By Courtney Emken
co-written by Jen Larson, KPA-CTP
Comfy furniture can be a tempting target for dogs to lounge on, much to their owner’s frustration. Once your dog begins couch-surfing, it can seem nearly impossible to keep them off. However, by using redirection techniques and reinforcement, you can easily keep your dog off the couch.
First, Establish Clear Boundaries And Get Everyone On The Same Page
Your dog needs to know exactly what’s expected of them and what’s allowed in the house. If dad lets the dog on the couch, but mom doesn’t, they’ll just become confused. This means everyone needs to be consistent about reinforcing what the dog can and can’t do.
This is because dogs rely on a history of reinforcement to inform their behavior. If relatives or friends are watching your dog, make sure they understand what’s allowed. All it takes is one weekend of lax rules to set back months of training and reinforcement.
Train Cues In Opposition To Climbing On The Furniture
Cues can redirect your dog away from furniture. If you’ve trained a recall cue like“come,” or “here,” they’ll obey the cue and jump off. Unfortunately, recall doesn’t directly address the issue. Instead, you need to focus on training a strong “off” cue.
Every time your dog jumps on furniture, firmly say “off.” Make sure you don’t use a harsh tone, you don’t want your dog to feel punished. Reward them with a treat when they get down, but only as soon as they’re completely off the furniture. Otherwise, they’ll be confused about what you want.
Many owners worry that this might actually encourage their dog to jump on furniture in order to receive treats for getting off. While this is certainly possible, the vast majority of dogs won’t make that mental association. Typically, they just learn to stay off the furniture for good.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. Jen has a Vizsla puppy who figured out: “oh when you call me away from that, I get a treat afterwards!” While cases like this are rare, they do happen. If your dog doesn’t respond to redirection, you need an experienced trainer for help.
Another useful cue is “go to bed.” As the name implies, this cue signals your dog to go to their comfort space. Whether that’s a mat, bed, or crate doesn’t particularly matter. What’s great about “go to bed” is that you give your dog a different place to be that’s just as comfy as a couch.
Manage Your Dog’s Movement With Gates & Crate Training
Even if a dog has learned “off,” they can stubbornly continue their furniture habit. We’ve heard stories of frustrated owners stacking chairs on the couch, hoping to block their dog. But when they arrived home that day, they found the dog comfortably curled up beneath the chairs!
The answer to this is carefully managing your dog’s freedom of movement. Use baby gates to restrict access to furniture-heavy areas. Just make sure you’ve prepared a comfortable place for your dog behind the baby gate where they can lay down.
We highly recommend crate training your dog to prevent furniture use. Crate training can be taught at any age, and dogs love feeling comfy and safe within their crate. If trained well, your dog may ignore the couch all together. Plus, you can tell them to go to their crate if they do jump onto furniture.
If you want to know more about behavior redirection, or have a dog who just can’t get enough of the furniture, please contact us today. We’ve personally dealt with furniture-loving dogs (Noodle, you rascal!) and know exactly how to help you solve the problem fast.
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