How to Train Your Older Dog to Stay Off the Furniture

Easy
2-4 Days
General

Introduction

For many families, having a dog snuggled up on the couch with them is like a dream come true. But not all dogs are suited for spending time up on the furniture. Some dogs can be messy or hyperactive, can destroy sheets, blankets, or pillows, or become territorial or aggressive when posed with the task of sharing the chair. Pet hair can also be an issue. Families with dogs who don’t make great pillow pals are more likely to want to keep the furniture a dog-free zone and that’s okay too. Lots of dogs are more than happy to cozy up in their own bed or on a nice area on the floor. But if your stubborn old dog who may have been let up on the furniture more than once is now fighting you when you’d prefer him to stay off, there may be a bit of retraining to do.

Older dogs can get accustomed to things being this way or that, but when things shift around and change, it can be hard to readjust to the new setup. Getting new furniture is a common reason for families who used to allow their dog up with them to now let Fido know that his place is in his own bed or on the floor.

Defining Tasks

An older dog may be hesitant, at first, to change the way he’s used to doing things, but with some persistence, he can adjust in time. There are a few different ways to convince your dog that the furniture is a place that he isn’t allowed and each of them require some consistency. If half of the people in your home let him up on the couch and the other half don’t, it can be difficult for him to adjust properly. So keep this under consideration when training him.

Training your dog to stay off of the furniture consists of two parts: the act of staying off and the reward received afterward. The floor or your dog’s bed should be comfortable and enticing. It’s hard to trade a good thing for a boring or bad thing. You’ll want your dog to be eager to sit or lay elsewhere. The good news is, this is relatively easy and should only really take a few days for your older dog to adjust.

Getting Started

Consider purchasing a new bed or pillow for your dog to enjoy instead of your furniture. If he has a nice place to rest, he’ll be less likely to take over your spot on the couch. Keep in mind that older dogs require softer material to sleep or lay on. Their joints and body can stay healthier for longer if provided with appropriate beds.

Then find your dog’s favorite treat or toy. Having something to distract or occupy him on the floor will make it easier to adjust to that space instead. These tools will help your dog realize that the furniture belongs to you.

The Block Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Take up the available space
If possible, have your family or your guests take up as much space on the furniture as possible. This will keep your dog from filling in the empty space.
Step
2
Avoid accessibility
If your older dog uses steps or a stoop to get up onto the furniture, remove access to this step stool and do not give him the access he needs to use the furniture.
Step
3
Use your legs
If necessary, move your legs to create a block so that your dog does not find it easy to leap up.
Step
4
Use a baby gate
Placing a baby gate in front of furniture that you don’t want your dog to have access to will keep him from being able to get to it. Look for one that can extend in length. These are useful to place in front of couches or next to beds.
Step
5
Use an object
Use something like a box, a laundry basket, or another larger object to take up the seat that your dog would otherwise want to use.
Recommend training method?

The Off Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Observe your dog
This method requires catching your dog in the act. Let her into the room that she usually finds furniture to lay on and keep an eye on her behavior.
Step
2
Intervene
The moment your dog hops up on the furniture, go over to her with a treat or a toy in hand. Do not give it to her just yet.
Step
3
Give the command
Use the word ‘off’ to indicate where you’d like your dog to go. Use the treat or the toy to lure her back down onto the floor and off of the furniture.
Step
4
Reward for progress
When your dog decides to go after the treat or toy instead, immediately reward her for doing as you asked. This will teach her that the floor has good things and the furniture is not where she should be.
Step
5
Practice on each piece of furniture
Your dog may think each piece of furniture has a different rule set. Give the command frequently and with all of your furniture that she likes to use. Practicing consistently will help her to realize that you do not want her on any of the furniture.
Recommend training method?

The Spot Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Determine an appropriate place to sit
Place your dog’s bed or a small blanket down on a certain spot where you would like him to sit instead of on your furniture.
Step
2
Place a treat or toy down
Use this as bait to get your dog to settle down onto his designated spot. You may use multiple treats or your dog’s favorite toy.
Step
3
Redirect as needed
If your dog loses interest and tries to go up onto the furniture, use the treat or toy as a lure to guide him back to where you want him. Associate this spot with good things.
Step
4
Repeat
This may take several times for him to understand. Consider using treats that are especially tasty or a new toy that he hasn’t seen before.
Step
5
Stay consistent
Each family member must know this spot and where your dog should be sitting when people are on the couch or around the home. Have each person in the home repeat this with your dog often enough and he will pick up on what you expect from him.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Beast
Pit bull
13 Years
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Question
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Beast
Pit bull
13 Years

Beast is okay when he’s supervised or asleep, but is naughty about getting on the couch at night and while we’re not home. We don’t put him in a crate because he can’t turn around in tight spaces without falling or getting stuck anymore. He has very bad arthritis and low mobility due to his age. He was allowed on the couch as a puppy and younger dog, but it hurts him so much to get up on it, that we thought the pain alone would deter him. He yelps and whines and cries while he’s getting up there, obviously hurting, but still gets up there anyway. He has a very comfortable, very expensive, plush memory foam bed that sits in our living room, right by the couch, that he spends most of his time in when he’s being supervised, or someone can frequently check on him. It’s a large circle that two dogs of his size could fit on. We have tried lifting up the cushions on the hide a bed part and placing them in front of or on top of the couch in a manner that makes them unappealing. We’ve tried the off method and the place method. He’s very comfortable on the dog bed and it causes him no pain to get into it. We have tried setting things in front of or on top of the couch to keep him off, but still you can hear him at night, howling and yelping as he pushes things out of his way and gets on the couch. We have to come up to get him off multiple times a night. It also causes him great pain to get off the couch, as he has to support his weight on his front feet which hurt him the most. He’s also near the end of his life, and it can be sad but messy when an animal passes and we’d prefer not to have to get rid of our good old couch because of end of life messes. Please help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jaydne, Check out this article and specifically the section on deterrents. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ You can try any of those deterrents since pup knows the couch is off-limits already and is getting up anyway. Since pup is getting on the couch despite the pain it causes pup, I suspect most deterrents won't prevent pup. The one that's most likely to deter pup out of those in the article in my opinion would be the snap traps because of the surprise element. If the snap traps don't deter pup, I would move to remote collar training using "act of god" level training to teach an avoidance of the couch, the way you would with persistent counter surfers in the kitchen. This process would involve setting up a camera in the living room to spy on pup and the couch. You would then correct pup on the previously determined "act of god" level for your specific dog, then return into the living room right after instructing pup to go to their bed. Also, reward pup periodically while on their own dog bed to build a preference for that. You can randomly sprinkle some small treats or kibble if pup likes theirs, onto the dog bed too, so pup starts to associate their own bed with something good and enjoy it more and want to go to it often to check for treats, instead of focusing on the couch as much; do this dog bed rewarding if you use snap traps on the couch also. Before you can determine pup's "act of god" you will need to know pup's base "working level also". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Smalls
Bulldog
5 Years
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Question
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Smalls
Bulldog
5 Years

Smalls gets upset and urinates when he doesnt get his way, if I’m on the phone and not giving him attention , if I don’t play with him when he wants, or if I’m eating and won’t give him anything, definitely seems like an attention seeking act. Most times we have just came in from being outside, he’s recently adopted and his previous mom said she never had this problem

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ericka, First, when pup is taken potty, are they being taken outside and you are watching to make sure they actually go potty and finish all the way? Or is pup being let into a fence then let back in when they return to the door. If you aren't going with pup and watching pup, I would start there. Tell pup to "Go Potty" then praise and give a treat after pup goes. Many dogs will get distracted while outside when in a new place and that might be contributing to the accidents. Second, I would have him wear a belly band for a little while while inside in case the behavior is marking, and because the belly band sensation will times discourage peeing even if it's not marking related. Make sure you take it off because pup goes outside to go potty though. I would work on giving pup more structure too, to gently build respect and also help with anxiety if present from the transition. Obedience method - possibly working method too - when giving instruction, correction, and structure, interactions should still be calm and patient. Your consistency and follow through is what earns the respect. Calmness will also help with any anxiety and is actually more easily respected by most dogs than a more reactive attitude. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Finally, I would try giving pup interactive toys, like kong wobbles, stuffed kongs, puzzle toys, or an automatic treat dispensing device, like pet tutor or auto trainer, to help pup self-entertain and self-sooth better, and focus their attention on as a mental outlet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Echo
German Shepherd
3 Years
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Question
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Echo
German Shepherd
3 Years

Hi! So, we have a German Shepard named Echo. She is 3! She will NOT stay off of our couch. We prefer her not the be on the couch, due to the amount she sheds. We want a clean place to be able to sit. We’ve tried the block method and the off method, but nothing seems to work. Help! 😩

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gabrielle, Check out the article I have linked below, and specifically the section on deterrents. petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rory
Deerhound &Alaunt
7 Months
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Question
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Rory
Deerhound &Alaunt
7 Months

We just got the dog 1 day ago. The dog was sleeping in the same bed with his owners. Won’t go to sleep on the floor and fitting us to be on the bed. What should we do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cristina, If pup is jumping up on the bed in addition to the whining, I would use a crate temporarily and address the whining while pup is in the crate, so you aren't fighting pup trying to jump on the bed while you are asleep and unable to be consistent. If pup isn't attempting to jump up but is just making a lot of noise or pacing want to be let up, the I would teach pup a Place command and Quiet command during the day, periodically sprinkle treats on the Place bed during the day for pup to also find as a surprise, to help pup love that bed, and once pup knows those commands, correct when pup disobeys what you have taught. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s To correct, you can start by herding pup back over to their body anytime they get off of Place to pace, bed, or generally sneak up to the bed. Check out the section on how to use Out to deal with pushy behavior, from the article I have linked below for a description on how to use your body to herd a dog somewhere (in that case out of the room, in your case, back to their place). https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ If pup continues whining or the herding isn't sufficient (which is a very, very mild form of correction), I would use something like an unscented air canister to briefly spray a small puff of air either at pup's side or just within where they can hear it to get their attention, depending on which pup requires. Do not spray it in pup's face however, and only use unscented air, NOT citronella. Citronella is too harsh for a dog's sensitive nose and lingers a long time for the dog, making the continuous correction of the smell confusing for the dog. I would first remind pup what to do "Quiet. Place". If pup obeys, great, no correction needed. If pup disobeys and keeps crying or won't return to place (herd them there if you aren't certain they understand Place well enough yet to go on their own), then I would calmly and briefly, tell pup "Ah Ah" while spraying the pet convincer at pup's side to interrupt pup. Praise pup very quietly and calmly once they do go to their bed, but no excitement or pup will just get up again. You simply want to let pup know they did the right thing by going there without getting them excited. If pup does need to be crated, the same process can be done with the crate. Introduce the crate first, teach Quiet, tell pup Quiet if they cry in the crate, correct if they don't obey quiet and continue crying. Repeat this each time pup protests. Keep your attitude calm and quiet. Reward quietness in the crate during daytime practice, and sprinkle crates into the open crate during the day for pup to find and enjoy on their own as well. To introduce the crate, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. For some dogs the Surprise method is sufficient. If pup is crying for long periods of time during crate practice during the day and it's been at least three days, or you cannot allow pup to cry while adjusting due to something like complaining neighbors, then you can also correct while you practice the Surprise method. If you add in corrections to the crate training, then whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As he improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. Whenever he cries in the crate, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Prince
Labrador Retriever
8 Months
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Question
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Prince
Labrador Retriever
8 Months

My dog has been in my house for about 3 weeks now and I feel like his behavior has only gotten worse even with consistent rules. He never ever tried to get on the couch for 2.5 weeks and now he attempts to get on the couch within 10 minutes every time he is let out of the crate. I consistently redirect him to his bed with treats and he will lay there for about a minute before trying to bring the treat or toy to the couch. I redirect him again but after redirecting 10 times in an hour I put him back in the crate because he just wont listen.

If my daughter is on the couch he jumps directly into her lap and licks and paws her trying to get attention. he will bite at blankets and bite the couch and in general is a terror so he is not ever allowed on the couch or to jump on my daughter. He is told to get down, crated or physically removed. Every single time.

In general he just doesnt listen. He knows come and sit from excruciatingly slow clicker training over the last three weeks but he will not stay, will not stop chewing the leash, will not quit jumping. I absolutely must crate or lock him outside if company is coming he will jump on kids and adults and mouth hands (he NEVER EVER mouths me).

I feel bad crating him 20 times a day for a time out but he refuses to stay off the sofa or the children.

I feel like its important to say he is not aggressive in any way that I can tell. I can and do take treats or stolen things from the kids right out of his mouth, move his food bowls, take his toys away to move him or the toys, without problem. He never growls at us, nips or snaps, never snarls. Occasionally he shows his teeth, sometimes when being pet for awhile but he encourages the petting and will paw you to keep going. He makes no noises during the teeth showing, it concerned me at first but the vet believes it is submissive smiling? He also had / has a problem with submissive peeing. No one here ever yells at him but being told to get down or out would sometimes make him dip his head and pee (then id immediately take him outside to finish).

What can I do to get my dog to stay off my kid and guest and off the couch?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Marisa, I recommend teaching pup the Out, Off, and Place command. Off can be used to get pup off the couch, Place to teach pup to lie on their own dog bed instead, and Out to send pup out of the area when he is being tempted to get back on or pestering people. Check out the article I have linked below for instructions on teaching those things. I also recommend using a deterrent on the couch that will enforce the rule without you having you. The article linked below also has some suggestions for deterrents that can be placed on the couch. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ For the jumping and licking, I also recommend working on Leave It and the Step Toward and Leash methods from the articles linked below. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Jumping: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump It sounds like pup likely doesn't understand why they are being crated or what to do instead. Place can help pup have an alternative behavior to do instead. Reward pup also when you calmly catch them lying on place without having to be told to. Simply walk up to pup and calmly place a treat between their paws without getting them too excited. I would also feed pup part of their kibble in dog food stuffed chew toys, like kongs, kong wobble, and other durable hollow chew toys. It sounds like pup probably needs some mental and physical stimulation to help with their energy at this age. When you walk pup, practice structured heeling, incorporating commands like Sit Stay, Down Stay, Watch me, and Heel into the walk, or play fetch and incorporate things like Stay, Down, Sit, Wait, Come, and Drop It to wear pup out mentally too. Mental stimulation being added to physical exercise can help with calmness. Having a thirty minute training session where pup practices new commands and tricks, or harder versions of things they already know can also help with excess mental energy too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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