How To Keep Your Dog Off The Couch

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Today we are going to look at how to keep your dog off the couch and other items of furniture.

Some people are very happy for their dog to sleep on the couch.

Others would prefer their Labrador to sleep in a basket or dog bed designed for that purpose.

If your family prefers not to have their Labs climbing on the sofa, or any other items of furniture, this article is for you.

I’ll show you how to teach your Labrador not to climb on your sofa or chairs.

Should dogs be allowed to sleep on the couch?

The first thing to say is that you shouldn’t feel that you are being mean or unkind if you don’t want your dog to sleep on your chairs or sofa.

While your dog is certainly a member of the family, Labs have a fondness for getting muddy and a tendency to leave a nice nest of hair wherever they sleep.

It isn’t mean of you to want to be able to sit on your own couch without you or your visitors getting covered in hair

marvin the mooseAnd your dog won’t suffer if you make sure he has a nice cosy bed of his own to lie in.

On the other hand, if you don’t care about a bit of dust or a few hairs, that’s fine too.

Provided that your dog is not a resource guarder.

Dogs that won’t share, or that growl if anyone tries to sit on the couch with them, should never be allowed to sleep there.

Other than that, it’s a personal choice and there are no rights and wrongs here.

Why do dogs like to climb on the furniture?

Dogs do the things they do because they find them rewarding.

We hardly ever reward our dogs for lying on the floor so why would they want to do that?

On the other hand, the sofa or couch is all squishy and comfortable. Its an easy choice for the dog.

Start as you mean to go on with a ‘no dogs on the furniture’ rule

We’ll look in a moment at how to stop your dog getting on the furniture.

But if your dog is still a puppy, one of the best ways to avoid the problem arising is simply never to let it get started.

If all family members avoid bringing the puppy onto furniture even when small, he may never ever make an attempt to climb up there when he is bigger. feeding2

It can help if you avoid cuddling your puppy on the couch, but rather sit on the floor yourself when you want him on your lap.

But what about the dog that has already started to climb onto the furniture?

How to stop your dog climbing on the couch

There are two separate situations that you’ll need to deal with.

The dog that climbs in a chair while you are in the room with him, and the dog that sleeps on the sofa only when you are out.

Perhaps your dog gets on the sofa as he hears your car disappear up the road, and is sleeping innocently in his basket when you return?

The only clue is the lovely warm patch on your cushions and give-away sprinkling of Labrador hair. This is a very common problem.

Many people use some form of punishment to try and stop the first problem, scolding the dog, or even smacking him when they catch him on the chairs.

This just makes the dog sneaky. Causing the second problem to replace the first one.

Let’s start with the first problem. And look at ways of preventing the dog from climbing on the sofa when you are in the room with him. The trick is to make being on the floor rewarding for the dog.

Teaching your dog that the floor is a good place to be

A lot of people call their dog off the couch and give him a treat, this is a great start, but then, the dog gets straight back on the couch again!

This is normal behavior. And you can break this pattern by a process I call treat streaming.

Bring your dog into the room where he has been jumping on the furniture.

Have a pot of treats handy on a nearby table.

If your dog is kibble fed, you can use part of his dinner for this.

As soon as your dog jumps on the couch, attract his attention and give him a nice treat on the floor well away from the couch.

But instead of pausing and giving him opportunity to get back on the couch, give him another treat, and another – at one or two second intervals.

Once the dog has lost interest in the sofa, you can start spreading out the intervals between the rewards you give him for simply being on the floor

How to get a reluctant dog off the sofa

Sometimes, especially with older dogs where lying on the sofa has become an ingrained habit, the dog may be reluctant to leave the sofa, even for a treat.

Never try and wrestle a Labrador off your furniture and never attempt to lift a growling or grumpy dog from a sofa.

If you are having problems with an older dog that requires you to move him from one place to another, have your dog wear a house-line attached to a body harness.

This gives you control over you dog.

And get yourself some better rewards to reinforce him once you have got him down on the floor. Roast chicken will usually do the trick!

Reward the behavior you want

Like all undesirable behaviors, you should always have in mind a better alternative for your dog. And you should reinforce that behavior generously.

For my youngest Lab, the behavior I have reinforced since she was a puppy is laying in her bed.

This can work well to keep a dog away from the supper table, and away from the sofa when you are watching TV. I’ll give you an example.

For many months when Rachael was small, we always brought a pot of treats to the dinner table. Every time she went near her bed we threw her a treat.

Eventually she only got a treat when she actually got in her bed.

She was soon leaping into her bed each time the family sat down to supper.

To start with she got treats thrown at frequent intervals, now she only gets one at the end of our meal.

In this case, the dog who wants to get on the couch, needs to know that he has an approved bed to go to. And to be strongly reinforced for doing so.

Choosing to be good

This is what we call a default behavior.

I don’t tell Rachael to get in her bed when we sit down to supper, it is what she chooses to do in this situation because of the reinforcement history of that choice.

Behaviors that dogs choose for themselves tend to be powerful and persistent. Sometimes we forget Rachael’s treat at the end of our meal. But the habit is so strong, she never fails to wait patiently in her bed.

Obviously this kind of training takes time. And in the meantime, you need ways to keep your dog from climbing on the couch when you are not actively training him to be on the floor.

This requires some management strategies!

How to keep your dog off the furniture while you are not training

Unless you have a completely open plan house, then the best thing you can do is close the door to the room with the forbidden furniture, or babygate the entrance.

Another solution is to put some kind of obstacle on the couch, such as an upturned basket.

Anything which makes the furniture less attractive to the dog.

How to keep your dog off the couch when you go out

Trying to train a dog not to climb on the couch when you are out of the house entirely will simply make you feel stressed and angry.

Teaching a dog to obey a command or ‘rule’ in your absence is an advanced skill and nine times out of ten, it is far better to deny access to the forbidden object (shut your dog in the kitchen whilst you are out, for example),  than to attempt to train a dog to obey a rule in your absence.

What about punishing the dog?

There are many downsides to using punishment in dog training. They can have considerable fall out for the dog, and are notoriously difficult to use effectively in the absence of the owner.

One punishment that some people have tried with varying degrees of success is a mat that emits an unpleasant noise in response to pressure.

If it is completely impossible for you to prevent your dog accessing the room with your favorite antique chair in, you might be tempted to try putting such a mat on the chair when you have to leave him alone.

If he presses on the mat, it will emit a loud noise

Be aware though, that some dogs will be very distressed at hearing a loud alarm going off in the house while they are alone, and some dogs will react to this stress by soiling in the house or chewing things

Summary

We all tend to ignore our dogs when they are being good and react when they are annoying us.

Changing this perspective when it comes to managing your dog, finding alternative behaviors that you like and reinforcing them strongly, can be dramatically effective.

In the meantime, do avoid going into battle with your dog. Think of ways to prevent him indulging in his naughty naps. Rather than trying to catch him in the act of being bad. Focus on catching him being good

You’ll be happier for it, and so will he!

 

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Pippa

    There is nothing better than sitting on the couch watching TV with dog snuggled up to you..watching the TV with you….

  2. In our old house, our dog did not sleep on the sofa. He does do this at doggy day care but never at home. When we moved to our new house and nice new sofa, he seemed to think it was ok to clamber up ?. We gently herded him off any time we saw him and generally rewarded him for being in his own bed. Every biscuit was given in his bed. Also we placed the kitchen stools on the sofa for a few days when we were out, then just a couple of books for a few days, and pretty soon just the remote control in the centre of the cushion. This did two things – deterred him from going up and would have been moved if he had. He again does not sleep on the sofa and, as always, is happiest in his own bed. Now we have another pup who just follows his lead – paws on the floor ?

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