Your Dog Training Questions: Can My Dogs Sit On The Couch?

Jim,

My daughter visited over the winter break and she was stunned that we let our two dogs to sit on the couch with us. Can you settle this for us?

– Mary

My Answer:

Mary,
Believe it or not, I think it’s just fine to allow your dogs on the furniture if you like. This often comes as a surprise to my clients. But the important thing is not if you let your dog on the couch, but how and when. Let me explain.

Like everything your dog does, it must be earned. The rules for sitting on the couch:

  • Dogs should earn the privilege of getting on your furniture by at least, doing a sit. This should be followed by a command to get them on the sofa, like the command Up. After your dogs perform a sit, simply pat the couch and say Up.  They can only get on your couch on YOUR terms.
  • You should teach your dogs a relocation cue (another place to go other than the sofa) and train this command frequently. Examples would be, “go to your bed,” or once off the couch just place your dog in a down by your feet in front of the couch. This teaches him that you can let him up, BUT, you can also tell him to get off and go somewhere else. If your dog has a tendency or potential to guard the sofa, doing this exercise frequently would help to minimize any resource guarding that could develop.
  • Dogs with strong leader-type personalities may have a greater tendency to guard “their” space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time on the furniture.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember: “Opportunity Barks”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

What’s your dog training question?
Use the comments below to ask me.

3 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    Shawna: If you allow a puppy that is not housetrained to lay at the foot of your bed – you will not be happy. Some dogs are bigger resource guarders than others. You have to apply behavior training that is appropriate for your specific dog.

  2. Shawna
    Shawna says:

    Can I allow my puppy (not with us yet, we are preparing) to lay at the foot of the bed.
    When grown he/she will weigh 90-110. The breed is Kuvasz.

  3. Jaymie Derden
    Jaymie Derden says:

    I love this way of dealing with couch pups! We allow our dog to get on the couch, and actually enjoy relaxing with him there. That’s great, but what’s not so great is that he often plays hard and rough, running with his toys and leaping onto the couch. He’s an 80 pound dog, so the momentum from this pushes our couch all over the living room! Since we’ve allowed him to get up, do you have any suggestions for retraining him to only be on the couch when invited?

    Thanks!

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