Keep Your Dog Off the Couch

Keep Your Dog Off the Couch
Top trainers answer your questions


Ask Pamela Reid

Q: My dog is not allowed on the furniture but the minute I'm not present, she's up there lounging. How do I stop her if I'm not there to catch her? - Richard, Hull, QC

A: Dear Richard, I'm pleased that you didn't say: "My dog knows she's not supposed to be on the furniture but she's sneaky." I prefer a less anthropomorphic account-dogs tend to learn exactly what we teach them.

Think about what happens from your dog's perspective. When you are present, getting up on the furniture spawns few rewards because you shoo her off. But if she tries out the sofa when you aren't home, she discovers that sans you, she's able to relax and enjoy herself on your divine divan. In learning theory terms, your presence/absence has become a "contextual cue" indicating to your dog if her behaviour will be rewarded.

In order for your dog to master the lesson you really want her to learn, you have to ensure that she never enjoys the furniture.

One option is to make the furniture inaccessible when you're not at home. Maybe upend some chairs on the sofa. An alternative tactic is to use a booby trap. A low-tech example is a pyramid of empty soda cans perched precariously on the back of a chair-the dog jumps up and the cans fall down around her. A high-tech version is a commercial product, such as a Sofa SaverTM. This is a pad that contains a shrieking alarm that sounds when it is compressed. You lay it across your couch, your dog jumps up, and the next thing she knows, the couch is screaming.

Before orchestrating something like this, you must be confident that your dog will not be unduly traumatized. And always provide acceptable alternatives, like a soft dog bed. ■

Pamela Reid, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviourist and author of Excel-erated Learning: Explaining (in Plain English) How Dogs Learn and How Best to Teach Them. She heads the Animal Behavior Center at the ASPCA and lives in New Jersey with Eejit, a Border-Border (Border Collie/Border Terrier cross), Fidget, a shelter mystery, and Grifter, a Border-Border-Border-Jack!

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Comments (38)

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Sat, 07/14/2012 - 04:17
One of my dogs is just as stubborn as can be. My other indoor/outdoor dogs have no qualms about going outside when told, but this one refuses to go out during daylight.

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Mon, 12/24/2018 - 12:23
How does that doggone couch cover work? Does it make a noise when the dog sits on it or is it unconfortable like the carpet runner? I want new furniture but have a dog that has a habit of laying on the furniture and drooling, getting hair all over and ripping it up... I need a solution to this problem before I invest in a new couch
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Sun, 01/20/2019 - 05:56
Hi everyone. I have a simple solution for this problem. My family and I also tried to train our dogs to stay off of the furniture, but when we came home we'd see dog hair on our couch. It was clear that our dogs were getting up there when we weren't around. We purchased a Couch Defender. They are coming out soon online. I highly recomment them, as we now leave the house and do not have to worry about our furniture. is the website. Hope this helps!
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Thu, 01/17/2019 - 15:49
I had a noisy blanket but my dog would ball it up and sleep next to it. I got a couch defender and it works great, I'm going to get one of the small ones for my recliner.
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 19:33
To ANLA and Gordon: I got one, too! is where I purchased mine. Love it. It is the first thing I have found that my dog CANNOT budge. Easy to use, easy to store. I'm so excited about it..and I'm sure my couch is, too : )
Tue, 10/23/2012 - 22:06
Doggonecouchcover is amazing! We use one on our sofa and it keeps the dog off and the couch pet hair free! Foil like material on one side, and a nice fabric on the other. Just unroll and use to deter dog from sofa. Roll up and use for a nice, CLEAN, pillow or couch roll when not using to keep dog off sofa.
Fri, 01/11/2013 - 08:23
I have tried lots of different ways to keep my dog off the sofa when I leave or go to bed. I went on the web site for couch defender and feel that this may be the answer. I have ordered one and looking forward to trying it . Will get back with a report.
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