Jump to section
Imagine sitting on your couch at night watching a great movie. You are the only person at home but are enjoying your popcorn and quiet evening. You drape your arm over the couch and reach down to give your Spaniel's soft ears a little scratch. He too is sitting on the couch, attentively watching your movie, or at least your popcorn. He is just the right amount of company for tonight, and you appreciate that he is neither in your lap nor splayed out, practically kicking you off of your own couch.
Dogs are such wonderful company, and many people enjoy having their dogs on their beds or on their couches with them. You might enjoy your dog's cuddles and company when you are snuggled up and trying to relax, but you probably don't like it when he is being a bed hog or crawling into your lap while you try to eat your snack on the couch. Teaching your dog how to sit on the couch can allow you to enjoy your dog's company, without having to put up with his antics in order to do so.
In addition to being nice company, having your dog sit on the couch can be cute. Picture your dog leaned back into your couch, staring intently at the cats on TV. It makes for a hilarious photo.
If your dog has ever shown any aggressive tendencies toward you or other family members, then do not allow your dog onto your furniture. Allowing your dog onto furniture when there are issues with aggression can increase possessive and dominant behaviors.
If your dog is generally respectful of your boundaries but you want to ensure that he remains respectful, or if he is young and learning about boundaries still, then you can also work on teaching your dog 'on' and 'off' commands using the 'On and Off' method. You can do this so that your dog will get off the couch when you tell him to, will not get on the couch unless you invite him, and will better understand that the couch is your space and not his. Once you have taught him 'on', 'off', and how to sit on the couch, then only allow him on the couch when you have invited him.
If your dog is timid and afraid of getting onto your couch due to past experience or inexperience with couches, then you will probably have the most success teaching him if you use either the 'Treat Lure' method or the 'Toy' method.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. Choose something that is non-greasy and non-staining, since it will be touching your couch. You can also cover the part of your couch that you will be training on with a towel or a couch slipcover, to prevent any mess. For all of the methods, you will need a couch to practice on. For the 'On and Off' method, your dog will also need to know the 'sit' command. For the 'Toy' method, you will also need a toy that your dog loves that you can play fetch or tug of war with. If you choose to play fetch with your dog for this method, then your dog will need to know how to fetch a toy. With all of the methods, you will need patience, an encouraging attitude, enthusiasm, and consistency.
The Treat Lure Method
Place a treat
To begin, place a treat on the edge of the couch, and encourage your dog to eat it. Replace the treat with another treat and encourage your dog to eat the treat again. Do this until your dog is comfortable taking the treat off the couch.
Add a second treat
When your dog is comfortable taking the treat, then add a second treat a few inches farther back than the first treat. Encourage your dog to get both treats. Repeat this process, replacing any treats that your dog eats until your dog will gladly take both treats.
Add more treats
When your dog will take both treats, then add more treats, one at a time, and practice with each new treat until your dog will reach to get that treat also. Do this until there are treats located at the back of the couch cushion, and your dog must climb either halfway or completely onto your couch to reach the treats.
If your dog is not already climbing onto your couch all of the way, then also place treats onto the arm of your couch and onto the backrest of your couch. Do this so that your dog must climb completely onto your couch to reach the treats.
Once your dog will get onto your couch whenever you encourage him to, then wait until he chooses to sit down. When he sits down on your couch, calmly give him a treat under his chin. Do this every time that you see him sit on your couch.
After you have given your dog a treat for sitting, then give him another treat every three minutes that he continues sitting. Do this until your dog is sitting on your couch often.
When your dog is sitting on your couch frequently, gradually increase the amount of time between your rewards. Increase the intervals between rewards by one minute every couple of days. Do this until your dog has worked up to sitting on your couch for thirty minutes before he receives a reward.
Phase out treats
When your dog reaches thirty minutes between rewards, then phase out the treats by only rewarding him occasionally for sitting. Over time, decrease the frequently of your occasional rewards until you are giving none.
The On and Off Method
To begin, excitedly encourage your dog onto your couch by telling him "On!" in a happy voice, while patting the couch. When he jumps on, reward him with a treat.
While your dog is on your couch, point to the floor while saying "Off", and then toss a treat onto the floor.
Practice telling your dog to get on and off your couch, and rewarding him when he does so. Do this until he will consistently respond to both commands.
When your dog knows the 'on' and 'off' commands, then tell your dog to get "on" the couch. When he is on the couch, tell him to 'sit', and reward him when he does so. Have him get off the couch again, and repeat the entire process. Do this until he begins to sit, in anticipation of your command, before being told to. When he does this then praise him and give him a treat.
Increase 'sit' duration
When your dog will sit without being told to when you call him onto the couch, then instead of telling him to get off right away, reward him again every minute that he remains seated. Practice rewarding him every minute that he remains seated when you call him up there. Do this until he will remain seated for five consecutive minutes.
Space out rewards
When your dog will remain seated on your couch for five consecutive minutes, then reward him every two minutes instead of every one. As he improves, space the rewards out more, adding one minute between rewards at a time. Do this until you have reached thirty minutes between rewards.
Phase out treats
When you have reached thirty minutes between rewards, begin to phase out the treats completely. To phase out the treats, only reward your dog randomly for remaining seated. Gradually decrease the frequency of your rewards over time, giving less and less treats. By this time your dog ought to have developed a habit of sitting while he is on the couch and will continue doing it without treats. If he does not, then continue your treats for longer.
The Toy Method
Choose a toy
To begin, choose a tug of war or fetch toy that your dog likes to play with. Call your dog over to the area in front of your couch and begin to play with him there with the toy.
During your play, occasionally pull your dog onto the couch a little bit during tug of war, or toss the ball onto the edge of the couch during fetch. Praise your dog when he touches the couch.
Add more contact
Whenever you play with your dog by the couch, gradually increase his contact with the couch even more. Do this by throwing the toy farther onto the couch for your dog to retrieve, and by pulling your dog onto the couch more during tug of war. Praise your dog every time that he makes contact with the couch. Do this until your dog will get completely onto the couch.
Encourage couch time
When your dog will get onto your couch, then encourage him to stay on the couch by giving him a favorite chew toy whenever he gets on.
When your dog begins to stay on the couch for longer periods of time and climbs onto the couch when you are not playing with him also, then begin to reward him when he sits down there. To reward sitting, give your dog a favorite treat whenever he sits on the couch without any prompting.
Also reward your dog for remaining seated on the couch after he initially sits down. Reward your dog every three minutes that he remains seated on your couch.
When your dog will remain seated on your couch for at least three minutes, begin to gradually increase the amount of time between rewards. Increase the amount of time one minute at a time. Do this until you have worked up to thirty minutes between rewards, and your dog will remain seated on your couch for long periods of time in general.
Phase out treats
When your dog will remain seated for at least thirty minutes, then begin to reward your dog only occasionally for sitting. Gradually decrease the frequency of your rewards over time, until you no longer need them in order for your dog to prefer the 'sit' position to other positions while on your couch.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
More articles by Caitlin Crittenden