On the Furniture or Off?

Allowing dogs on furniture is a very subjective topic.

My dogs are allowed up on my furniture; in fact, my choice of furniture (dark brown faux leather) was because it’s sturdy, easy to clean, and doesn’t show dog paw prints. I enjoy my dogs’ company if I’m enjoying my first cup of coffee in the morning or relaxing after a long day.

However, this isn’t always the same for everyone. There have been times I’ve recommended to training clients that they not allow their dogs up on the furniture; usually because of their dog’s behavior and/or personality. Just as every dog is unique, so is every household. Let’s take a look at this surprisingly complicated subject.

What Do You Want?

If you’re like me and want your dog to cuddle next to you, that’s great as long as your dog’s personality is such that he won’t take advantage of it. However, does everyone in the family agree with you? If you let your dog up but another family member gets angry at the dog when he’s up on the furniture, there will be a lot of confusion. There needs to be agreement between all family members.

If you decide you’d rather not have your dog on the furniture, that’s fine. You won’t be depriving him. Just supply a nice comfortable dog bed so he can relax in his own spot as close to you as possible. That’s what’s important to him.

Your Dog’s Personality

I have restricted access to the furniture to one of my dogs in the past. Dax, a female Australian Shepherd, quickly figured out that because my husband and I used furniture, that meant furniture was special; furniture was where important people (or dogs) resided. Over time, as she matured, she began growling and showing her teeth when she was asked to move over or get off the furniture. She was, essentially, guarding her treasured spot on the furniture. As soon as we saw her change in attitude and behavior, the rules changed and she was no longer allowed up on any furniture. No more time on the sofa, chairs, or our bed.

Many dogs will enjoy the comfort of being on the furniture without ever showing this attitude. But if your dog ever growls at you, shows his teeth, or snaps at you, call a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for help right away. Resource guarding can, and often does, escalate and can result in a bite. Get help before it escalates.

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All Furniture or Just One?

In many ways it’s easiest to restrict the dog to one piece of furniture. For example, you can allow your dog to come up on the sofa but not any of the other pieces of furniture. Your dog can easily learn that he can get on the sofa but is not allowed anywhere else. Be consistent when teaching him; give him attention when he’s on the sofa with you and if he hops up somewhere else, ask him to get off.

If you’re planning on replacing any of the furniture in the near future, take this into consideration. Perhaps teach your dog he’s allowed on one of the pieces you’re going to keep but restrict him from other furniture pieces. That way when you bring in new furniture, he’s already been taught where he’s allowed.

When you decide where the dogs will be allowed, your dog’s size, coat (shedding), and the room available on the furniture should be a part of your decision.

Furniture Rules

Besides teaching your dog where he’s allowed and where he isn’t, you can also establish other rules. For example, I don’t allow rough play on the furniture. If my dogs want to wrestle or play, they need to get off the furniture. Although this takes time for puppies to learn, once puppies learn it, they consistently follow this rule. I don’t allow my dogs to use furniture as a trampoline, either. No dashing around the room, jumping up on the furniture, and then bouncing off the back of it.

You can also teach your dog to relax and sleep on a blanket or throw on the furniture. Not only will this help protect your furniture from some of the dirt and dog hair, it gives the dog something to nest on. Many dogs like to scratch and dig to create a comfortable bed and if he does that to the sofa cushion, he’s going to destroy it. A thick blanket can protect your furniture.

What about chewing on chew toys or bones on the furniture? I allow this as long as the dog is on the blanket, but if he’s not on the blanket I ask him to get off the furniture.

Last but certainly not least, I always teach my dogs that they must get off the furniture when asked. For example Bones loves my recliner and if I’m not sitting there he can nap there as much as he wants. However, if I have a glass of ice tea and want to sit in my recliner, he needs to move. Thankfully, he’s so good about it, so as soon as I am within a couple steps of the recliner he gets down on his own. I always praise him for this (reinforce good behavior).

When to Ask for Help

If you’re having trouble teaching your dog the furniture rules you wish him to follow, don’t hesitate to ask a dog trainer for help. Dogs can learn these rules, but confusion can ensue and a little bit of help can ease that confusion.

As was mentioned earlier, always get some professional help if your dog growls, snarls, snaps, or bites when on the furniture or when asked to get off the furniture.

The idea of dog training or behavior modification is to help dogs and people live together with less stress. Confusion or bad behavior over furniture rules don’t need to continue so ask for help if you need it.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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