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

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