Dog Behavior Training: My Dog is on the Couch and I Can’t Get Him Off!

Can allowing your dog on the couch change his good dog behavior to bad dog behavior?  Maybe.  Some dogs begin to own and guard the couch.

Having your dog on furniture could lead to growling, snapping or even biting to guard what they think is their space – but, it’s your couch.

Some pet owners are oblivious to how their dog may be viewing their couch or bed space as they sit for hours with their dog on the furniture, head in the lap, watching television. In most cases the relationship becomes emotional for the owners as they continue to allow the dog on the couch more and more.  I mean, it is a warm cuddly feeling to have you most loved pet so near to you.

When it comes to this “sometimes” touchy subject of allowing dogs on the furniture, I am okay with having them up on the furniture.

Yep, you heard me right, yes to,  dogs on the couch!. However, knowing how space can influence a dog’s thinking about ownership and resource guarding, I would present the following  training rules with which you really should be consistent, assuming you’ve decided that your dog can be on the furniture:

The Rules for Dogs on the Couch:

  • If you are sitting on your couch and you want your dog on the couch with you, at a minimum, require your dog to sit first and then command“Up!” as you pat the couch seat.  It’s that simple, but sends the correct message: your terms, not his.
  • If your dog is on the couch and you want to sit on the couch, simply make your dog move to the floor,  and then sit on the couch where your dog was lying.
  • Require a sit first, then command “Up!” as you pat the couch seat. The bossier your dog, the more important the rules.

Exception to the rule:   If your dog is on the couch and you are not, no rules apply.

You should teach your dog a “relocation command” (another place to go other than the sofa) and train this frequently.  Examples would be to teach your dog to go to his bed once off the couch or just place your dog in a down by your feet in front of the couch by you.

Train this multiple times, every day. It will take no more than 5 minutes out of your day!

If your dog has a tendency to guard the sofa or any other space, doing this exercise frequently would help to minimize any *resource guarding that might develop.

Keeping a leash on your dog while you can supervise him in the home will make this task easier. It will also provide you with a safe way to remove your dog from the sofa – especially if you have a visitor that doesn’t want your dog it her lap.  There’s nothing like a well-mannered dog.  You do this until there is no more growling etc. and you’ve practiced the above exercise, then take the leash off the dog.  It’s really a very simple tool on how to train a dog to get  off the couch with no confrontation.

Why, you might ask, do I hear the growl when my dog’s on the couch?

Historically, dogs expended a lot of predatory energy to get food thereby developing a high propensity to guard their food (a high value resource)

In today’s dog, they don’t have to hunt for food, so  resource guarding has expanded to space (beds, sofas or chairs) toys (yours or theirs-whatever they possess in the moment) and your love and affection.

Dogs with strong leader type personalities or temperaments would have a greater tendency to resource guard space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time (if any at all) on the furniture.

You should also look for any other signs of guarding of food, space, toys or your love and affection.  If you see any red flags like growling to protect space, its time to get to work on dog training. Put your dog on an earn-to-learn program. Here’s how you do that to train your dog:   everything your dog wants, you should require a sit and/or a down. Also begin teaching “Up!” and “Off!” the couch so that your dog can be removed anything you need the furniture. You’ll be surprised how quickly your dog will begin to comply.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

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