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 (16)

So, I was at this redneck BBQ the other day when I said to my friend "Rufus, I think your wife done spent all your money on purpose." To which he replied "Pedro, I prefer a less anthropomorphic observation and assessment from those I consider on the fringes of society." "Oh, it's going to be like that is it?"
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.

Like most females, she's got attachment issues, she likes to be in the same room I am, and when I'm out in the backyard she watches from the patio door. I'm guessing it's because she knows I'll put her and the other dogs outside and leave them alone in the backyard for however long so they can play doggie. And, since she only refuses going outside during daylight hours, maybe it's just too hot for the precious and delicate 65 lb. angel.

As you can imagine, a dog ignoring your command is quite frustrating. Fed up, I finally asked her, "PD65A (her full name is the aforementioned Precious and Delicate 65 lb. Angel), why don't you go outside when I tell you to?" She answered, "Firstly, I don't appreciate being told what to do. Secondly, there are these things called feminism and women's prerogative, and I don't care if that's hypocritical. And, lastly,why would I listen to an idiot like you who treats dogs anthropomorphically?"

What could I say, the bitch made excellent points.
Tue, 10/06/2015 - 06:59
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
Sun, 07/15/2012 - 05:39
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!
Mon, 09/17/2012 - 16:23
I purchased a product from It works so great! : ) I just put the couch defender on my couch when I leave and I have nothing to worry about anymore.
Wed, 10/03/2012 - 20:45
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.
Sat, 01/12/2013 - 15:17
I also ordered a couch defender. I LOVE it : ) I am so happy with these products. It is the ONLY think i've purchased that actually works ALL of the time. I actually did order a Doggonecouchcover and was quite disappointed. It had no effect on my dog. Like everything else I have tried (until couch defender) I got rid of it. All of my friends that have dogs have now ordered couch defenders too and of course love them. If there are dog owners reading this and are trying and trying to protect your furniture, I am telling you that once you use couch defenders your search will forever be over : )
Sat, 02/02/2013 - 17:48
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Thu, 10/11/2018 - 16:12
Hard to trust all these anonymous yahoos posting about a product.
Tue, 08/06/2013 - 12:01
Ain't it the truth?
Thu, 01/09/2014 - 18:55
Actually Ryan, all of those anonymous postings were the reason i got a couch defender. and i'm glad i did. i'm all for anything that doesn't hurt a dog when it is being used, so i recomment this product.
Thu, 12/12/2013 - 13:47
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Tue, 10/02/2018 - 04:02
This definitely DID NOT WORK! Seriously. No effect. So, who ever wrote this article? No disrespect, but, it didn't work for 5 people that live at different residences. In 3 states? Where is the logic? It may have worked once, but on all dogs? No.
Thu, 01/09/2014 - 18:51


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