Being a trainer I hear alot of stories, funny, sad, great and troubling. When I am working with a dog and their guardian I ask alot of questions; and it is the answer to the sleeping question that is the most predictable. "Where does your dog sleep?" Then comes the anticipated shrug; look to the ceiling and face of confession; "in our bed." Funny how admitting this to me makes them feel like they are back in the principles office once again.
You can see the relief in their dread face; when I say "good, mine do too." Then I push, I ask lots of sleeping questions. "Can you move your dog?" "When you flip around at night does your dog mind; any growling going on? " Well he growls if my husband tries to get into bed; or if I have to push him out of the way is often the response. Sometimes a resounding nope; good no bed worries.
So if your dog does growl in bed or on the couch for that matter; what should you do about it? I have one rule for comfort position growling and that is OFF. If your dog growls at the idea of being move from a comfortable position; prime comfort spot or position ownership; OFF they go. No more bed; no more couch; no more whatever they are growling on. Some people are mortified to hear the solution for a position growler; but it is not necessarily a forever rule.
You have to look at it as a pack reallignment. In your dog's eyes; they are the top reigning member and you will not be sitting in the best spots. Hmmmm, doesn't seem right does it? Wasn't it you who bought that couch or bed with your hard earned money? Yes, you do deserve the best seat in the house. I definitely believe in comfort for dogs; heck I've got many premium dog beds in almost every room of my house. But that does not mean that you should give up your spot for your dogs comfort.
Depending on the degree of growling really depends on how long the dog should be OFF. But a minimum of 3 months should be implemented. This often means leashing your dog and physically restraining them from getting on the couch or bed, not an easy task. Once dogs get accustom to something they like; they are not usually into letting it go easily. You have alot of work on your plate; but this will only make your relationship a better one. You will gain respect from your dog and take over the "top dog" status once again. Often a dog that growls on a bed or couch has other problems in the family and this is all linked to the "I'm the boss" mentality.
So once your dog has been OFF the bed or couch for three months; where do you go from there? You don't want to go back to the way it was so it is at this point whether or not they are allowed back on; if you have a very pushy type dog, the kind who is always trying to one up you then the OFF rule is a good one to maintain. If your pup has learned who the real boss is and you are having no further problems then he must ask before coming up.
When I say your dog must ask; most people look at me with a giant question mark. "Sherri......... how do they ask?" It's really simple,, they will sit infront of you wanting up, but not getting up. This is saying to you "I'd like up on the bed/couch." At this point the decision is entirely in your hands. You can ask your dog to go laydown on their own bed, come up right away or wait a while and then let them come up.
Once up a dog must get off when told; this is sometimes where you have to go back to the OFF rule. If they will not move or get off the couch or bed when asked; then they must get OFF for several months again. Treating a dog when they get off the couch in the beginning helps to make OFF not such a horrible thing. You can wean off treating once they are happily jumping off the bed or couch.
A growl is a dogs way of communicating; when it is about a premium position it is meant as a threat. "Don't even think about moving me off this king size bed." Does it mean that your dog is vicious? Not at all; it simply means that a restructuring is needed within your pack.