While some pet owners love having their dog on the sofa (and may even share their bed with their pooch) - others might be wondering how to keep dog off couch. Whether you decide to share your sofa with your dog is a personal choice - pet hair and paw prints are all part of the deal when it comes to getting a dog, but there are instances where pets and soft furnishings don’t mix - other than the decision to own a Bernese Mountain Dog and a cream two-seater sofa (oops). If any of this sounds familiar, here’s a few tips on how to keep your dog off the furniture.
Why Does my Dog Sofa Surf?
Furniture surfing in pets is common and often comes down a number of reasons: an enticing plate of food, an excellent vantage point to watch the world go by - or perhaps just a nice place for them to snuggle - dogs are family members too, and even when you’re not there, your furniture probably smells like you, so why wouldn’t they want to curl up on the couch?
Dogs who Keep a Lookout
The reasons people have for not allowing their pets on the furniture might be health-related (such as allergies) - while other reasons might be down to behavioural issues. Some dogs might be inclined to clamber up on the sofa for a better view, so if your dog is naturally on the lookout - whether for intruders or whether they’re waiting for you to come home, either reposition your furniture away from the window, block access to the window using drapes or blinds or alternatively - give them an alternatively move their dog bed near the window so they can keep a look-out.
Other guarding behaviours might revolve around ownership. Whether you’re dealing with a territorial terrier, a grumpy greyhound or a surly spaniel, it may be the case that your dog has become a little too comfortable on your sofa. If you find your dog snapping, growling or refusing to move from their chosen spot, you need to assert yourself as their owner. Speak with a vet or behaviourist about guarding issues and how best to proceed - it may be that with the right training, they can become happy couch dwellers.
Discouraging your Dog
Some suggestions for keeping your dog off the furniture include unpleasant deterrents: a “scat mat'' is a mat that makes a shrill noise when you step onto it - but these can also upset dogs and may cause distress. Similarly, mats that cause electrical shocks should never be used - it’s cruel and harmful to train your dog using painful methods. At a minimum, the use of prickly-feeling car mats placed around the sofa might be effective, but above all the best way to train your dog is to use positive reinforcement.
Other suggestions for preventing your dog from climbing on the sofa are just peculiar: while covering your sofa in aluminum foil might be effective, in the long run you’ll end up spending a lot of time and money making your sofa look like an oven-ready chicken. Using a couch defender is another way to keep your sofa pet-free - these look like play tunnels (or pop-up laundry baskets) - but they’re actually designed to prevent your dog from climbing up onto the sofa. Be careful however: if you have a dog that loves a challenge, they may simply decide to try and climb on that instead!
As with all training techniques, it’s important to be consistent. Ensure everyone in the household (humans included) is aware of the rules and stick to them religiously: although it’s a myth that dogs see in black and white, their perception of rules is, so avoid overcomplicated rules such as allowing your dog on the sofa after 8pm - either allow them up, or not at all.
If you’re instigating this behaviour from puppyhood, the “old dogs, new tricks” rule applies: it can be challenging to untrain behaviour they have learned from an early age. The “off” cue is a simple and effective technique especially for instances such as these:
- Throw a small treat a few feet away from the sofa where your dog is lying.
- Say “off” and make a sweeping hand gesture as your dog gets down.
- Immediately lead your dog to the alternative bed/place and give them a treat and lots of praise to reinforce good behaviour - positive reinforcement works far better than punishment, so show your pup lots of love and praise whenever they get it right.
- As the dog learns the connection between the cue, the hand gesture and the action, gradually “fade out” using the treat.
An alternative method is to use a “positive interrupter” - a sound that will distract your dog without startling or upsetting them. Whenever your dog gets on the sofa, make the noise - and when they use their bed, use a clicker and reward them.
Some dogs might be particularly stubborn - especially alpha dogs who don’t like being told what to do! Classes involving reward based methods can help as they reinforce positive behaviour while strengthening the pet-owner bond - but If you’re finding training especially challenging, be patient, consistent and if in doubt, consult a professional for advice.
To Crate or Not to Crate
If you’re out for the day, some canny puppers might have figured out that if their owner is away, they won’t get told to stay off the furniture. In cases such as these, blocking access to the sofa by closing a door, crating your pet or using a safety gate could help - but use confinement with caution - the length of time left alone varies depending on different factors such as age, size, temperament and so on - and while there are some instances where crating can be useful, it’s important to remember that dogs are social animals and you are part of their pack - if you’re gone for too much time, it can cause distress (and potentially toileting accidents) - so only use confinement where absolutely necessary.
A Seat of their Own
As an alternative, you can always provide your pet with their very own place to relax, whether this is a dog bed, a donut bed or an actual dog sofa (yes, they exist!). Consider placing a few of these throughout the house, especially for sociable dogs who love to be near their humans - and encourage them to use it with treats and toys. For those with larger living rooms, you might also consider designating an old sofa especially for them - this is helpful for larger dogs who mistakenly believe they are smaller and attempt to clamber onto your lap!
Of course, whether or not you allow your dog on the furniture is up to you - cosying up with your pet on the sofa can be a lovely way to bond. But if you have health issues or if there are behavioural problems that prevent you from doing so, there’s always a way to manage this so that you can relax and your dog has a place to put their paws up after a busy day.