviour is carried out is the most important element, and that is the product of all the considerations.

Top Training

Cue Seeking

Being an active learner and seeking opportunities for more rewards

Evidence of learning

When we use the words “teach” or “train” child, person or dog, the operative term implies that the process is under the ownership of the teacher or trainer. What your teacher thinks you have learned may not be what you actually learned.

Duration: sustaining movement

Continuing and maintaining a specific movement

Preparation

Preparing before you train and the final check list

Release cue or stay cue

Many of us begin with teaching sit or down, and this is one of the earliest experiences of training with reinforcement. Is the sit, or down, going to be a terminal behaviour, or a temporary position?

Duration or is it Breakfast in Bed?

Teaching duration has become a very muddied understanding or what it is and how to teach it. This is partly due to how we use words that are the same but have entirely different meanings.

Nose Target. No thanks

Nose target is a popular behaviour taught to many dogs, and other animals. It seems easy to teach and have practical application, but it is often not such a pleasant experience for all dogs. There are many other options available that give the same practical benefit, without the unpleasant extremes.

The Power of Passive Learning

Active learning: the learner takes active choice of what to do, how to respond, is attentive and making conscious effort
Passive learning: little conscious effort, reward is delivered for minimum effort.

Going Shopping

This is a joint travelling adventure. It completely resets the learning and can easily extend the reinforcement process.

Not all lures contain food

“the direct use of the reinforcer to elicit the behaviour”
This should always be foremost in our mind, in that many alternatives lures are available.

2 Comments

  1. Louise Welsford

    I loved this article. I also have very many photos of my dogs sleeping. Such an important topic – so often we take our dogs’ resting and sleeping behaviour for granted and forget how necessary it is for dogs, particularly active dogs that always seem to be “on the go”, to get adequate rest. I was out with my dogs at a gundog working test all day yesterday and I know how much physical and mental stress is experienced. So, today, I know that to recharge they will spend more time resting and sleeping than they normally do.

    Reply
    • Kay Laurence

      Absolutely ! Long day activities, even if the dog is not on the go all day, they can be resting in the car, will take its toll – often a few days rest is required (It certainly is for me!)

      Reply

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