Dogs

How to Train a Dog to Stay Off the Couch: An Expert Guide


When learning how to train your dog to stay off the couch, always have treats at the ready. Photo: Fran__

If you’re asking, “Is it OK for a dog to sleep on the couch?” or “Do you allow your dog on the couch?” the answer depends on a couple of things.

In most cases, letting your dog on the couch is fine if you and your family don’t mind them being there.

It’s important to decide as a family whether or not your dog is allowed on the couch. It’s not fair to the dog and it’s ineffective training if certain family members allow the dog on the furniture and others do not.

By teaching “up,” you can allow your dog on the furniture only when invited — but you still need to teach your dog to stay off the furniture at all other times. This is harder than teaching your dog to never get on the couch.

Generally, it’s fine for your dog to be on the couch if:

  • They get off immediately when told to.
  • There are no aggression issues — including resource guarding of people, objects or furniture.
  • Everyone in the house is OK with the dog being allowed on the couch.

If your dog has aggression issues, including resource guarding, don’t allow them on the couch.

Most of the time, the decision of whether to let your dog on the couch comes down to personal preference. There are many benefits to keeping your couch dog-free:

  • Your furniture stays cleaner.
  • Your clothes pick up less hair.
  • There is more space on the couch for family and guests.
  • Your couch smells better.
  • Your couch lasts longer.

Decide what your household rules are — and then be consistent with what you choose.

How to Train a Dog to Stay Off the Couch

In this 4-part expert guide, we will cover:

  • Early prevention
  • How to train while you are at home
  • How to train while you are away
  • Training a dog to stay off the couch unless invited
It’s generally easier to train a puppy or younger dog to stay off the couch. Photo: Pexels

Part 1: Early Prevention

If you’re wondering, “How do I teach my dog to stay off the couch?” know that the easiest way is from the very beginning.

If your dog is still a puppy or a rescue who hasn’t yet developed a habit of being on the couch, your job will be much easier.

To make training less of a hassle:

  • Don’t spend time with your puppy on the couch, even while holding them. Instead, play and cuddle with them on the floor or on furniture where they’re allowed to be.
  • Whenever your pup tries to jump onto the couch, block the area, tell them, “Out” and walk toward them, gently guiding them out of the area.
  • Provide a comfortable place for them to lie on the floor. Every now and then, drop treats there for your puppy to find so they’ll visit the area often. When you catch your puppy lying on that place, calmly leave a treat between their front paws.
  • Teach your puppy the “off” command. If you catch them on the furniture, tell them, “Off.” Reward them if they go to their place. If your puppy resists getting off, begin leaving a harness on them with a leash attached while you’re home to supervise. Lead them off the couch with the leash if they don’t immediately get off when you say, “Off.”
  • Prevent your puppy from spending time on the couch when you’re not present by either confining your pup or blocking off the area. If your puppy is not fully house-trained and past all the chewing phases, crate training or other types of confinement are important to keep your puppy safe and prevent long-term bad habits from forming.

Part 2: How to Train While You Are at Home

If your dog is older or has been allowed on the couch in the past, you’ll need to be more proactive with your training to teach them to stay off the couch now.

If you’ve recently moved or gotten new furniture, teaching them to stay off the new furniture will be easier than keeping them off a couch in a room they’ve spent time on in the past.

Teach Commands

Instead of simply telling your dog “no” every time they get on the couch, teach them what you would like them to do instead. A few directional commands can help you do this.

Imagine that every time you tried to sit down at a friend’s house, they said, “No,” but they wouldn’t tell you where you should sit instead.

Or imagine that your friend was telling you “no” because there was an important reason you should sit in a certain spot. Wouldn’t it be better if they told you where to sit instead?

The following commands help your dog understand where they can be and what areas they should avoid:

  • “Place” = Go to a designated bed or location.
  • “Off” = Get off the couch.
  • “Out” = Leave the area and stay at least 5 feet away.

Encourage “Place”

“Place,” sometimes called “bed,” is extremely useful.

You can use it to manage many different behavior issues, it’s wonderful for dogs with separation anxiety and it’s great for teaching self-soothing, self-entertaining and calmness when used correctly.

You can teach “place” as a command, or you can reward your dog for going to their place on their own. When teaching a dog to stay off your couch, teaching “place” tends to work best.

When training your dog to stay off the couch, don’t forget to show them the place where you actually want them to lie down. Photo: DevoKit

How to Teach an Automatic Place

  1. To teach an automatic place — where your dog chooses to go to their place on their own — set up your place in a central location, typically in the same room where your couch is. Choose a place that’s comfortable for your dog to lie on.
  2. Sprinkle several small treats or pieces of your dog’s kibble on the place while your dog isn’t looking.
  3. Give your dog time to discover the treats on their own. If they don’t find the treats after 6 hours, lead your dog over to the area and show them the treats.
  4. As soon as your dog steps onto the place with at least one paw, say, “Place,” and praise them while they eat the treats.
  5. Repeat sprinkling treats onto the place and showing your dog the treats if they don’t find them on their own. Do this until your dog goes over to the place often, looking for more treats.
  6. When your dog is going to their place often to check for treats, stop sprinkling treats there and instead give your dog a treat whenever they step onto their place without being told to do so.
  7. When your dog gets on their place on their own frequently, reward them whenever they lie down there. When you reward them, calmly place a treat between their front paws, then walk away — you want to reward them calmly to encourage them to stay in place.
  8. When the dog lies on their place often, give them treats only when they stay for more than 5 minutes. As they improve, gradually increase the amount of time that passes between rewards until they are rewarded for staying there only for long periods.

The “Off” Command

The “off” command is incredibly useful around the house.

Ideally, a dog who isn’t allowed on the furniture wouldn’t get up in the first place, but realistically there will be times when your sneaky pooch ends up on the couch. If you want to teach your dog to get on the couch only when invited, this command is even more important.

“Off” simply means to get down from somewhere or to get off something the dog is on. It communicates to your dog that they should be on the floor instead of on your couch.

How to Teach “Off” and “Up”

  1. First, choose a location that requires your dog to step up or jump up to get onto it. A piece of furniture that they are allowed on, a patio or deck that’s a couple of feet high or something you set up, such as boxes, should work. If you’re teaching your dog to get on the couch only when invited, you can use the couch for this training. Make sure that whatever you choose is not wobbly or hard for your dog to stand on.
  2. Attach a leash to your dog and grab several of your dog’s favorite treats or pieces of kibble. If your dog is nervous about jumping up, grab their favorite toys to entice them.
  3. Excitedly say, “Up!” and pat the area you want your dog to jump onto or wiggle a toy over the area. If your dog is hesitant, sit on the area or place treats on the area the first couple of times you do this.
  4. As soon as your dog jumps up, praise them and give them a treat.
  5. When your dog finishes their treat, move off the area, say, “Off” and toss a treat onto the ground while they’re watching you.
  6. When they jump or step down to get the treat, praise them and offer them a second treat.
  7. Repeat enticing your dog to jump up while telling them “up” and encouraging them to jump off while telling them “off.” Do this until they no longer hesitate to jump up and jump off again.
  8. When your dog jumps up and off without hesitation, encourage them to jump up again; this time, when they jump up, praise them but don’t give a treat. After they jump up, say, “Off,” but don’t toss a treat onto the floor. If they jump off, praise them and drop 4 treats on the floor, one at a time. If they don’t get off, use the leash to lead them off. Once they’re on the floor again, praise them but don’t offer a treat, since you had to lead them off.
  9. Repeat encouraging your dog to jump up and praising them when they do, telling them to get off and leading with the leash if they disobey. If they obey your “off” command, drop several treats on the floor when they get off.
  10. When your dog consistently gets off when told — without needing to be led with the leash — stop rewarding them with treats, unless they go right to their place after getting off. You want to make “place” rewarding but remove all fun associated with getting on and off the couch at this point, so your dog won’t jump up simply to get rewarded for being told “off” right after.

The “Out” Command

The “out” command is a versatile one.

“Out” means get out of an area. It’s useful during your dog’s interactions with other dogs, when your dog is pushy, to prevent begging, to deal with mild aggression issues, to prevent destructive chewing and to keep your dog away from things they shouldn’t be near — such as your couch.

Dogs naturally understand body language well, so “out” not only communicates to your dog that they should back out of an area, but also it lets them know that the space belongs to you and you would like for them to respect it.

If your dog has ever shown any form of aggression, do not teach “Out” on your own. Instead, hire a professional dog trainer to help you. 

How to Teach “Out”

  1. Grab several treats, large enough for your dog to see from a few feet away. Go to a spacious, securely enclosed area — or practice this on a long leash.
  2. Call your dog over to you, show them a treat and command, “Out,” while pointing and tossing the treat 5 feet away from you with your dominant hand.
  3. Praise them as soon as they walk over to the treat. If they don’t go to it, use larger treats or slowly toss another treat while they watch you.
  4. After they finish the treat, say, “OK!” and encourage them to come back to you.
  5. Once your dog is in front of you again, toss another treat while pointing and commanding, “Out,” at the same time.
  6. Practice your “out” and “OK” commands until your dog starts to walk away from you as soon as you say “Out” or point, and before you toss a treat. As soon as your dog walks at least 2 feet away, toss a treat to them as a reward.
  7. Practice the command until your dog can consistently walk at least 5 feet away, in the direction where you’re pointing, when told, “Out.”
  8. When your dog responds well to your “out” command, practice it in new locations. Practice in each location until your dog does well in that location also. Be sure to practice the command in the room where your couch is.
  9. When your dog can do the command in a variety of locations, use the command in everyday life when you want your dog to give space or get out of an area. If your dog obeys, give them a treat when they leave the area.
  10. If they disobey, calmly and firmly walk toward them and herd them out of the area using your body. When they are out of the area, block them from returning until they stop trying to get around you.
  11. Once they’re no longer trying to get back into the area that you made them leave, slowly walk back into that area yourself. If they try to follow you, walk toward them again until they are out of the area. Repeat walking away from your dog and walking toward them again if they follow you, until they stop trying to reenter the area.
  12. When you’re ready for your dog to come back to the area, tell them, “OK!”
  13. Whenever your dog approaches the couch and looks like they intend to jump up, command, “Out,” and enforce it by walking toward them if they disobey. At this point, don’t reward them with a treat for leaving the area unless they go to their place.
Make sure the entire family understands that the dog is not allowed on the couch. Photo: Pexels

Part 3: How to Train While You Are Away

Now that we’ve covered keeping your dog off the couch while you’re home, you’re probably wondering, “How do I keep my dog off the couch when I’m not home?” — or maybe you’re simply looking for a few good hacks to keep a dog off the couch.

Some dogs stay off the couch while you’re home because they have learned that it’s not allowed — yet as soon as you leave the house or become distracted in another room, they sneak onto it and leave a warm, furry spot behind them. Bad dogs.

If you have multiple dogs and you’re not sure who the couch culprit is, you can do a few things to find out:

  • Check the color of the fur left behind.
  • Set up a camera to spy on the couch, or confine all the dogs but one and check for fur on the couch when you return. Change which dog is free each time you leave until you catch the culprit.

Preventing a bad habit from forming while you’re away is just as important as training your dog to stay off the couch while you’re home.

Some dogs simply need to be kept off the couch long enough to break old habits. Others will require a tougher approach to break the habit.

Block Access

One of the easiest ways to keep your dog off your couch while you’re gone is to block off the entrance to the room where the couch is or to confine your dog.

There are several easy ways to prevent your dog from accessing the couch:

  • Baby gate
  • Crate
  • Closing doors

If your dog is not house-trained, not past the destructive chewing phases or not trustworthy when left alone, crate training is generally the safest option. Crate training has several other benefits in addition to keeping your dog away from your couch.

Add Obstacles

If blocking access to your couch isn’t an option, or you’d like for your dog to have access to that room, using obstacles on your couch can keep your dog off.

A couch obstacle needs to take up the entire length of your couch, make the couch hard for your dog to climb onto and be uncomfortable for them to lie on. There are a couple of products on the market that conveniently fill the space on your couch and store away easily when not in use. You can also create a couch obstacle using things commonly found in your own home.

To keep your dog off, you can place one of the following on your couch:

Aluminum Foil

I sometimes get asked, “How do I keep my dog off the couch with aluminum foil?”

  • Tear off large pieces of the aluminum foil and create tents out of it.
  • Place the foil tents on the couch with the pointed ends facing out — toward your dog if they approach. Fill the length of your couch with foil tents.
  • The noise that the foil makes, the odd shape of it and its reflective surface will deter many dogs from touching it. But if your dog is persistent, you might need something sturdier.

Laundry Basket

Laundry baskets are popular obstacles because most people already have them on hand, they’re large and they’re usually lightweight, so moving them is easy.

If your dog knocks the laundry baskets off, you can fill the baskets with heavy items, such as books, to keep them in place.

Couch Defender

A Couch Defender is a lightweight tunnel made from fabric and wire.

Couch Defenders are easy to fold up and store under the couch; they wedge between your couch and the cushions to keep them in place, and they do a great job of filling up the entire couch — and preventing your dog from climbing up.

If you have children, you can try kid’s play tunnels instead, but those are more easily pushed off the couch by your dog.

Plastic Storage Containers and Boxes

Feeling creative? Find your own obstacles. Large plastic storage containers, boxes and other objects that take up the entire space of the couch are hard for your dog to move and uncomfortable for them to lie on.

If your dog easily pushes these off the couch, try weighing them down with something heavy, such as books.

If you’re allowing your dog on the couch only when they’re invited, it may be more difficult to train them than if you didn’t allow them on the couch at all. Photo: StockSnap

Use Deterrents

If you have a puppy, a sensitive dog or a dog who’s very eager to please, you likely won’t need deterrents. However, some dogs insist on getting on the couch whenever the opportunity arises, despite prevention and training.

If your dog’s love for the couch seems to override all your efforts, there are several deterrents you can use to teach your dog to avoid the couch altogether.

Deterrents aren’t a good option if you want to teach your dog to get on the couch when invited, though, because they teach your dog to associate being on the couch with some form of punishment.

When you first try a new deterrent, it’s best to try it while you’re at home and in another room, or with a video camera set up, to monitor your dog’s reaction and the deterrent’s effectiveness.

Here are 3 popular couch deterrents:

1. Snappy Trainer

Snappy Trainer is a mousetrap-looking device. When your dog touches the device, a flap moves and makes a snapping noise. Unlike a mousetrap, this device does not shut all the way closed, so there’s no risk of paw injury.

You can set up several Snappy Trainers on your couch and carefully cover them with a sheet to hide them. When your dog tries to climb onto the couch and sets off the traps under the sheet, the sudden movement and noise should scare the dog away from the couch.

Snappy Trainer is typically the gentlest of the deterrents mentioned in this article. For some especially brave dogs, this deterrent won’t be enough, but many dogs will find it unpleasant enough that they give up getting onto the couch for good after several encounters with them.

2. ScatMat

The PetSafe ScatMat resembles a yoga mat. It’s electrically charged so that when a dog touches it, the dog receives a mild electric shock, like static electricity.

The charge is low enough that these mats are considered safe and the correction is very brief, making the experience unpleasant but typically not terrifying for the dog.

Although this is a harsher method, the largest benefit of this deterrent is how easy it is for the dog to associate the experience with the couch itself — since the correction happens at the exact second the dog touches the couch to climb up and ends as soon as the dog moves away.

The correction is also through touch, which teaches the dog that touching the couch — not simply being near the couch — causes discomfort.

3. Noise Deterrent

There are several noise deterrents on the market.

Many are mats that emit a loud alarm when touched. Some devices sound an alarm when your dog gets within a certain distance of the device. This loud noise will frighten most dogs away from the area.

Noise deterrents can be the harshest because dogs’ ears are so sensitive. The alarms can sometimes sound for too long, even after the dog moves away from the area, and they may confuse some dogs when they can’t locate exactly where the sound is coming from.

If your dog associates the alarm with the room that it’s in rather than just the couch, they’re more likely to learn to avoid that area entirely rather than simply avoiding touching the couch.

Perhaps the couch itself is enough of a deterrent for some of these dogs:

Part 4: Train a Dog to Stay Off the Couch Unless Invited

Teaching your dog to stay off the couch unless invited is similar to teaching them to stay off the couch completely.

Training them to get up on the couch only when invited — but not at other times — can be confusing for your dog. To help them learn, you’ll need to be even more consistent than someone who never allows their dog on their couch. It may also take your dog longer to learn.

Be patient and do the following.

Train as If the Couch Is Always Off-Limits

First, teach your dog to avoid the couch in general. Follow the advice already covered in this article:

  • Early prevention
  • Teaching commands
  • Encouraging “place”
  • Blocking access, adding barricades or using deterrents when you’re away

Teaching “Up”

Once your dog has learned that the couch is off-limits, you can teach the “up” command. Begin by following the steps for teaching “off” and “up” found earlier in this article.

Once your dog understands what “up” and “off” mean, prevent them from getting on the couch by using the “out” command. If your dog sneaks onto the couch uninvited, say, “Off.” If your dog spends time on their place, reward them for automatically going to the place and staying there.

When you’re ready for your dog to get off the couch after being invited up, tell your dog, “Off.” If they ignore your command, clip a leash onto them and lead them off the couch with it.

Once they’re off, prevent them from getting back up. If your dog regularly disobeys your “off” command, keep a leash attached to them while they’re still learning.

If your dog shows any form of aggression while on the couch or in general, don’t allow them on the couch. Allowing your dog on the couch is safe only if they don’t have a history of aggression, possessiveness or resource-guarding.

Be Consistent With Your Rules

One of the simplest yet most difficult things to do in dog training is being consistent.

When you’re consistent, your dog learns better, the training is more effective and there’s less frustration in the end. If you choose to let your dog on the couch when they’re invited, it’s extremely important that you consistently don’t let them on the couch at any other time.

If your dog jumps up on the couch uninvited, they must get off, even if you want to snuggle with them. When this happens, make them wait 5 minutes and then join them on the floor for snuggles and games, or make them wait 10 minutes and then call them up onto the couch while they’re obediently waiting on their place or the floor.

Every member of the household needs to be consistent, too. If Susie allows Buddy on the couch uninvited, but Bob doesn’t, Buddy is simply learning to be sneaky around Bob and get on the couch whenever Bob isn’t watching — instead of waiting to be invited.

Final Thoughts on How to Train a Dog to Stay Off the Couch

To summarize this expert guide:

  • Whether you should let your dog on your couch is usually a matter of personal preference. It’s important to decide what your rules will be and stay consistent.
  • It’s easiest to teach your dog to stay off your couch while the dog is still young or new to your home and hasn’t yet spent time on the couch.
  • Use commands and consistency to train your dog to stay off the couch while you’re at home.
  • Take measures to keep your dog from getting on the couch while you’re away.

If you want to teach your dog to get on the couch only when you invite them to do so, teach them the “up” and “off” commands and allow them on the couch only when you say, “Up.”

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