Our dogs are our family, and, in most cases, get prime seating on the couch or bed.
But the wear and tear from your dog’s paws, claws and drool can do a number on your furniture. You may also want to avoid cleaning up dog hair or free up an extra space on the couch for guests.
Whatever your reason, breaking an old habit can be challenging, and your dog may always have the tendency to creep up when you’re not looking. With patience, time and an enticing alternative, you can recondition your dog to stay off the furniture. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Designate a New Spot for Your Dog
The first step in training your dog off the couch is to provide an alternative resting place. Your dog loves the couch because it's comfortable and close to you, so you should invest in a dog bed that's just as appealing. High cornered beds have tall sides that create a soft, enclosed space for your dog, much like when he snuggles into the couch cushions. Place the dog bed next to the couch so your pup is still close to his favorite family members.
Have your dog lie down on the bed and give him treats, a peanut butter-filled Kong or a bone to create a positive association with the new resting spot. Throughout the day, toss treats onto the dog bed so your dog learns that his bed is a more rewarding place than the couch.
Train Your Dog with a Cue
To reinforce the new resting spot, you should teach your dog two cues: "off" and "place".
To train the "off" cue, wait until your dog is on the furniture. Hold an enticing treat in your hand and guide your dog back off the couch with the treat. When your dog places all four paws on the floor, say "off" and reward with the treat. Repeat this several times until your dog learns that "off" means to get down from the couch.
To teach your dog to go to his new dog bed, you can use the cue "place". Lure your dog to the bed with treats. As soon as all four paws are on the bed, say "place", praise and then give him a treat. Repeat this several times until your dog learns that the cue "place" means to go to his bed.
Create a Barrier to Protect the Furniture
Old habits are hard to break, and even with a comparable resting spot, your dog will still be tempted to sneak up onto the couch while you're away at work. To prevent this, place a barrier around your couch or limit access to the living room. You can place kitchen chairs upside down on the couch or use boxes filled with heavy items, such as books. You don't want your dog to be able to remove the barrier or knock it off.
Don't want to clutter your furniture? Remove access to the living room by crating your dog during the day, enclosing him in a different room or adding a baby gate to the entrance of the living room. Your goal is to prevent your dog from learning that it's okay to be on the furniture when you're not home.
Once your dog has learned the "off" and "place" cues, you should no longer invite him onto the furniture. If you allow your dog onto the furniture occasionally, it will only create confusion. It needs to be clear to your pet that he is not allowed onto the couch under any circumstances. Encourage other family members and friends to follow these rules too. If your dog makes the mistake of climbing onto the furniture, simply give the "off" cue.
Rebekah Olsen is a professional writer and wordsmith. She has a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Memphis, and enjoys writing about pet care. You can learn more about her at www.rebekaholsen.com.