Your dog lives a life of luxury. He has the dog lifestyle mastered- he’s fed on a schedule and only eats his favorite foods, he gets the best treats, he has playtime every day, and he knows he can sit almost anywhere in the house and you’ll still love him. With all this in mind, he chooses to sit on your fluffy, soft down pillow covered in a 1,000 thread count pillowcase. He squishes his little butt onto it just right and has now claimed it as his. When you find him, he simply smiles at you with the face, “What? I thought you said we could share.”
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The Root of the Behavior
Just like humans, dogs like to be comfortable and warm. If your dog is sitting on your pillows, it could be because he’s looking to prop himself up with extra fluff for a super luxurious nap. Pillows are soft and squishy, and your dog’s bed might be worn down and not as comfy. All of the things in your house smells like you, and some of it more than others. Dogs are pack animals and like to be around their family and, as their human, you are the leader of the pack. Part of a dog’s comfort is belonging to the pack and having familiar smells nearby. When you’re out of the house for the day, your dog misses you. If he’s sitting on pillows from your bed or the one you use while on the couch all the time, those are cloaked in your scent. If you’re not home and he misses you, he might sit on that pillow to feel closer to you. Your scent is a comfort to him and he will use anything he can to feel that comfort. That might mean he steals your pillow.
Your dog might be stealing the pillows as a show or an attempt at dominance. In the pack, there is the hierarchy and if you’re clearly not the alpha to your dog, he is. He will prove it by running your household and sitting on your pillows. That alone is not enough to declare it a dominant situation. If your dog sits on a pillow, you tell him, "no," but he refuses to listen, it possibly is a dominance problem. Another scenario of possible dominance is if you get up and your dog steals your pillow and refuses to give it back. Accompanying dominant behaviors could also include A dominant dog will refuse to listen to known commands, lead on walks, or insistent on walking through the door first.
Encouraging the Behavior
While the act of sitting on a pillow is usually harmless, you might consider some alternatives if you two currently share that pillow. If your dog misses you during the day and is looking for your scent, consider giving him an old pillow that smells like you, but that you don’t use often. You could also wash the pillow cover or case regularly to keep things clean, but that would require a lot of laundry. If your dog’s bed has lost its fluff, buy some fiberfill and stuff it, or get him a new bed altogether. Your dog might be looking for that bit of luxury to rest his head and call his own.
If you are concerned your dog is being dominant, take him to a trainer. This is one behavior you do not want to encourage because it will give him the power in the house. You should be able to instruct your dog to do something and he should listen, as well as know where he can and can’t sit in the house. If you deem pillows or furniture unacceptable places to sit, he needs to listen and obey that rule. A trainer can assist you in finding ways to best work with your dog.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog claims a pillow of his own, whether for comfort or warmth, but starts growling or nipping when you approach, he might have a problem with object guarding. Object guarding is when a dog protects his items or people and becomes aggressive when he feels threatened. A dog who is object guarding will hoard toys and bark, growl, or even nip when he feels threatened. Object guarding would be seen with other items in the house like food, toys, or even humans. If you’re concerned this is the case, talk to a trainer to find out what behaviors are normal and which are not.
You and your dog both have a taste for the finer things, so it only makes sense that you gravitate towards high quality comfort, like pillows. But before you follow the sharing is caring philosophy, think about his butt being squished on the pillow you rest your face on. Perhaps it’s a good idea to invest in a pillow for him and a pillow for you so you can both live the life of luxury you deserve.