Behavioral Effects of Dogs on Furniture
Despite what some people believe, allowing your dog on the furniture will not make him think he is in charge. It will not suddenly cause aggression or dominance. However, be careful not to inadvertently reinforce certain behaviors or you will be sending the wrong message. For example, any dog that growls or snaps at you when you try to sit down should be removed from the furniture. If your dog refuses to move when you approach, he should be removed. Also, if your dog “hogs” the bed or sofa, as many dogs seem to do, he should be taught to move over and make room for you.
Making furniture off-limits can be a temporary or permanent arrangement, depending on your personal preference. You may have trouble sleeping with a dog in the bed, but you still want to let your dog on the couch for cuddles. You can choose when and where your dog will be allowed, but training is an important part of this process. Many owners choose to allow their dogs on furniture only when they are invited up. This can work when you are at home, but its a different story when you are out. Know that your dog will most likely help himself when he is home alone if he has the run of the house!
Health and Safety Concerns
Many owners prefer to keep their dogs off the furniture because of the mess (e.g., hair, dirt, and debris). Taking this a step further, some people are concerned about the potential for the spread of disease. There are a handful of diseases that are considered zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted to humans from animals. A few examples include parasitic infections, fungal infections and even plague (the latter is very rare). However, if you keep your dog healthy, the risk is very minimal.
Whether or not you allow your dog on the furniture, all dogs should visit the vet every 6-12 months for an overall wellness check-up. There is very little threat from a dog that has been vaccinated, is kept free of fleas, and is regularly checked and/or treated for parasites. You can minimize the germs and debris your dog brings in the house by wiping the paws, spot-cleaning as needed, and routine grooming. Keep your dog clean with occasional baths as needed. Grooming can help reduce shedding. In addition, regular nail trims will help minimize the damage that can be done by claws.
Keeps Your Dog Off of Furniture
When teaching the “off” command, your dog should have a place of their own to go to when you tell them it’s time to get down. You can place their bed on the same level as your couch so your dog feels like they can be a part of the family without being on the furniture.
Should Dogs Be Allowed On The Couch?
Odds are, if you own furniture, your dog is going to want to jump on it. And why not? A good couch is comfy, cozy, often near a window that’s ideal for watching other pups — or squirrels — and it smells like you.
But while your dog leaping on furniture or counters is perfectly normal, you don’t have to live with it. Learning more about why your dog does it will help you determine ways to prevent problem couch-surfing behavior.
Furniture surfing isn’t limited to dog breed or size. All types of pups are interested in bedding down in a warm cushion. Some enjoy it because it lets them keep an eye on the room from loftier heights. Many dogs also like to guard your property or watch excitedly for your return. Thus, furniture next to windows can be particularly enticing for dogs. But, training dogs to stay down isn’t quite as simple as moving sectionals away from the glass, although that’s a good start.
“If your pooch is climbing on furniture so they can look out a window, then block access to the window by pulling the drapes or installing blinds,” says Penny Leigh, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Manager.
Also, Leigh advises making another spot in the house more desirable for dogs. For instance, you could simply designate an old chair or loveseat as the dog’s spot. Or, try putting cushy, comfortable dog beds in the area with the most enticing furniture. It may take a while before old habits break and new ones are established, but eventually, the dog will get the point.
“Put blankets and towels on their spots, as well as chew toys,” she says. “If they get back on your furniture, silently take them to their spot and reward with a treat.”
With counters, Leigh says the most important action is to keep counters clear of food, crumbs, and other items dogs might want to steal. Temptation is a dog’s worst enemy, and when it comes to the kitchen, it could also result in injury. For example, your pup could be badly hurt if they pulled a hot pot off the stove or oven. So it’s especially important when cooking and preparing food to put your dog in a crate, another room, or outside in a fenced yard. Barring that, you should be prepared to closely supervise your dog.
If you choose supervision, training methods should include teaching commands like “off” and “down” with plenty of rewards. That way, your dog will learn to keep all four feet on the floor.
“Another good skill to teach your dog is ‘go to place,” Leigh says.”This means ‘go to your bed, crate, mat, etc., and stay there.”
You should reinforce this command particularly when cooking or prepping food. This will help make sure your dog will find a treat at their “place” and not at the counter, stove, or table.
Like people, not all dogs are good listeners. Some are more obstinate than others. A few even have alpha personalities that don’t take well to being told what to do. After all, no two pups are alike. That said, failure is almost always an error on the part of the owner’s training, causing a dog to not be reliable with a skill.
“It takes a lot of practice and consistency to create a reliable behavior,” notes Leigh.”Even then, there will be lapses. Too often, owners want to scold when things go wrong, but won’t reward when things go right.”
Although most breeds are content to snuggle on a couch and watch out the window, Leigh says that some high-energy breeds can get into more trouble because they’re looking for a job.
To conquer such dogs’ boredom, Leigh recommends taking them to a class that uses positive reward-based methods to learn the basics and try dog sports like Agility, Rally, Scent Work, and Trick Dog.
“This kind of training increases the owner-dog bond, creates confidence in dogs, and helps make a well-mannered pet for your home and neighborhood,” Leigh says. “The AKC offers numerous competitive events in which your dog can earn titles and opportunities to advance to national events. Dog sports are a great way to enjoy time with your dog and other people who love working with their canine family members.”
Of course, training and dog sports are naturally helpful in expending extra energy. That way, your dog may not have any left for furniture surfing across your home at the end of the day.
Need some help training your dog? While you may not be able to attend in-person training classes during COVID-19, we are here to help you virtually through AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This live telephone service connects you with a professional trainer who will offer unlimited, individualized advice on everything from behavioral issues to CGC prep to getting started in dog sports. https://www.akc.org/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php Get Your Free AKC eBook