How can I train my dog to stay off the sofa?
January 10, 2009 8:24 AM   Subscribe

How can I train my dog to stay off the sofa?

I have a female Dalmatian, about 10 years old, whom I adopted when she was around one-and-a-half. As a first-time indoor dog owner, for the first several years of our relationship, I let her sleep in my bed and lie beside me on the couch.

I came to realize that this wasn’t the best situation for me; as a Dalmatian, she sheds excessively. I have successfully accustomed her to sleeping on her own bed, first on the floor beside my bed, and eventually into the next room.

When I’m not home, I can close the door to my bedroom so that she cannot get in there. Her own bed is in the living room, though, and as soon as I am out of the house, she is on the sofa, and when she hears me coming home, she goes back to her bed. The evidence is obvious: a warm cushion covered in fur and moist lick spots.

I do not want to attempt crate training or confining her to the bathroom. I cannot leave her outside all day. Can you suggest a humane, effective, and inexpensive method for conditioning her not to get on the couch while I am away?
posted by ijoshua to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could try a spray product called Boundary. I use it for my cats and they hate it, they wrinkle their noses if I even bring out the bottle now. My dog doesn't really bother the electrical cords that my cats try to chew on (and I subsequently spray,) so I'm not sure if it's the Boundary working on him too, or if he just has no interest in them period.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:38 AM on January 10, 2009

Best answer: Put something on the couch that makes it uncomfortable for her to lie on. I've head of using tin foil (for cats) and also plastic carpet protector. It has little spikes on the back that grip into the carpet, and would make it awkward for the dog to lie on.

Or maybe something smelly, like lemon essential oil. It would smell strong to her, but pleasant to you.
posted by Solomon at 8:56 AM on January 10, 2009

The easiest solution, by far, would be to spread a blanket on the couch when you go out, and fold it up when you come home. It's a lot easier to change your behavior than it is to change the dog's.
posted by Forktine at 8:58 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Combining the two ideas above... we used to put a selection of stools and other large objects on the sofa whenever we left the house so the dog couldn't get up there and lie down.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:00 AM on January 10, 2009

The easiest solution, by far, would be to spread a blanket on the couch when you go out, and fold it up when you come home. It's a lot easier to change your behavior than it is to change the dog's.
I love this solution. Who's training who?

I second the put-something-on-the-couch method. As Solomon mentioned, you can get the cheap plastic carpet runners at Home Depot or Lowes where they sell them by the foot for a few bucks. Turn it upside down and you're dog won't want to rest there anymore. Another option would be to make a superior alternative for the dog. Buy a plush dog bed or cushion and place it near the couch and train the dog to love it.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I think the spiky plastic carpet runner might work; I will try that. Covering the sofa with a blanket doesn’t really work because she likes to twist and dig in and nest, pulling the blanket around so that it no longer covers the couch. As I said in the post, she already has her own bed, on which she is perfectly content to lie as long as I am home. It’s only when I’m out that she makes for the sofa.
posted by ijoshua at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2009

nthing carpet runners. They work on my leather recliners. We have also used "shock pads" they really work, but runners work as well at 1/10th the cost. They also can be cut into strips and put on counters and windowsills.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2009

Scat Mat was created for this!
posted by 6:1 at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2009

I have a Great Dane. To keep her off the couch, I put a board across the arms. It's easy to stash the board under the couch when I don't need it.
posted by PatoPata at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2009

The blanket on the couch is a fine solution. Training is most effective when it's consistent. If you'd never had her up on the couch, that would be one thing. But after being on the couch for 8+ can understand why it's hard for her to change, especially if you're not there to correct her.

It sounds like you already have a comfy spot set up for her in the living room. Maybe wash her bed cover and dry it with a fabric softener sheet, which some dogs seem to love? Or putting an old smelly t-shirt of yours under the cover of her bed so that it smells like you? The carpet runner idea may work too, although some dogs will just pull it off the couch.

Be sure to give her something of yours if it works. She may be hopping up there because it smells like you, and she finds it comforting, and if she can't get to it she'll get anxious and start gnawing on the carpet or whatever.
posted by txvtchick at 9:38 AM on January 10, 2009

We just lift up the sofa cushions on edge when we go out.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2009

There's a product called ssscat which is meant for keeping cats off of things. It's basically an air sprayer attached to a motion detector; when a cat goes near it, it blows a puff of air and scares the cat.

Our dog is terrified of this. (Then again, our dog is easily terrified -- ymmv.)

We hide it in the couch cushions and then if she goes on the couch, she gets puffed. After this happens once or twice, it's enough to place the ssscat in the vicinity of the couch -- she'll stay away.

On the other hand, it's a pain because if we forget to turn it off, we get puffed ourselves, which can be a bit startling. And when we decide not to bother with it and put it away for a while, the dog decides that the couch is safe again.
posted by wyzewoman at 10:41 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agree with others one the two main points:

(1) Consistent training will get you the results you're looking for - there is variation among the possible training techniques though.

(2) Keeping something on the couch is the quickest way to keep the dog off, but it is an hassle.

I recommend a little of both: train while at home with positive reinforcement for your dog getting on his bed. Actively train this activity as a commend "bed" or "go to your bed" or whatever you prefer. Great command to have when guests come to the house whom you prefer not to have your dog greet with a load of excitement.

While away from home, even with some items blocking your dog from getting up on the couch, try placing some cans filled with 10-20 pennies precariously along the couch cushions and edges. Any attempt to get up on the couch will result in a bothersome noise. Do this everyday in an area on the couch that is otherwise accessible (i.e., you didn't place something there to block access). Then expand the area covered with cans and decrease the area covered with large blocking objects. Eventually cover the whole couch(es) with cans then start limiting the number of cans (maybe a couple fewer cans every week) until none are needed.

To ensure success or to improve your methods, leave your digital camera running at a low setting when you leave home - should give you at least an hour of footage. See what your dog is up to, whether he knocks the cans over or goes to his bed or has a secret relationship with the cat that would be a scandal ... good times.

Best luck re-training your pooch.
posted by unclezeb at 11:42 AM on January 10, 2009

I used the Scat Mat mentioned above to train my dog (a dachshund that had grown quite accustomed to being on couches, beds, etc.) to stay off the furniture -- she has a bad back and needs to minimize jumping/vigorous exercise to avoid having another surgery. It worked like a charm.

After the training period ended (can't remember exactly how long we used the mat), the lesson stuck -- she doesn't jump on the couch now, except on very rare occasions when she's testing boundaries. In that case, I just take the mat out again temporarily and remind her that it's off-limits. Basically, when it's touched, it emits a "shock" that is similar to the static electricity shock -- not painful, but just surprising and unpleasant.

In the past, I'd tried all kinds of methods -- "smelly" sprays, moving cushions, placing obstacles on the couch. Nothing worked as effectively or quickly as the mat (and it was annoying to keep rearranging the furniture every time I left home).

Also, it's a good idea to get a really comfy dog bed if you don't already have one, so your pet has an alternative place to sit/sleep -- something that it "owns" and likes. I keep my dog's bed right by the couch, actually.
posted by curiouskitty at 12:56 PM on January 10, 2009

Sorry, I can see you've got a pet bed already... Ignore that. Skimmed your question too quickly!
posted by curiouskitty at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2009

We have a large black dog. We have never allowed him up on the furniture, and we have never caught him on the furniture, but the telltale fur and drool spots would give him away. We got him a really comfortable dog bed. We tried putting various things on the sofa to block him from jumping on it, and he would just pull them off. We tried the blanket method above, but then we got some new furniture and decided to train him once and for all. We got a Scat Mat and it works great. Most of the time he stays off the sofa when we leave and forget to put the Scat Mat on. Nowadays I usually just leave it on the sofa turned off- he doesn't try to pull it off.

There are two things about the Scat Mat no one has mentioned: 1) it has various levels, so you can try the mildest level if you are anxious about giving your dog a jolt, and increase only if needed; and 2) you have to be alert if someone new to the house comes over while it's on- I had a friend plop down on the sofa before I could warn him, and, uh, he got a bit of a surprise.
posted by ambrosia at 2:11 PM on January 10, 2009

My old pooch -- Rusty, The Wonder Dog -- used to get onto the sofa, she always lay in the place where I laid, she wanted to be in my scent; she prefered the bed but when I closed off the bedroom door the couch was her standby. She was completely incorrigible in this; she was the best trained dog I've ever been around, we spent hours and days and weeks working on all sorts of things, but I never was able to get her off that couch, carrot or stick.

There were not scat mats at that time, maybe that would have worked, I know for a fact that laying down a runner with points up would not have worked -- I put pieces of paper with thumb tacks poking through it, pointing up, and damned if she didn't just lay on them.

She was stubborn.

I finally gave up -- I am stubborn also, but that is one battle she won. And she was a short haired dog anyways -- a red Doberman -- so it wasn't all that bad. And it was that she wanted to be in my scent, it was the best she could do if I wasn't around; in my pickup, she always laid on the drivers side if/when I left her to go into a restaurant or whatever.

I'd give five hundred dollars to walk into my living room and see her on the sofa today. She was a sweetie, best dog I've ever known, or seen, and I've known and seen some damn fine dogs. If you cannot train your dog to do this, there are larger problems in life; enjoy your time with her.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:44 PM on January 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I lost my Golden, Jackie, about 3 months ago to lymphoma. She also liked to stretch out on the couch when we weren't home even though she knew she wasn't supposed to be up there. We used tinfoil mostly with success, but if we forgot the foil, we would come home to orange fur all over the couch.

Like dancestoblue, I would buy her a couch all her own if she were here to lie on it today. Enjoy your time with them while you have them. Their lives (and ours) are way too short.
posted by rglasmann at 4:45 PM on January 11, 2009

Response by poster: The upside-down plastic carpet runner seems to be working.
posted by ijoshua at 6:55 PM on January 21, 2009

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