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Fido is only little. You can easily pick him up and carry him if he’s feeling lazy or you’re feeling needy. However, it does mean he is somewhat timid and scared in some situations. For example, he looks uneasy when it comes to the stairs. He also doesn’t like sitting high up where he has a reasonable drop to get down, such as on the couch. Now you can understand his fear, but you got a dog partly so you could cuddle up with him on the couch in the evenings.
Training Fido to sit on the couch with you will be useful for a number of reasons. Firstly and most importantly, you will be able to get comfy and close when you’re favorite TV show starts. Secondly, you may help show him that he can jump up onto and over objects all by himself, building his confidence.
Training a small dog to sit on the couch is thankfully pretty straightforward. The challenge comes in showing him that he is capable of leaping up there and sitting with you. So you may need to give him some assistance and build up his jumping capabilities. You will also need to find the right incentive for joining you. It may be that simply sitting and playing with you is enough. However, food and toys may also be required to give him that extra motivation.
If Fido is a puppy then he should be particularly receptive. This means he could be sitting comfortably with you in just a couple of days. However, if he’s older with weak legs and a fear of heights then you may need a couple of weeks. Get this training right and you’ll never have to watch The Big Bang Theory alone again.
Before Fido can join you, you need to make sure you have a few things. A stool or step may be required to begin with. You’ll also need some toys and a generous supply of treats.
You only need 5 minutes or so each day to train. Note training before meal times may give him some extra motivation. Also, make sure the couch doesn’t have anything sharp or fragile close by that Fido may break.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and a proactive attitude, then work can begin!
The Food Method
Dogs mirror their owners' behavior. So if he sees you are always happy on the sofa, this will put him at ease and keen to join you. So talk in an animated voice and pat the sofa to encourage him to jump up.
Try leaving the odd treat on the sofa. You don’t have to be around to watch him get it, just make sure he sees you place one on there. You can also put cheese on there, the smell will send Fido mad and give him the incentive he needs to jump up.
You can even try feeding him his meals on the sofa. It might be messy so put down some cloths underneath. If he associates it with a place he gets food, he will soon be itching to spend time up there.
Whenever he does jump up and sit with you, give him a treat. You can also give him verbal praise and play with him. Just try and play gently so he feels comfortable and wants to sit and relax.
Never push him off
Because he’s small you need to make sure you never push him off or scare him. If you do need to get down quickly, carefully put him down or be careful not to nudge him. One bad experience may deter him from sitting with you on the couch for weeks.
The Ladder Method
Find a step, cushion or anything else that can act as a platform. You’re going to build his confidence by making it easier for him to climb up onto the sofa. Make sure you don’t use anything sharp that could hurt him.
Now sit by the platform and encourage Fido up. You could also put a treat on the step so he has to jump up to get it. Be sure to stay close to him so you can catch him or support him if he needs it.
Once he’s onto the step, lead him back down and then repeat a few times to get him comfortable jumping onto the step. Once confident, you can then place a second treat on the couch once he’s on the step. Then give him the same encouragement to come up onto the couch.
Once Fido is onto the couch, give him a reward. Then give a ‘sit’ command in a clear voice. As soon he has sat, you can then give him another treat and start to stroke him gently. You want to get him in a calm state.
Lose the treats
Practice this a couple of times each day until he gets comfortable jumping onto the couch. You may then want to consider losing the step and seeing if he will jump straight up to join you. Continue to give tasty rewards until Fido sits comfortably next to you without the promise of food.
The Sofa Attraction Method
Tug of war
Try teasing Fido up by playing tug of war. Simply pick a toy he loves and then get him worked up by playing around with it. This can prove an effective way to get him to jump up and join you.
To keep him sitting comfortably next to you, give him a food puzzle to play with. These puzzles can be bought from a range of online and local stores and will keep him content for hours on end.
Fido will love getting attention from you. So make sure once you instruct him to sit next to you, that you stroke him and cuddle him for a good while. The more attention he gets, the more relaxed he will be next to you.
Make it comfy
Some leather couches can be uncomfortable for dogs, especially when compared to their comfy bed. So try putting some blankets up there or even his bed if it’s only small.
Don’t scare him
If you want him to stay peacefully next to you, you need to make sure you don’t frighten him. That means ensuring there is space for him and that he isn’t squished between too many people. It also means people need to sit down on the couch and get up carefully.
By James Barra
Published: 03/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021