Some people love to cuddle up with their dog on the sofa and for others it’s a big no-no. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to letting your dog up on the furniture.
Every dog is different and every household is different. So it’s important not to feel bad if you’re in favor of keeping Fido four on the floor. After all, clumps of fur and muddy pawprints on cushions aren’t for everyone.
In our house, is was less about the fur and more about the behavior.
Dogs were allowed on the furniture for years without any issues. But after moving to a new apartment, things began to change. Lola grew more and more possessive of “her” cushions on the back of one of our very comfortable couches.
And unfortunately, I was finding myself on the receiving end of some serious growling and teeth baring every time I wanted to sit down and binge watch Breaking Bad.
Then she started giving Rhody the old “stink eye” at supper time, eventually becoming so bold that she’d growl and lunge to push him away from his meal so she could greedily gobble it up. And if he so much as looked at her while she was eating, she was willing to “throw down” as the kids say.
Clearly, her resource guarding was getting worse, and she was getting a bit too big for her lady britches. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Heck, they’d been allowed on the furniture for 5 or 6 years by then. But I was tired of walking on eggshells near her.
The intimidation tactics had to end and Lola needed to be reminded that she was a dog in our household, not some wicked, tyrannical queen. And my first step was to remove all opportunities for her to look at me from above, a position of authority.
That meant no bed and no couch (she was always on the back cushions, looking out on her kingdom), two of our three biggest problem areas.
So how do you go about implementing this no sofa rule?
Here are some step by step tips to help make your sofa a pooch free zone whether you’re working with a new puppy or a previously sofa dwelling dog!
Step 1: Consistency is key
This is one of the most important steps! Let’s admit it, couches and beds are pretty darn comfy spots and dogs, like anyone else, love to be comfortable. But no matter what, everyone in the household must agree to the “no dogs allowed on the furniture” policy and enforce it equally.
One of the biggest roadblocks to training with these sorts of “rules of the household” is inconsistency. This can be inconsistency between different people that live in your home or inconsistency in your own actions.
For us, it was my husband who really had a hard time letting go of Lola being allowed on the bed. She was, after all, his snuggle buddy. But she also turned into a vicious beast if anyone dared disturb him while he was napping and that wasn’t a situation that I was necessarily thrilled with.
If you need to, call a house meeting or even draw up a contract of what the rules are for pet behavior. By making sure that everyone is on the same page, you’ll speed up your dog’s understanding of what is expected of him.
This ensures there are no mixed messages that could cause confusion and potential difficulties when adjusting to this new rule.
Of course, it’s easier to set and enforce expectations if you start from when your pooch is a puppy. But you can teach an old dog new tricks,. We’re living proof that with patience and perseverance, (and Prozac), any dog can be trained to stay off of the furniture whether you’re at home.
Step 2: Tell your dog to get “Off”
From now on, every time your dog jumps up or places his paws on the furniture, give the command “Off.”
Why “off” and not “get down” you might ask? This is actually really important and something that I see often.
Many people tell the dog to “get down” but what’s one of the two most important dog training commands?
Remember, dogs are smart but they’re not innate human language learners. So if you start using “down” in all sorts of contexts (sit down, lie down, get down, put down, etc), you’re going to have one confused pooch.
So stick with “off” and remember to be consistent.
If your dog does not comply, gently lead him by the collar to the floor and immediately praise him with attention and a treat. Positive reinforcement is often key when teaching new behaviors and works well with most dogs when properly implemented.
You can also try placing a treat a few feet away from the sofa to encourage your dog to jump down without any physical intervention. Again, lavish your dog with praise and positive attention if he does this.
Step 3: Give your dog a comfy alternative
It’s important that if you plan to keep your dog off the furniture, that they have a comfortable, safe place to relax as an alternative. No one wants to move from a California king to a ratty old blanket thrown in a corner.
Try to make your dog’s new bed as inviting and comfortable as possible so it’s not viewed as a punishment.
Consider purchasing a donut shaped bed with a bolster instead of a flat dog mat. This way he’ll have somewhere to rest his head and lean against making it all the more enticing and enjoyable as an alternative to the sofa.
You can also make sure that you give him some special yummy treats or an exciting toy on the new bed so that your dog associates his new spot with good things!
And keep his bed close to where you all sit so that he doesn’t feel left out during this transitional period and remains connected to the rest of the family.
When your dog shows signs of wanting to get up on the couch, give the command “In your bed” or “Go to bed.” Then gently lead him there if he doesn’t respond. If your dog goes straight to his bed instead of the sofa, remember to praise him and use lots of positive reinforcement to show how happy you are with his choice!
Step 4: Keeping him off the sofa when you go out
What happens if your dog just jumps back on the furniture when you go out? I’m all too familiar with the sly looks I get when I walk in and can tell that a dog decided to test the boundaries and have a little nap on the couch. Here’s where dogproofing your apartment comes in handy.
And as much as I’m tempted to just ignore it, I remember back to those snarling teeth and get a big case of the “nopes.” Because the fact of the matter is that by allowing this to happen, you run the risk of undoing all the progress you’ve made so far.
As for the steps to take to ensure that your dog doesn’t get to hang out out on the sofa when you leave the room or go out, you don’t have to go crazy.
Honestly, I put the throw pillows at the edge and if anyone comes nosing around, a pillow will bop them on the head. No harm done, but they’ll stay away from the pillows.
Another option is to remove access to the room containing the forbidden furniture by closing the door or using a baby gate at the entrance. If this isn’t possible due to the layout of your house, you can go the obstacles on the couch route.
Your goal is to engineer your environment in a way that increases the likelihood that he’ll start going straight to his bed in future as he gets used to not being on the sofa.
If throw pillows aren’t enough of a deterrent for Mr. Biggins, you can get a bit more creative. Use scary, doggy mind-bending things like upside-down laundry baskets (or normal baskets), standing the seat cushions up vertically (freaky), or placing aluminium foil or bubble the length of the sofa.
Your visitors will think that you’re insane and you’ll have created an unfamiliar, less comfortable experience for your dog if he wants to lie on the couch.
Now if that’s not two birds, one stone, I don’t know what is!
Perseverance, consistency and plenty of positive reinforcement are key to making this work. Using the above methods will encourage your furry friend to choose his super comfy bed instead of the couch when he’s seeking somewhere to nap or relax!
In time he will avoid the sofa and enjoy the benefits of his new space, meaning you’ll get your sofa back!
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