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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Use your legs
If necessary, move your legs to create a block so that your dog does not find it easy to leap up.
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.
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.
The Off Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Spot Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 01/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021