How can I get my 2 new puppy chihuahuas to stop running under the sofa?
June 13, 2008 7:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my 2 new puppy chihuahuas to stop running under the sofa?

One month ago I got 2 new chihuahuas (they're one of the few breeds of dogs I'm not allergic to). The older one is 5 months old, female, the younger one is 3 months old, male. They are generally happy dogs and we are using positive enforcement (i.e. treats) to train them. So far in the month we've had them, we've taught them "Watch me", "Sit", and "Come" (the third of which they do if they feel like it). They're mostly housebroken at this point.

My concern is that we also just got a new, very expensive, leather sofa. While the sofa is low, the two dogs just love to crawl under it (she has to do so on her belly with her hind legs dragged behind). They use it as a shortcut rather than go around the sofa, and they also do it while playing together. They hide treats under there, and I'm afraid they might be: A) chewing tags under the sofa or B) going to the bathroom under the sofa.

The sofa has only a 3" hole in front of it, but once you get under it the dogs can stand up fully as there's no bottom until the bottom of the seat cushion.

The sofa is a sectional, about 20' in total length (10', then bend for 2', then 8'). We've thought about blocking it off, but the sofa is so long it would take a huge amount of boxes, and the dogs would likely push empty boxes out of the way. As the sectional is fastened together, it would be hard to put large boxes underneath as we'd have to literally dismantle the sofa to do so.

I have tried telling the dogs "no" in a firm, negative voice. They don't understand "no" and, ironically, if I say it loudly the boy runs and hides...under the sofa!

We know of the shocking static electric mats you can put down, but the cost to cover 20' of sofa in them would be high, plus we'd have cords running from the walls to under the sofa which the dogs might chew. Also my wife is afraid of hurting the dogs (he's only 4 lbs) so that's out.

We've heard we can take plastic floor mats, like those you roll your chairs on in offices, and put them upside down so the plastic spikes stick up and the dogs won't want to walk on it. But they have tiny paws which I think could go between the spikes, and my wife is afraid that with their tiny feet they'll be really hurt by the spikes.

Any answers in the hive mind?
posted by arniec to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Bitter Apple spray? It works with my puppy, though I have heard some dogs loving the taste. Make sure it dries fully otherwise, it doesn't work. Spray the tags with it too.

Also, if they have gone to the bathroom under the couch, you have to move it, clean it and spray Nature's Miracle (and let it dry fully so it works). I was told that if the dog poops anywhere and there is ANY trace of the smell left, it will continue to think that is a familiar and good pooping spot.
posted by spec80 at 8:16 AM on June 13, 2008

Response by poster: Fortunately no poop under the sofa and from our inspections no urine either... I just fear that if they haven't yet, they will
posted by arniec at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2008

Chicken wire?
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2008

If the sofa has legs, you could try tying something unobtrusive between them (perhaps some wool that matches your floor covering) as a kind of fence.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2008

My grown golden loves to hunker down under low spaces, but her favorite counter in the kitchen is so low that we worried she'd throw out a hip contorting on the way in and out. We found that we don't have to fill the space, just keep something down there that makes it less inviting than the next, safer space.
So I'd suggest A) blocking the area with something gentle (and not electric) and 2) providing some other cozy hide/play space nearby, perhaps one you're less worried about or can see into more easily (do your dogs have crates?).
If the couch is stationary, you could try taping down aluminum foil to cover its "footprint." This works for cats, but it might just be a chew toy to a pair of chihuahuas. I think the little mats you mention could be worth a try, or any other re-surfacing.
posted by Mngo at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2008

do they have cages? My family's dog, which lives with my parents, goes under the bed all the time. It started one night when there was a really loud storm. Since, he's started doing it all the time. He basically considers it his den. He's older now, and it's not really a problem, so we let him. It doesn't really sound like your dogs are treating under the sofa as a den, but it would make a good candidate, so if you don't want them under there, you could make sure they have somewhere to go that you do approve of to use as their dens. The good news is, if it is their den, they definitely won't use it as a bathroom, and probably won't chew it up or anything.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:39 AM on June 13, 2008

If they'll eventually get big enough that getting under there will be difficult, you can just block it off with boxes until that happens. We did that for our dog who kept running under the bed. At first he tried to move the boxes, but it's a lot more effective to yell at a dog trying to move something than it is to yell at one who is trying to hide, so he gave up after a couple of days.
posted by ErWenn at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2008

I definitely echo the suggestion for a crate. Put a warm, cosy blanket in there and a couple of their favourite toys/treats, leave the door open and let them find that it's a safe haven they can call they're own. No more under the sofa, I (almost!) guarantee it!
posted by ceri richard at 8:45 AM on June 13, 2008

Double sided tape? My first instinct though would be to block it off. You could make a little "stand" out of white foam core, 3 inches high with more foam core for "feet", and have it run the length of the couch, right up against it, covering the entry. If you wanted it to look more decorative you could even cover it by gluing on some fabric in a color/style to match your room.

Once they get the idea, (+- 6 months), you could always try removing it.
posted by twiki at 8:52 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is there carpet under the sofa? If so, you can try putting something else under there other than the plastic mat - tiles, a sheet of metal, etc. That in combination with a crate may do the job.
posted by mumbleitaliano at 9:12 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

litttle dogs want and need a hiding place. chihuahua's were orignally bred to chase rats down their holes. so they will ALWAYS try to shimmy into small places. it's in their blood.

if they play, hang out, or sleep there, they probibly will not be using it as a toilette
really i would just let them have it, try a spray bottle + blocking it off it it REALLY bothers you.

PS im a former dog trainer, specialising in small breeds.
posted by swbarrett at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

oh and for the millionth time. if you dont already. GET THEM A CRATE. crate training is the single best thing you can do for your dogs.
posted by swbarrett at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2008

If the sofa is open underneath (meaning no fabric skirt) use lengths clear plexiglas cut to fit.

Any building store or hardware store can even cut it for you if you're not so inclined.
posted by mightshould at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2008

Response by poster: I probably should have put this in the OP:

They are crate trained. They have a wire crate that they sleep in and are in while we work. It has rugs we rotate in and out.

They also have a much smaller car crate. The boy (tiny) likes to hide in it as well.

In an attempt to distract them from going under the sofa we bought them the PetMate Burrow Bed from Target and they like to hide in it TOO, but not instead of the sofa.

I kind of like the idea above of using some form of metal under there so they won't go underneath and they'll learn. It seems a lot easier and more removable than the wool, chicken wire, etc.
posted by arniec at 10:38 AM on June 13, 2008

It seems a lot easier and more removable than the wool, chicken wire, etc.

Why metal? Just get a few wood 2 x 4's and put them under the furniture. You may even get four pieces of wood and brace them against each other so it's difficult for the dogs to push them with their noses, but since they're not tied to anything, so you can just reach in and pull them out with your hands.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:39 PM on June 13, 2008

Can you just shove some old pillows or blankets under the couch? This way if they try to run under there they will just bounce off. In my mind this seems incredibly cute. I suppose if they are really tiny they could squeeze through, but if you shove enough blankets, etc under the couch it seems there would be no puppyroom.
posted by sararah at 1:41 PM on June 13, 2008

Fatten 'em up, til they can't fit under there.
posted by ozreiuosn at 1:53 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely just block that area off until they forget about it. This is not a serious enough issue to start thinking about shock mats and shouting, just make it impossible for them to get under there AND provide them with somewhere in the same area they can go into that's dark and confined, cover a wire crate, get a Vari-Kennel style crate or get a soft-sided crate (also, each dog should have its own crate, crating dogs together can be Very Bad). Or look for a cuddle bed or other type of bed (often intended for cats, but Chihuahuas are plenty small enough) that the animal can actually get inside.
posted by biscotti at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2008

Fabric covered 2x4's, had the same problem with our cats retreating under our sofa.
posted by iamabot at 7:32 PM on June 13, 2008

Tell them there's a monster under the sofa that eats Chihuahuas! Reinforce with scary monster noises, every time they so much as look like they're going under the sofa.
posted by motown missile at 12:22 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

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