You were out shopping and saw the cutest dog bed, so you purchased it and brought it home. You were so excited to watch your dog’s reaction, which is just as much of a gift for you as the bed is for your dog. You eagerly set it down and expect your dog to jump onto it and happily burrow into it, but she could not care less! Now what?
Luckily, there are a few ways you may entice your dog to enjoy her new bed. Let’s discuss:
Assess the why
There is a reason your dog does not like the bed, and to inspire her to use the bed, you must first know why she is refusing to.
Location. Some dogs will not use a bed if they do not like it the bed’s location.
- Is the bed in a high-traffic area?
- Is the bed thin and placed on a hard floor like concrete?
- Is the bed near a door where your dog would be frequently exposed to gusts of cold or hot air when the door is opened?
- Is the bed near where another pet spends time who might be bullying your dog away from her bed?
Preference. Some dogs will refuse to use a bed simply because they do not like it. Did you buy a different style bed than your dog had previously? Maybe your dog does not find the new style of bed as comfortable.
Life experience. If you rescued a dog from an abusive situation, they may not have had their own dog bed before and therefore may not understand how to use it. Sadly, it is very common for rescued dogs to have to learn how to be a dog and that life has many wonderful things for them, such as warm beds, fun toys, and loving people who will pet them and care for them. If this is your dog’s situation, know that these new experiences may provoke anxiety for a rescued dog. With patience, time, and encouragement from you, he will learn to use his bed.
How to entice your dog to use her bed
Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement training methods. If you can get your dog to associate their bed with positive things, she will want to spend time there because of it. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Sit next to your dog’s bed in a way that when they come over to see you they must step on the bed to get to you. When he puts his paws on the bed, praise him verbally and pet him. For a week, make the bed the rendezvous point for one on one attention and bonding. After a week, maybe less, your dog will likely begin running to the bed for attention!
- When you offer your dog treats or chews, point to the bed and say “place”, and when she steps onto the bed, give her the treat or chew.
- If your dog loves blankies, “tuck her in” or make her a “blanket burrito” on the bed. Encourage her to lay on the bed, then when she does, put her favorite blanket over her to make her extra cozy. The best time to do this is right after a walk or playtime when your dog starts getting tired and wants to rest. The strategy of helping her get extra cozy on the bed around her nap time will help her associate the bed with being comfortable and resting, which will encourage her to spend more time on the bed.
- Make your dog’s bed a part of a special space just for him. Strategically place the bed in an area that your dog already enjoys spending time in, and always put one of his favorite toys on it. He will likely begin using it if it is placed in his space.
Tactics to avoid
While dogs are famous for living in the moment, this does not mean that they have no memory. For example, Pavlov’s conditioning of dogs to salivate when a bell is rung. If your dog begins to associate their bed with negative experiences, they will never want to use it. To that end here are tactics to avoid:
Impatience. Do not drag or force your dog onto the bed. With time and patience, he will get on the bed himself. He will not warm up to his bed by being forced onto it.
High traffic areas. Do not place the bed in the middle of a room or in a high-traffic area. If your dog likes being where the action is, place the bed in the corner of the room so that she has a place to fall asleep where the family spends time, but a bit out of the way.
Abuse. If your dog experiences any type of abuse while using his bed, he will associate the bed with such abuse and want to avoid using the bed as a result. Even if you are not physically abusive, many dogs are sensitive to raised voices and cruel tones of voice.
Scolding. Do not yell at your dog while they are on their bed, even if you discovered they did something bad and you walk over to scold them for it. Chances are they will not associate your scolding with the trouble they caused, but be surprised to be awoken from a nap in such an abrasive and abrupt manner. Trouble must be addressed when a dog is caught in the act because they often will not understand if the scolding happens later after the incident.
Offering one bed in a house with more than one dog. If you have multiple dogs, ensure that there is a bed for each dog, and be sure to purchase the same type of bed for each dog. This avoids competition for one bed and ensures that all the dogs will be comfortable. Even if your dogs cuddle together, there will be times when they want their own places to sleep, making individual beds necessary.
Expecting a dog to nap under any circumstance. If you have dogs in different life stages or different energy levels, or boisterous children, be sure to make beds available in different locations of the house or allow the lower energy dog a place to rest where the higher energy dog or children cannot bother him or her. Just like how mothers put their younger children down for a nap in their bedroom and have the older children play downstairs, dogs appreciate the peace and space too. If one of your dogs is attempting to nap and a boisterous sibling decides to attempt to initiate play during their nap, your dog may stop trying to nap in their bed and search for another location to have their quiet time.
Dogs are oftentimes creatures of habit, and a new bed has the potential to throw off their routine or how they like their space to be. By following the tips suggested in this article to make your dog’s bed more enticing, she is likely to adjust to the new lounge option. With trial and error, as well as patience and time, your dog will most likely find a bed that she loves to use.