Pooches on couches

Blog post about dogs on couches
By Laure-Anne Visele, written Oct 2012

Bad influence

Awkward moment.

My dog lodged somewhere with a puppy. After his visit, their pup started sleeping on the couch. So: furious owner and very embarrassed me.

So, today’s question is: “Should we allow them on our couches”?

Are dogs on couches being ‘dominant’?

No one has ever remotely proven a link between the couch and “being dominant. I have read through enough specialist literature to know. So I am throwing this onto the pile of dominance-related myths, to join its apocryphal brothers and sisters. Until someone can prove otherwise (aaaah, that pesky burden of proof), that is my stand.

Big disclaimer before we trivialise the whole thing away: If your dog growls when you tell him to get off, you have an issue. Read this article on resource guarding and contact the local specialist.

So why do they like couches? I might be going on a limb here but could it be because…

… it’s more comfortable? Oh, and it smells of their favourite persons.

I still don’t want dogs on my couch

There ARE good reasons: it smells and they shed hair. If you are the sensible type, and you are (understandably) bothered, a strict ban is the way to go.

I happen to live in a hybrid home:

  • Sensible husband
  • Infinitely less sensible wife: I couldn’t give a rat’s tail if my couch was made of dog’s hair, and I happen to love the way a dog smells.

So we have a “Only if we say it’s OK rule.”

The strict ban

If you have an innocent young pup, never let him get a taste of it in the first place.

For repeat offenders:

  1. Block access to the couch when unsupervised for a few weeks (I know it’s long, sorry…). We just flip the cushions.
  2. Interrupt him when he’s thinking of jumping up (smacking sounds work). Then reward him for interrupting his move. Keep rewarding this occasionally throughout the dog’s life.
  3. Give him a great bed. The better his bed, the less tempting the couch. So close to you, no draft, comfortable material, etc.
Regularly test until he stops trying. His interest will wane until he can be trusted even unsupervised.

The “Only when I say so” rule

The rule is: dog only goes on the couch when invited, and leaves when asked.

First, teach him the strict ban rule, so he gets it’s not a free-for-all.

Also, teach him to get on or off on command:

  1. Get him onto the couch (tap on the couch and say ‘Hop‘).
  2. Praise him when he does (‘good boy’, or whatever).
  3. a. Say ‘Off‘ (Cheerfully. You’re not telling him off.) b. Tap on the floor and c. Flash a treat. (a-b-c sequence is important)
  4. When all paws are on the ground, give him a treat.

When you are sure he gets it, stop promising the treat (i.e. bribing) and only give him the treat after he’s complied (i.e. rewarding).
For more on the training stages and how to wean a dog off treats, read this.

Confession time

I’ll be honest here. We’re having glitches.

In the name of a disgusting slander campaign, my husband gleefully documents these moments…

Dirty framing job if you ask me

Evidence? Pffff. This could have been photoshopped.

And so you know we’re not the only ones: here’s Dino Dogan‘s dog, Dojo… Dojo’s becoming quite the star on this blog. He also featured on my article on the perfect recall.

Dino’s Dojo

My excuses?

1/ “I couldn’t give a rat’s tail if my couch was made of dog’s hair, and I find the smell strangely comforting.” (and I’m quoting here)

2/ “The plumber’s pipes are always plugged” or something. It’s a Dutch saying, a metaphor for ‘a dog trainer’s dog is never perfect’.

So there you have it: I am not consistent with the textbook policy. So shoot me. ;  P


I love to read your comments.

  • Are you a germophobe when it comes to dogs and couches?
  • Are you in a hybrid household?
  • Do you have an opinion on the link to dominance? A link to a peer-reviewed paper covering this maybe?
  • Are you spectacularly (un)successful at getting him off the couch?

Further reading

Dogs and society

Dog training and behaviour

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