Dogs bark at people when they’re on the bed for all sorts of reasons. It can be really hard to know exactly why your dog barks at you when he’s on your bed, but we definitely know it’s a problem! Let’s look at how to fix this problem.
If your dog is barking at you and you’d like help, hire me for virtual training.
In our most recent “Ask a Trainer” question, a reader asked,
“How do I teach my dog to not bark at me or my girlfriend when she is on the bed? She barks at night and the morning but the scenarios seem different. At night she barks when I come to bed and has been sleeping in the room with my girlfriend. In the morning she barks when my girlfriend is leaving the room and I’m in the bed sleeping but my dog is awake at this time?”
Step One: Identify the Triggers
Our writer has already done a good job of identifying what makes his dog bark on the bed. When the dog is on the bed, someone else is in the bed too, and a third person is not in the bed but is in the room, the dog barks.
Take a second to try to figure out exactly when your dog barks at people from the bed. If you can’t figure it out, keep a journal for a few days. Keep track of time of day, who’s around, where they are, and what everyone is doing.
Many dogs who bark at people from the bed are displaying some version of the common problem known as “resource guarding.” This isn’t a dominance behavior. Rather, it’s often a sign that your dog is distressed and feeling insecure about sharing.
Our training plan will teach your dog that sharing the bed is awesome so that he’s less likely to bark.
Step Two: Manage the Problem
Now that you know what causes your dog to bark at you when he’s on the bed, it’s time to manage the situation. Management is a way of saying that we’ll set up the situation so that your dog doesn’t get exposed to his triggers again.
In the case of dogs that bark at people when they’re on the bed, this often means not allowing the dog on the bed anymore. Generally, I’m 100% in favor of letting your pet sleep with you. I share my bed with my Border Collie and my boyfriend every night!
But if your dog sleeping on your bed is causing problems, it’s time to stop sharing the bed for a little while.
Get a nice dog bed or crate and have your dog sleep in that for the time being.
We do this because every time your dog barks at someone while he’s on the bed, that behavior gets stronger. His brain’s neural pathways for “barking at people on the bed” are getting more use, and the problem is likely to get worse.
Your dog’s barking is communication that something is upsetting him.
Since I’m not going to suggest that you sleep on the couch, it’s time for the dog to get off the bed.
Step Three: Desensitization
Now that your dog isn’t barking at anyone from the bed anymore (because we’re not putting him in that situation), we can start training.
As I said, your dog is barking at people from the bed because he’s upset about something.
He might be excited or he might be “guarding” the bed, or something else entirely. I can’t say without seeing a video of the problem (and even then, I can’t ask the dog to be sure).
Set up a practice scenario
- Letting the dog into the bed again.
- Then enter or exit the room, just like you described above as the “trigger.”
- Toss treats to the dog before the dog starts to bark. Toss the treats behind the dog or even off of the bed.
- If the dog starts to bark, you moved too quickly or came too close. Re-set and try again.
- Repeat in 30-second training sessions.
- Gradually increase how fast you move or how close to the bed you get.
Over time, this teaches your dog that what used to upset him is actually a good thing.
Punishing your dog for barking at you from the bed will only teach him that people nearby while he’s on the bed is TERRIBLE, and might make the barking worse.
In most cases, these three steps along will help
If you try these three steps to stop your dog from barking at you while you’re on the bed and it doesn’t work, get help from me!
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her dog Barley.