Trainer Tips–Keeping pets off furniture

10April 2014

Have problems keeping your pets off the furniture?  There are many simple, handy things you can purchase or do to help keep your pets off the couch, bed, or counters while you’re away.  I would like to remind everyone that these are helpful tools.  Using any of these things should also be accompanied with positive reinforcement training that teaches the dog where he is not to be, and where he should be instead.

As a trainer, I highly recommend you do not allow your pets on the furniture.  When first bringing a new puppy or dog into your home, it is vitally important to establish leadership.  Not allowing your pet on the places that humans usually rest is one easy way to help do that.  Be consistent.  If you do not allow your pet on the furniture, then that is the rule, NO exceptions.  For people who do wish to have their pets on the furniture, they should only be allowed up when invited by the human.  The dog should not make the decision to get on the furniture, the human makes the decision to invite them up.

If your dog (or cat) likes resting with you on the couch or bed and they are not allowed (or you are training them to be off these surfaces), one important thing you should have is a place that they should be on.  This can be their very own pet bed, blanket, or area located near where you rest.  Pets have a need to be close to us and rest near where we do.  So placing a proper resting place near your couch and bed for your pet to go to can help train them out of going on the furniture.  We are redirecting the bad behavior of going on the couch, into a good behavior of laying on the pet bed.

Along with having a proper resting place for your pet, you should train your pet to go to this place.  When the pet jumps up on the couch, say “Uh-oh” and lure or gently lead them to their bed using a command like “bed” or “place.”  Remember to stay calm.  When they reach the pet bed, mark the behavior with a “Good!” then reward.  Rewards can be many different things, and are different for each dog.  Some common rewards include: petting, praise, toys, and food.

Now onto the good stuff…

Below are some various helpful aids and things you can do to help keep your pets off the furniture during the training process.  Basically you want to make the bed or couch or counter top an area that is unpleasant for the pet to rest on.  This can be done in several ways.

Store Bought Options:
Pet stores all over have various deterrents you can use to help keep pets off furniture.

This is a pet deterrent that makes crinkle sounds if touched.
Many dogs will be deterred by the loud noise.
Some of these also include a pressure-sensitive shrieking alarm.
(Never use these with a fearful or anxious dog.)
There are many options of plastic-type place mats that have points that poke up.  You can place this type on top of the surface to keep your pet off.
There are also various sprays you can apply to areas or furniture to help deter your pet.  Bitter Spray is usually used to deter chewing, but can, in some cases, help deter pets from certain areas as well.
Homemade Options:
There are many every day items around your house you can use to help deter your pets from certain surfaces in your home.
Booby Traps:
Use empty soda bottles, or empty cans filled with coins (and taped back up) to booby trap forbidden areas.  When the pet jumps up, he will be startled by the noise and leave the area.
You can use every day tin foil and place it over forbidden surfaces.  The crinkly noise it makes will deter pets from resting on this area.
I have also used tape (scotch or masking) and rolled the tape into a loop with the sticky side out.  Then barely stick the tape to the forbidden surface.  When your pet comes to the area, he will get sticky tape stuck to him and leave the area.  (This is especially helpful for cats or small dogs who like to get on counters.)
Remember prevention and management.  It is helpful to make the forbidden area less accessible.  Push in chairs around tables, move the coffee table into the couch before you leave, or close off access to rooms.
If you teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable, and reward them for doing good behaviors, your dog will want to continue to engage in good behaviors.  Remember to mark the good behavior!  If you walk by and the dog is lying nicely on his bed, give him a calm “Good!” and reward with some soft, calm petting.  When you notice the dog going to the forbidden area, clap your hands to snap the dog out of the intended action, then redirect the dog to the proper resting place, the dog bed.  When the dog goes to the bed, mark the behavior with your “Good!” and reward.
Don’t forget to give your dog proper exercise every day!