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Training your puppy to stay off of furniture is an important skill to work into your training regimen early on. The sooner you get started, the better. The less your puppy has a chance to practice being up on the couch or the bed, the more you will be able to depend on that, even when you are not there to supervise.
Puppies can be destructive. They chew on everything that they can get their mouth around, and love to pull out the stuffing from upholstery. They can drag in dirt and shed fur that can be impossible to clean. In addition, very young puppies are accident prone and may soil and ruin your couch in just a few moments.
Getting ahead of this problem behavior before it even gets started is your best bet. However, even if your puppy has been allowed on the furniture in the past, you can change the rules at any time. In this guide, we will give you three training methods to choose from, each with simple to follow step-by-step instructions.
Before you decide on a training regimen, make sure all of the members of the household are on board with following the new “puppy off the furniture” rules. It can be confusing for your dog if different people in the house have different expectations.
Jumping on the couch is known as “self-rewarding” behavior. That is, the second your puppy is on the couch, they are being rewarded. Therefore, it is critical to not let your puppy get too used to the most comfortable seat in the house. In addition, plan on restricting access to furniture like the sofa or beds until you have had plenty of practice with supervising your puppy without any attempt to get on the furniture.
You get to set the rules that you like. For example, some folks don’t mind if their dog is on the couch, but they only want it to be when they are invited. Others prefer to never have their pet shedding directly on the people furniture. Either way, we have you covered. Read on!
Everyone deserves a comfy spot to relax. Before starting your training program, make sure that your puppy has a nice soft place to chill out that is still close to the action. A doggy bed, large blanket balled on the floor, or even an old couch cushion tucked on the floor in the corner will work. If his only option other than furniture is a cold, hard floor, you can’t expect him to ever stop trying to get on the furniture.
It is also important to be thinking about how and when you may be rewarding your puppy. If you have been sometimes letting him get up on the couch for some attention, and are annoyed other times, then you are not sending clear signals. Decide on what the rules will be and stick to them. And, be sure to go out of your way to reward the behavior you do like with praise, pets, and attention.
The Always Off Method
When to use this method
If you do not want your puppy to ever get up on the furniture, then this is the method for you. By starting at a young age, you will be training a behavior that you can count on for life, even when you are not around to enforce it.
Make the floor inviting
Before starting this method, make sure that the space on the floor is inviting. There should be toys to play with as well as a nice place to lay down for a nap, such as an open crate or a dog bed on the floor. In addition, practice playing with your puppy a few times a day while you sit on the couch and she plays fetch or tug from the floor. This will be a source of reward for staying off the furniture, critical to making this technique work.
You will have to restrict your puppy’s access to furniture without supervision for a while. This is to keep her from getting up on the furniture when you are not looking. The less practice she has enjoying the person furniture, the better.
For this method, you will give your puppy one chance to respect “Off!” before you impose a consequence. When your puppy jumps up, say “Off!” and help her to the floor with a nudge or by picking her up and placing her on the floor.
If your puppy tries to immediately get right back on, say “Too bad!” and pick her up and take her to a crate or a small room where you can leave her unattended for a 3-5 minute “time out.” She won’t like it and may cry. Ignore this. Do not let her out of the time out until she is quiet for 10-20 seconds or you will be rewarding the whining.
When she is ready to come out of time out, get her engaged with something else such as a game of tug on the floor for a few minutes before you return to the furniture and try again. The first few days will have the most time outs and it can be tedious, but be patient.
No more warnings
After your puppy is 3 months old and has had practice with a warning “Off!” for at least a few weeks, it is time to take the warning away. From here on out, jumping on the furniture will immediately land a time out. This should end all attempts to get on the furniture in short order.
The Invitation Only Method
When to use this method
Many dog owners like their puppy on the bed or the sofa as long as they have been invited. If this sounds like an ideal plan for you, then this method will do the trick.
Invite and reward
With a small bag of food rewards cut into tiny pieces, use your invitation call or hand signal and encourage your puppy to join you on the furniture. When she does, say “Yessss!” in a very chipper tone, followed by a reward and some pets.
Off and reward
Then, tell her “Off!” and help her along with a little nudge. When she is on the floor say “Yesss!” and again reward and praise.
Alternate back and forth, helping where needed, but giving your puppy a chance to try to do it on her own. Reward for each successful invitation and 'off'. Practice alternating 10-15 times a session, a few times a day for 2-4 days.
'Off' as a warning
Now it is time to raise the bar. When your puppy jumps up on the furniture uninvited, say “Off!” If she stays off for 10-20 seconds then you can play a game or give her some praise. If she jumps back on, then put her in her crate or another confined area for a 2-3 minute “time out.” This will be tedious at first, but it will sink in quickly that only an invitation to the furniture will be a pleasant experience.
No more warnings
After practice giving a warning 'off' for a few weeks, and your puppy is at least 3 months old, it is time to start imposing a time out each time he even tries to get on the furniture without an invitation. By removing the warning command, you are letting him know that it is just never going to work out when he tries to get on the furniture.
The Teach an Alternative Method
Make a nice alternative
In addition to teaching your puppy to stay off the furniture, it is a good idea to teach a positive alternative behavior. The most common is to teach him to go to his own bed, hopefully in the same room.
Start with a handful of small treats or some of your puppy’s kibble. Say “Go to bed!” in a friendly tone and walk over to his bed and lure him onto it by luring him with a food reward. Once he gets on the bed, say “Yes!” and then reward by tossing the treat on the floor away from the bed so you can repeat 10-20 times.
Over time, and several short sessions, start to gradually increase the time between when your puppy gets on the bed and when you mark/reward the behavior. This starts to teach him that going to his bed is not just for a few seconds, rather, that he should settle in.
Start adding some distance to the training over the course of a few sessions. Eventually you want to be sitting on the furniture and be able to send him to his bed from there. Be patient and focus on rewarding success.
No more warnings
After plenty of practice it is time to start adding “Go to bed” as a command for when your puppy tries to get on the furniture. You will need to continue to reward success when he gets on the bed, and eventually add a consequence such as a “time out” if he fails to do so.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 03/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021