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

Follow Canis_bonus on Twitter

This entry was posted in Dog training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Vikki Pickering
    Posted 3 October 2012 at 06:48 | Permalink

    Love your humour on this subject – made me chuckle 🙂 My dogs are welcome on the couch. We have leather couches so it’s not too much of a big deal really. And they hop off if we ask them to 🙂

    • Posted 3 October 2012 at 21:33 | Permalink

      Yeah, we definitely need to consider leather next. We have those stupid corduroy ones so hair (and mud, and coffee, and pizza) sticks.

  2. Posted 3 October 2012 at 09:17 | Permalink

    What a brillioant article… love it!

  3. frances bell
    Posted 3 October 2012 at 18:18 | Permalink

    my dogs are allowed on the couch, bed or where ever they want to sit or sleep this is their home as much as mine if and when we get visitors we just put covers on the couch and armchairs

    • Posted 3 October 2012 at 21:32 | Permalink

      Yup, we’re also using covers now. Which horrifies my parents (and husband). But hey, I think it’s well worth it to get that cuddle in front of the TV. There’s nothing like a long winter’s night, under the duvet, vegging out on the couch spooning your dog. They work like radiators!

  4. Lynne Mcewan
    Posted 3 October 2012 at 19:09 | Permalink

    I have absolutly no problems with other people letting their dogs on their sofas/beds/dining tables but don’t let mine up. Purely because I have enough hair and dirt on my floors and I’m a lazy cow when it comes to housework. I also get a bit upset when friends visit with their dogs and let them up on MY sofa. A bit rude, if you ask me. It’s got diddly squat to do with dominance. It’s just owners preference. Good blog!

    • Posted 3 October 2012 at 21:30 | Permalink

      Hi Lynne. For sure, it’s pretty rude to let your own dog on someone else’s couch. But I hadn’t prepared my dog for the eventuality of being in someone else’s house for a few days. Oooops for me ; P

  5. Susanne Nielsen
    Posted 3 October 2012 at 20:02 | Permalink

    Just remember that its called FURniture ;D My 2 huskies are allowed on the sofa – no problem. When I want to lie on it (admittedly not often) they are asked to clear off it no problem. Never any growls or anything. Once in a while I WILL shift them just to mark my status _its also my sofa ,,, we also get on i together for a cuddle.

  6. Posted 4 October 2012 at 17:04 | Permalink

    Love this article! Informative, accurate and funny, doesn’t get better than that in the dog world! My dogs go wherever they want, without permission, but know to get off with nothing more than a finger point 😉 I have also had friends that allow their dog only on specific furniture, which is brilliant in my book, and dogs lack of ability to generalize well actually makes it a fairly easy distinction for them to make (with consistency of course!)

    • Posted 4 October 2012 at 21:14 | Permalink

      Thanks, Samantha!

      My dog is a terrible discriminator. He’s had a very tricky past (I suspect a lot of punishment-based training judging by how quickly he clams up when he doesn’t get something right), so it’s a huge endeavour to teach him something new, so I get lazy on the couch thing.

2 Trackbacks

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>