Your dog is climbing on the couch, and you don’t like it.
Whether it is for reasons of hygiene, safety or perhaps even space, you would like this to stop quickly. Well, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, you will discover my perspective on the fact that a dog climbs on the sofa, why dogs have this annoying tendency to climb on sofas and finally (and most importantly), the rules to respect regarding access to the sofa.
Dog on the couch or not: the importance of being consistent
First of all, I want to clarify that a dog on a sofa does not shock me at all. A dog that growls when asked to get off, on the other hand, is more disturbing! But let’s be clear, you do as you wish because you are at home, it’s your dog, and it’s your couch, all within the limits of reasonableness and safety of everyone.
Whether your sofa is forbidden, authorized or regulated, it’s your choice. However, you must still make it taking into consideration many other aspects: the presence of children or not in your home, your tolerance regarding cleanliness, hygiene etc. But also the character of your dog, its possible behavioural problems already well established, or its possible need to manage resources (and especially space), etc. The most important thing in all of this remains and will always remain in dog training and the master/dog relationship: consistency. If you decide to forbid the sofa, forbid it all the time; otherwise, you become inconsistent and unreliable for your dog.
And on the other hand, if you decide to allow your dog on the couch without any particular “limits”, then don’t punish your dog when he climbs on the couch, even if it is full of mud, because it won’t be coherent for him either. Remember that the dog does not have the intellectual capacity to realize whether or not he is clean enough to get on the sofa.
And finally, if you decide to regulate it, you must be fair, always consistent, and in a particular way: you must always be on the initiative. Otherwise, your dog will consider this space as “allowed” and not “regulated”.
Moreover, whether you choose any of these three options: prohibiting, allowing or regulating access to your sofa for your dog: all members of your family must be in the same process because otherwise you will lose this consistency, so important in the relationship you have with your pet, and it could even generate stress in your dog, simply because he would be in a total misunderstanding.
Why does your dog climb on your sofa?
Yes, remember, before trying to solve a possible problem, you have to understand why your dog is acting in such away.
1st reason: your dog is not “stupid”; he is even opportunistic! The basket is fine. But the sofa is so much better, so much more comfortable!
The solution? In this case, make your dog’s basket more comfortable than your sofa, either by adding comfort to his basket or removing comfort from the sofa. So, of course, I’m not asking you to put your button pallets to watch TV, don’t panic. Simply, if you want to ban your dog from the couch, surprise him, for example, by installing trays under a plaid or even double-sided tape so that your dog associates the couch with something unpleasant and uncomfortable for him.
2nd reason: your dog can climb on the couch so he can manage and control the environment around him. The couch is often the best place to “get up”, literally. We notice this behaviour a lot when the owners leave or when guests arrive.
The solution? When you leave: give your dog something to do so that he doesn’t spend his time looking out the window at your eventual return. You need to find something to do, so much so that your dog will love to see you leave either because you give him his favourite toy or a few treats to look for in a kong toy or simply his daily ration of kibble.
When guests arrive, create the following association in your dog: guest arrival (ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door) = in the basket. I invite you to read or reread our article specially dedicated to learning the “to the basket” indication.
In addition, you must manage your dog’s contacts by staying on top of each of them. Indeed, a systematically used dog to get what it wants from you (petting, playing, food, etc.) will have difficulty controlling itself when it does not have the opportunity to get satisfaction.
3rd reason: your dog climbs on the sofa because the rules are not clear to him. As we mentioned before, if all the family members are not in the same frame of mind, your dog will be completely lost and will, of course, prefer to go towards what is pleasant for him (i.e. climbing on the sofa when he wants to). So always be consistent.
Some rules to follow regarding access to the sofa
Rule #1: Whether access is allowed or regulated, your dog should be able to get off automatically when you ask him to. Suppose your dog is aggressive (growling, barking, biting) at that moment, I recommend you to forbid access to the sofa completely but also and especially to call a specialist of the canine behaviour who will be able to give you solutions adapted according to the character of your dog but also of the relation which you maintain with him. The professional dog trainer will then adapt his advice to you, your dog and his environment. Unfortunately, it is difficult to give “universal” advice on this subject because each “aggressiveness” is explained either by the inappropriate attitude of the owner, or by a behavioural disorder, or by bad habits acquired over time, or by an inconsistent environment, etc. Finally, you will have understood; it is a case by casework that will be the most efficient.
Rule #2: access to the sofa does not mean that this space is your dog’s basket. Indeed, you must systematically offer your pet “his place”, his place! Don’t forget that the couch is still your space first.
Rule #3: if your household comprises children, it is imperative to forbid or regulate the sofa so that your dog does not consider the sofa as “his space”. In which case, he could be reactive, even aggressive, when your children come to invade what he considers his space. So be very careful, because this is often how child bites happen.
Rule #4: if your dog has climbed on the sofa in your absence, and that you have realized it, do not punish your pet for its past attitude. Indeed, the dog is an animal that lives in the present moment; he will not understand why you punished him for a past act, sometimes several hours ago. Moreover, know that your authority is not at all questioned if your dog “disobeys” you in your absence. He is not seeking revenge or questioning your authority when he does so in your absence; he is simply looking for a comfortable place to sleep at that particular time. So, repeat the previous tips about making the couch less comfortable.
Rule #5: If you ask your dog to get off the couch, and he does, give him a hearty reward! And give him an action such as “to the basket” so that he understands that it’s time for him to go back to his place.