Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
Why Do Dogs Love Jumping on the Couch?
To stop a dog from jumping on the couch, it helps to gain a better understanding as to why dogs become so enamored with sofas, love seats, ottomans and couches in general.
If the couch draws your dog like a magnet, don't just assume that he's doing that just to drive you nuts and misbehave. Actually, there is more to this behavior than meets the eye.
A little evaluation can therefore provide several hints as to why your dog is so eager to jump on the couch. Once you have a good grasp on the underlying cause, the couch-jumping behavior can become easier to solve. Following are several reasons why dogs are big couch lovers.
To Stay Closer to You
One main cause for dogs jumping on the couch is to simply stay closer to you. Suspect this if your puppy or dog happens to jump on the couch every time you are on it.
Many dogs love to stay glued to their owners, so much so, they're often referred to as clingy "velcro dogs." Staying close to you gives them a sense of security and reassurance.
A Matter of Comfort
Just as you like sitting on the couch, your dog likes it too. The bare floor may be boring, cold and uncomfortable, and therefore your dog may not be eager to lie down there.
Many dogs seek soft places that are warm and comfy. The couch also has your smell which makes it extra appealing too.
If you have multiple dogs or other pets, your dog may retreat to the couch when he wants to be left alone and take a nap or when your dog may want to gnaw on a bone or chew toy undisturbed.
A Field of Buried Treasures
Many dogs like to dig when on the couch to hide their bones or toys somewhere. This happens courtesy of a dog's instinct to hide their treasures for later on. It's reminiscent of ancient times when dogs would bury extra food underground for leaner times.
Offers Better Views
Some small dogs may jump on the couch so to have a better view of their surroundings. If your couch faces a window, your dog may enjoy being there because he can monitor what's going on outside.
When Having the Dog on the Couch Is a Problem
Many dog owners may not want their dogs on the couch for various reasons. Perhaps they have an expensive couch and don't want any stray hairs there.
Or maybe, they are afraid that their dogs may pee or poop on it. Some other owners may not want the couch to absorb any doggy smells or they may not want their dogs digging on the couch or chewing parts up.
Another reason is that some dogs may get injured from jumping off tall places. Small dogs in particular can injure their delicate joints from jumping off furniture such as beds and couches. Doggy steps can provide a solution for allowing small dogs to get on and off a couch without risking injuries.
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In some cases, dog owners may want to prevent their dogs from jumping on the couch because they are worried that this may cause their dogs to "become dominant." Fortunately, with the alpha dog and dominance myth debunked nowadays we know better.
While jumping on the couch won't cause dogs to become dominant, sometimes predisposed dogs may act protective of the couch.
Such dogs should be prevented from jumping on the couch so as to not allow them to rehearse the problematic behavior.
Finally, some dog owners may not want their dogs on the couch for hygiene reasons or simply because they would like to watch a movie in peace without Rover sitting on their lap or soliciting attention, asking to be pet.
How to Stop a Dog From Jumping on the Couch
To stop your dog from jumping on the couch, you may need to implement some type of training or intervention plan, based on the underlying cause. Following are some tips to stop a dog from jumping on the couch based on some underlying factors.
Many dog owners will stop their dogs from jumping on the couch by making being on the couch unpleasant and using methods that can backfire in the long run.
Avoid placing booby traps on the couch and using a shock collar to correct your dog for jumping up and avoid using the so-called "scat mats" which deliver a shock when your dog jumps on the couch. These methods can make your dog fearful of the couch as well as other things that may be nearby or events that may have occurred at the same time.
Shaking a can filled with coins or spraying your dog with water may also cause harm, as some sensitive dogs may become noise-sensitive or may develop a fear of water.
Also, any physical interventions such as pushing your dog off the couch, grabbing him by the collar or delivering a scruff shake, may cause your dog to fear you and your hands and may lead to a dog who may bite defensively.
Even scolding or telling a dog "no" has some disadvantages as it may trigger fear and stress in a dog who may have no clue of what he's being asked for.
1) Train Your Dog to "Leave It"
The leave it cue can be used to train a dog to not approach something and therefore can be also used to tell a dog to not jump on the couch. It has a "preventive" function, meaning it helps prevent the dog from jumping up versus dealing with a dog who has already jumped up.
Here is how to train it: How to train a dog the leave it cue.
2) Train Your Dog the "Off" Cue
Training your dog the "off" cue can be helpful as it tells your dog exactly what you want him to do rather than what you don't want him to do. Here's how to train it.
- Wait for your dog to jump on the couch. If your dog isn't jumping up, then plan your training sessions around that specific time.
- Say your verbal cue "off" and then toss a treat or kibble on the floor with a downward motion of your hand. Tip: Use hard treats as these are more effective in grabbing your dog's attention since they will make a noise when they hit the floor.
- Just as your dog jumps off the bed or couch and before he eats the treat/kibble, say "yes" or click your clicker (if your dog is clicker trained).
- Repeat this exercise several times as the opportunity presents making it a fun game.
- At some point, start saying "off" but this time without actually tossing the treat. Just pretend you toss it using your downward hand gesture. When your dog jumps down, say "yes" or click the clicker and feed him the treat, but this time drop it from your other hand. Your ultimate goal is to say "off" and stop tossing the treat/kibble.
- Repeat the above exercise and start morphing the treat-tossing hand movement into just pointing at the floor and then feeding the treat from your other hand dropping it to the floor when your dog jumps off.
- Now, it's time to raise the criteria and add an extra challenge. A day may arrive when you need your dog to get off the couch, but you don't have treats. Start mixing in praise without giving treats or use other types of rewards such as giving a favorite toy, running together to the yard to play or grabbing your dog's collar and leash and taking your dog for a walk. Most dogs will instinctively rush when they see their collar and leash. Don't stop giving any types of rewards or treats altogether though; as that may lead to the behavior extinguishing.
3) Make the Couch Inaccessible When Not Training
Many dogs learn to not jump on the couch when the owners are present but will jump the moment the owner is away. This leads to inconsistent reinforcement (variable reinforcement schedule) which can put a dent in your progress in training your dog not to jump on the couch.
To prevent inconsistent reinforcement, it's therefore important to make the couch inaccessible. You can place bulky items on the couch such as boxes full of big books, folded chairs or laundry baskets to make it less inviting.
Some dog owners opt to cover the couch with a plastic carpet runner turned upside down so the hard points are facing upward to make the couch less appealing or you can turn the couch against a wall or simply keep your dog in a separated area (in another room, behind a baby gate).
4) Provide Your Dog With His Own Sleeping Area
You want to provide your dog with his own sleeping area and you want to make it extra appealing. Choose a comfortable one that will make the couch look poorly in comparison.
Nowadays, there are many makes and models of doggy beds and you can even offer your special pooch a doggy couch of his own if you'd like!
5) Train Your Dog to Lie on His Mat
Aim to train your dog to lie on his mat and provide goodies there so that your dog associates it with great amenities.
If you own a clingy Velcro dog, keep his bed/mat nearby you, against the couch. Your dog will enjoy relaxing/ sleeping nearby you and feel part of the family.
6) Move the Couch Away From Windows
If your dog uses the couch for gaining a view of the outside, move the couch away from the window. This should also reduce any associated barking targeted towards outside stimuli.
7) Invest in a "Buddy Bunk"
The Buddy Bunk can help with dogs who jump on the couch because they want to be closer to their owners or they want a high place to retreat to, away from other nosy pets, or more simply, just feel safer on "higher grounds."
Warning: If your dog shows signs of guarding the couch by barking, growling or snapping, consult with a professional using force-free behavior modification for help.
If you need your dog off the couch, don't get angry or push him off. Instead, toss some treats on the ground to encourage him to get off, or try ringing the doorbell.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Adrienne Farricelli
FlourishAnyway from USA on August 16, 2021:
Great explanations as to why they want to be there, why you should not do certain things and what alternatives you can undertake instead.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 15, 2021:
Your advise is always filled with good ideas. Thanks for tackling another concern that some people have with their canine buddies. We always allowed ours to be with us on the couch.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 15, 2021:
This is a good article, Adrienne. You always have such great advice for dog owners. This article is not exception.