Dog lying on furniture

Q. How do I teach my dog to stay off the furniture or bed?

A. Dogs like to get on furniture, because just like us, they enjoy comfortable resting areas. Beds and other furniture have high concentrations of human smell, which is desired by dogs with close bonds to their owners. Dogs also enjoy being higher up because it enables them to see what’s going on around them (like other dogs passing by outside) and to get away from commotion on the floor (such as children playing). Here’s how to train him to stay off the furniture

1. Give Your Dog a Place to Rest

The first step in changing your dog’s behavior is to supply him with appropriate areas to lie down in the places around the house where he spends most of his time. For instance, the living room, office and bedroom will all likely require separate resting areas. Not all of the resting areas need to be the same type, though; I often use a kennel in a quiet room for a dog to retreat to as his safe haven when he is feeling overwhelmed. Then, in the other rooms, I use beds that are similar to the furniture the dog finds most appealing. For some dogs, simply having a mat or round bed is comfortable enough, while other dogs enjoy being surrounded by fabric and snuggling in a high cornered bed. For dogs who enjoy being elevated, there are specific dog beds that are similar to human furniture, like a couch or bed.  

Your dog should be taught to associate his resting areas with positive consequences; you can do this by tossing random treats on his resting area through the day or feeding him a chewy or stuffed Kong on his resting place. Your dog can also be taught to go to his mat or resting area on command.

2. Teach the "Off" Command

In order to keep your dog from sitting on the furniture, he should be taught an “off” command, which means that he is to move off the furniture. The “off” cue is taught in advance for better control should your canine mistakenly get up on the furniture and need to be removed. It’s important not to physically force a dog off a resting area, because it’s possible that he will react with aggression.  

In order to teach the “off” command, the dog first needs to be taught an “on” cue to get him on the furniture in the first place. This can be practiced by saying “on” and putting a piece of food in front of the dog’s nose and moving it upward onto the furniture to get his body onto the elevated area. Once the dog gets on the furniture, he can be taught the “off” command. Rather than treating him for getting on the furniture, immediately use the word “off” and put a treat in front of your dog’s nose and slowly pull it out and down away from the furniture. As soon as your dog moves toward the treat and gets off the furniture, respond with praise and a food reward. Once your dog has a solid understanding of what this cue means for the furniture in the home, you can ask your dog to get “off” the furniture on command and redirect him to his own resting area.

3. Be Consistent

Once your dog has become familiar with the “off” cue, you should no longer invite him up on the furniture. Consistency is key in keeping your dog off the furniture; he needs to understand that there is no situation when it is acceptable for him to get on the furniture. It’s unfair to allow the dog to come onto the furniture at certain times and not at others — this creates confusion. When your dog is not supervised, block access to furniture by using a crate or gated area. If your dog does make a mistake and gets on the furniture, simply use the “off” cue and direct him to the appropriate resting spot.