Next to your bed, there’s probably no place comfier than your couch. Not only is it cozy, but couches are also usually the focal point of the household where the whole family congregates, including your dog.
That said, you might want to keep your dog off of the couch, which can be tricky, especially if they assume they are welcome there.
If you’ve previously tried to keep your dog off the couch or other furniture without success, here are some tips to teach your dog to sit and rest elsewhere.
Keeping Dogs Off Furniture: The Challenges
If your pup likes to jump up on the couch, they could be doing it for a few reasons.
“[The couch] is where owners spend their time, and dogs often want to spend time closer to them,” says Dr. Melissa Bain, professor of clinical animal behavior service at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “Additionally, if [your dog is] not given a comfortable spot to lay down on and be rewarded for it, the obvious choice would be the couch.”
Simply put, dogs like to be comfortable, and they like to be near their people. While it’s flattering to know your dog wants to be as close to you as possible, you might not appreciate the dog hair, scratches and space they take up when they’re on the couch.
Tips for Keeping Dogs Off the Couch
If keeping your dog off the couch feels like a losing battle, don’t lose heart. Whether you’re dealing with a puppy or an older dog, there are ways to make sure they stay off the sofa for good.
Here are some suggestions from Dr. Mary R. Burch, a certified applied animal behaviorist.
Tips for Keeping Puppies Off the Couch
Tip #1: Manage the environment by covering the couch. Creating a physical boundary for your puppy will keep them from getting on the couch.
“To keep puppies off the couch until they are trained, you can cover the couch with newspapers or other objects,” says Burch. “Another way to manage the environment when you aren’t home is to use baby gates, a crate or keep the puppy in a room where furniture is not a problem.”
Tip #2: Provide an appropriate alternative to the couch. Your pup is likely trying to get on the couch for a cozy place to chill, so providing them with a comfy alternative will help them stay off.
“If your puppy is looking for a cozy place to snooze, be sure to provide the puppy with a comfortable bed,” says Burch. “When you are home, you can put the puppy near the couch, so the puppy can have both a comfortable bed and be close to you at the same time.”
Tip #3: Train, train, train. Implement behavioral commands and basic training skills as soon as possible. This can include teaching the “off” command – tell your puppy “off” and reward her for getting off the couch with a treat, Burch says. You can also redirect the puppy to an acceptable place, like a dog bed, and reward her with a treat. Be consistent about keeping your puppy off the couch so that they understand the rules.
Tips for Keeping Adults Dogs Off the Couch
The same tips that apply to puppies will work for teaching older dogs to stay off the couch too.
“As your puppy gets older, one thing you can do is teach ‘up’ and allow the dog to get on the couch when you invite them,” Burch says. “Of course, your dog will have already learned ‘off.’”
Being on the couch can be a special reward for your dog, but you may want to have a cover for the couch and restrict your dog to one piece of furniture (e.g., the couch is okay, but great-grandmother’s antique chair is not).
“Dogs are different, and you may need to try [a variety of] solutions,” says Burch. “For example, one common recommendation is to cover the couch with newspapers, but some dogs will happily take a nap on the papers if they are on the couch.”
Couch Deterrents for Dogs
If you want to be successful in keeping your dog off the couch, it comes down to consistency.
“All family members must be consistent in either allowing the dog on the couch or not allowing the dog on the couch,” says Bain. “Intermittent reinforcement and inconsistencies are why these behaviors can be hard to change. It’s like a slot machine–you don’t win every time, but when you do, it’s great!”
If your goal is to keep your dog off the couch, try one or a combination of these deterrents:
Physical barriers: put up a physical barrier, like a gate or a crate.
Preventative items: put something on the couch to prevent jumping. Homemade items in addition to newspapers can include boxes and tinfoil, or there are commercial products like The Couch Defender that looks like an agility tunnel or The Couch Guard, which is plastic with pieces that stand up.
Sprays: dog deterrent sprays like Bitter Apple can keep dogs off furniture but can be confusing for dogs if you occasionally allow them on the couch.
How to Protect Your Couch When You’re Not Home
It’s impossible to keep your eyes on your pup 24/7, especially when you aren’t home. To keep your dog from taking advantage of your absence, consider putting them in a crate or other gated area.
“Leave your dog at home in a confined, dog-proof area such as a designated room or crate,” says Marny Nofi, senior manager of the ASPCA behavioral sciences team. “Dogs shouldn’t be crated for long periods and should get a potty break and exercise session every four hours.” If you have a puppy under 6 months old, they’ll need shorter periods in the crate to ensure they don’t have an accident.
If you decide to confine your dog when you aren’t at home, make sure they get plenty of exercise and quality time with you when they’re not in their crate.
If a crate isn’t an option, you can also create more physical boundaries when you aren’t at home. “Management is the way to approach it. Keep the doors to that room closed. Flip up the couch cushions,” says Bain.
And if you’re still having issues with keeping your dog off the couch, you may want to consult a professional behaviorist to help you and your dog work through the behavior.