Book First Walk Free!
The Root of the Behavior
Another reason dogs favor "high places" is to avoid situations they would rather not have to deal with. Got a puppy in the house that just won't leave your adult dog alone? Elevated places offer protection for dogs that really would rather be left alone as opposed to losing their tempers with an overeager youngster. This is part of why it is critical to always provide a way of escape for your dog. Whether your dog is trying to avoid an overzealous child, an annoying puppy, or even you, allowing your dog a high place to flee to alleviates any stress he may be feeling. Dogs who have no way out of situations that are difficult for them begin to feel trapped and may react accordingly. Sometimes, dogs choose high places because they are closer to where we are. To our dogs, time spent with us is the most valuable commodity in their lives. If you're up on the couch, that's where Fido wants to be too. Some people mistakenly label this as dominance, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Encouraging the Behavior
As with most dog behaviors, there may also be an instinctual component at play. Viewpoint was critical for dogs in the wild. Since a large portion of their energies was spent ensuring that they did not become a predator's next meal, it was important to have a location from which they could safely view their surroundings and any potential dangers that may be headed their way. Ideally, that vantage point would be situated on higher ground as it allowed the dog to view far further than he could from level or flat ground. It is highly likely that wild dogs sought elevated positions on which to sit or stand as a vital component of their survival strategy. The behavior itself may be deeply rooted in the dog's need for safety and security. The wild dog who lets down his guard could put the entire pack at risk. No dog was prepared to do that. Even though today's modern dogs have no need to fear predators in their homes or beds, the instinct to seek higher ground to prepare against the subterfuge of an unseen enemy is very much still alive in them.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs will sometimes choose higher positions to gain access to a resource that is valuable to them. If you have a ham sitting precariously on your countertop, that is sufficient motivation for Fido to try to figure out a way to get up there. The ham is the motivator of his innovation! To reduce these types of problems, keep high reward items or things that are tempting to Fido put away or under lock and key. Do not set him up to fail by leaving out his favorite things where he COULD access them if only he could figure out some ingenious plot to get to them! If your dog's penchant for climbing on high things troubles you, there are things that you can do to eliminate the behavior. If Fido is continually scaling your couch to view the goings-on in your neighborhood, moving your couch to a location in your home that affords him a less desirable view may be sufficient to completely deter the behavior. Dogs are opportunists. If a behavior no longer yields the desired response, they will soon cease to offer it any further.
Teaching your dog a solid "off" command is also a wonderful tool that all owners should have in their dog training "toolbox." To teach this behavior, you will need a clicker and delicious, high value treats. When your dog climbs up on something that you would rather he not be on, simply use the treat to lure him to the ground while repeating the command "Off!" When your dog has obeyed your command, reward him richly with a click, lavish praise, and a treat. You will need to repeat this particular exercise multiple times before it becomes an ingrained part of your dog's trick repertoire, but dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, and you will find that your dog soon enthusiastically responds to your command as soon as he is asked to do so.