Are you the king of the castle, the top dog in your home? If you hold the alpha position in your household, your dog will respect you and your special seat. When there’s an opportunity to sit in the honored seat, your dog may just covet that spot and want to sit there to soak in your vibes. The dog that respects his owner will hop out of that seat and make way for the top dog. The reasons for taking your spot could be put into three categories. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The good is probably just a wistful desire to soak in your special smell and have a warm space to nestle into until you return. The bad side of the behavior could be separation anxiety. Separation from you makes your dog feel compelled to be in your space. However, there could also be an ugly connotation with your dog being a beta dog looking for an opportunity to slot into the alpha spot and become the alpha dog. Beta dogs are strong dogs in the wolf pack and ready to take over for the alpha at any time.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs have become part of our domestic lifestyle and we have provided all sorts of creature comforts to contribute to their happiness. Dogs have come to enjoy these homely spaces. They love a soft spot to settle into and it is easy to see how this brings out the good side of their nature. Domesticated dogs are provided with this magic spot and after a few twirls and a bit of a scratch they settle down for their nap. Your dog may just feel that you have a better spot. He enjoys your scent and the warmth you left behind, so taking your place makes a lot of sense. When you return, as the alpha of the house, you have the right to turn your dog off the spot or chair you sat in and return to your place. Then your dog should happily submit to you and move back to his spot. That was a good move all around. Looking at the bad side of this train of events could indicate separation anxiety. Watch your dog’s body language and facial expressions to enable you to decide if this is the case. Did you get up from your seat to see a trembling pet slip into your spot and cower there hoping you are not going to go out and leave him behind. Sitting in your spot is like a security blanket for your dog. An animal behaviorist could give you some help with handling a dog who fears separation from you. The final phase of assessing this behavior comes down to the ugly category. You are top dog in your home, so you don’t want to be challenged by a beta dog taking your alpha position. What are the ugly signs to look for? Your dog will sit upright in your chair and stare at you as you try to get him off your seat. A low growl could indicate there is more to this possession of your chair than you thought. The dog who fancies himself as the beta of the pack will always be ready to take on a weak alpha dog. You may need help from a behaviorist to change this attitude. Your dog is trying to take the alpha place in your home. He needs to know who is boss and who gets to sit in the special chair.
Encouraging the Behavior
Providing creature comforts and security for your dog is the expected role of a devoted dog owner. In the wild days of your dog’s ancestry, the pack created the pack order and the alpha dog had the best seat in the den! The rules were easy to follow and everyone knew their place. Now dogs are part of our homes, they have become domesticated, but there should still be respect for the pack order. Sitting in your spot when you get up shows your dog’s affection for you, but the chosen spot comes back to the master with no unwanted behavior. Your dog may also feel the need to protect you and sitting in your spot gives him the edge over the other animals in the household. It is always important to be in control of the situation. It is your spot, and you own that spot, not your dog. If you share the spot, be sure your dog knows who is in charge. Take a conscientious look at the sequence of events as your dog moves into your spot and decide on a good, bad, or ugly assessment of your dog’s behavior. If you don’t feel in control of your seat at anytime then you need to get the behavior sorted out before it really turns ugly. Domination of you at anytime is not acceptable in the domestic pack environment.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The sounds of the theme music from the movie 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' could be resounding in your ears as you return to your seat and find your dog, the gunfighting Fido has taken up residence. What are you going to do with Fido if he does not fit the canine good citizen role? Don’t try to yank him off the seat and admonish him there and then. Rather have a very attractive treat at the ready. Call Fido off the chair and when he is submissive and listening to you with a "sit" or "down and stay" command, offer him the treat. You are back in control. Ignore Fido and continue reading your book or watch TV. Let Fido figure out that you are still top dog and he is back in the omega spot of the family. If you feel uncertain of your control over the rebellious Fido, seek help from a behaviorist before the behavior gets out of hand. You don’t want to be sitting on the floor while Fido commands the chair!
The good dog of the infamous trilogy reminds us of Snoopy, the cute, cartoon Beagle. He has this to say about life: "My life has no direction, no aim, no meaning….and yet I am happy. I can’t figure it out! What am I doing right?" This is the essence of the good dog. He is happy to sit in your special spot and demands nothing but being with you, living a peaceful life in your wonderful home. Sharing your spot is just a loving gesture. You are master of the house and get the spot back when you need it.