Dog Behavior Training: My Dog is on the Couch and I Can’t Get Him Off!

Can allowing your dog on the couch change his good dog behavior to bad dog behavior?  Maybe.  Some dogs begin to own and guard the couch.

Having your dog on furniture could lead to growling, snapping or even biting to guard what they think is their space – but, it’s your couch.

Some pet owners are oblivious to how their dog may be viewing their couch or bed space as they sit for hours with their dog on the furniture, head in the lap, watching television. In most cases the relationship becomes emotional for the owners as they continue to allow the dog on the couch more and more.  I mean, it is a warm cuddly feeling to have you most loved pet so near to you.

When it comes to this “sometimes” touchy subject of allowing dogs on the furniture, I am okay with having them up on the furniture.

Yep, you heard me right, yes to,  dogs on the couch!. However, knowing how space can influence a dog’s thinking about ownership and resource guarding, I would present the following  training rules with which you really should be consistent, assuming you’ve decided that your dog can be on the furniture:

The Rules for Dogs on the Couch:

  • If you are sitting on your couch and you want your dog on the couch with you, at a minimum, require your dog to sit first and then command“Up!” as you pat the couch seat.  It’s that simple, but sends the correct message: your terms, not his.
  • If your dog is on the couch and you want to sit on the couch, simply make your dog move to the floor,  and then sit on the couch where your dog was lying.
  • Require a sit first, then command “Up!” as you pat the couch seat. The bossier your dog, the more important the rules.

Exception to the rule:   If your dog is on the couch and you are not, no rules apply.

You should teach your dog a “relocation command” (another place to go other than the sofa) and train this frequently.  Examples would be to teach your dog to go to his bed once off the couch or just place your dog in a down by your feet in front of the couch by you.

Train this multiple times, every day. It will take no more than 5 minutes out of your day!

If your dog has a tendency to guard the sofa or any other space, doing this exercise frequently would help to minimize any *resource guarding that might develop.

Keeping a leash on your dog while you can supervise him in the home will make this task easier. It will also provide you with a safe way to remove your dog from the sofa – especially if you have a visitor that doesn’t want your dog it her lap.  There’s nothing like a well-mannered dog.  You do this until there is no more growling etc. and you’ve practiced the above exercise, then take the leash off the dog.  It’s really a very simple tool on how to train a dog to get  off the couch with no confrontation.

Why, you might ask, do I hear the growl when my dog’s on the couch?

Historically, dogs expended a lot of predatory energy to get food thereby developing a high propensity to guard their food (a high value resource)

In today’s dog, they don’t have to hunt for food, so  resource guarding has expanded to space (beds, sofas or chairs) toys (yours or theirs-whatever they possess in the moment) and your love and affection.

Dogs with strong leader type personalities or temperaments would have a greater tendency to resource guard space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time (if any at all) on the furniture.

You should also look for any other signs of guarding of food, space, toys or your love and affection.  If you see any red flags like growling to protect space, its time to get to work on dog training. Put your dog on an earn-to-learn program. Here’s how you do that to train your dog:   everything your dog wants, you should require a sit and/or a down. Also begin teaching “Up!” and “Off!” the couch so that your dog can be removed anything you need the furniture. You’ll be surprised how quickly your dog will begin to comply.

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

Help us spread the word on how everyone can have a great, balanced dog.  Pls. click the like Facebook button at the top or bottom so everyone can benefit.  If you Stumble pass it on there too!

Also let’s hear your thoughts on this.  Please comment below.  We’re here to help!

7 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    That’s pretty extreme don’t you think. Especially since he is doing that because you have actually shaped that behavior. Meaning, if your dog can do as he pleases, when he pleases
    then you’ve taught him that’s his property. This type of behavior is resource guarding and some dogs have a stronger propensity to do that than others. Find yourself a good positive
    reinforcement trainer NO SHOCK COLLARS who has minimum 8 yrs experience training for a living and specializes in behavior. To put this dog down for this incident would be so unnecessary

  2. Paul
    Paul says:

    My dog bit my son on the cheek, my son is 16 and leaned over to kiss him on the head while the dog was laying on the couch…we now know that he was guarding the couch after reading your article, but, the main question, like the doctor at the hospital said, he should be put down. Shoud we put him down? he is 5 years old and part of our family..this is hard.

  3. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Lisa: Jim says until he learns not to get up there you will have to move his dog bed into the room and tether him to something stationary. Give him enough room to stand up etc but not
    enough room with the tether to get onto your bed. Keep your dog shut when you’re not in there so he can’t go in. If he can go in when he wants but then you expect him to stay off that’s
    mixed signals. You might want to check out Jim’s Ground Rules for Great Dogs that’s on the site. It’s ALL about how you structure your dog’s life and teach him boundaries. Only applying
    structure in one instance is very confusing for the dog and really does not get you a well trained dog.

  4. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    How can this technique be used to keep the dog off the bed at night? He “goes to bed” on our bed when he is tired, and will jump off when we come in to go to bed, or not, but will get down when asked. However, he will jump back on the bed during the night, and we wake up all twisted and squished!

  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    Wow, now I understand why my dog has begun to growl at me when I try to move him off the couch.

    I will definitely try the leash thing, at I don’t want this to progress to him biting me. Thanks for sharing this!

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