Let Sleeping Dogs Lie… But Not on the Sofa

It’s easy to take the favorite chair, sofa, and other human resting spots for granted. It is, simply, furniture.  There’s a broader import from the dog’s perspective, though.  The sofa, upholstered chairs, and the bed appear to be the safest and most comfy resting areas in the environment, aka your home.  This is a “resource” to your dog, and he may try to gain access to it.  After all, that’s where the people sit.

Boundary Setting

Communicating priority access to resources and setting appropriate boundaries are central themes in raising puppies and adolescent dogs. Regardless of size or breed, the best resting areas for puppies and young dogs are on the floor.  Buy as much fluffy bedding as you want….but place it on the floor (and make sure your dog doesn’t prefer to shred it…..)  Bold youngsters often take the liberty of jumping up on the sofa.  Set a boundary and call the dog to “come”.  Attaching a leash or drag line helps, too.  Pick up the leash and remind him “off”.  Train in a “down/wait” or “down/stay” by your feet.

Remember that small puppies grow. It’s wonderful to snuggle with a Labrador puppy on the sofa.  When he weighs in at 90 pounds, it may not be so comfortable.  A large dog launching on the sofa presents a safety issue.  He won’t know to stop this behavior when he grows to his adult size.  Small dogs, while they don’t occupy lots of space, can acquire undesirable sofa behaviors.  These can include location guarding (my sofa!) and using the elevation as a viewing/barking platform.

No boundaries. No inhibition.  No respect.  Early access to the sofa also opens the door for confusion and potential use of your furniture as indoor playground equipment.  I’m acquainted with a Cocker Spaniel who leaps on any chair with no regard for the occupant.  She walks back and forth the length of the sofa – over guests’ laps.  This behavior certainly doesn’t make for a pleasant visit in that home!

Our dogs depend on us to be fair and benevolent leaders. A strategy along these lines would be to extend privileges as warranted by compliant and respectful behavior.  It’s not fair or kind to allow too much access, experience a behavior problem, and make a change that requires the dog’s removal from the sofa.  Spend puppy and adolescent dog snuggle time on the floor.  Practice independence training with the humans in chairs and the dog on the floor.  Velcro dogs tend to be insecure and need a bit of confidence-building.



By Invitation, Please

At around three years of age, dogs are considered fully mature adults. Those with formal training histories may be invited to sit on the sofa with the humans.  Pat the sofa seat and use “OK” or a short cue phrase, “come on up”.  Once on the sofa, ask the dog to lie “down”.  If he is restless, direct him “off.  Try again later.  The sofa invite is not an opportunity for the dog to climb all over his person or behave as though it’s playtime.  Chairs are resting spots.  When you get up from the chair, your dog should jump down to the floor.

Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2016 all rights reserved


Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC