I would like to retrain my dog to stay off the furniture. She jumps off when ever she hears me coming, so she seems to know that I don’t want her there. How can I teach her that furniture is for humans, not dogs?
Thanks, Pat Donovan
There are many methods of teaching dogs to stay off furniture. The key to all of the effective methods is to set up a way for the dog to be automatically corrected for getting on the furniture, even when you aren’t around. This is called a “remote” correction, and is effective because the dog doesn’t associate the correction with your presence.
The most convenient and effective (but unfortunately the most expensive as well) method is to use a product called the Scat Mat, which is specifically designed for the purpose. You place the mat on the furniture, and it delivers a mild static shock when the dog steps on it. Be sure that you get one large enough to cover enough of the couch that the dog cannot avoid it if he tries to lie down. Another nice feature of the Scat Mat is that it can be easily moved out of the way when you want to sit on the couch.
The Tattle Tale emits a piercing alarm when disturbed. You can set it on the couch by itself, or if it won’t activate reliably (which it won’t on large couches) hang it from a thread or string stretched from one arm of the couch to the other so that it will go off when the dog hits the string.
The Sofa Scram is a motion detector mat which emits a loud alarm when stepped on.
The sound alone of the motion detectors will deter some dogs, especially ones afraid of loud noises, but in most cases you will have to do a little extra training before leaving the dog alone with them to ensure success. What you need to do is get the dog to associate the sound of the alarm with a correction, so that the dog learns to avoid triggering the alarm.
Take several empty soda cans and insert a few pennies into each one, then tape the opening closed. Place a can or two in every room in the house. Set up your motion detector and leave your dog alone in the room with the couch. When you hear the alarm go off, immediately grab a can, proceed to the room with the couch, and throw the can hard against the couch (not the dog!). Do not reprimand the dog, just quietly slip out of the room after you trown the can. It should make a startling and ungodly racket when it hits, and furthermore the correction will be be associated with the alarm and the couch, not you.
You can purchase electric fencing units, designed for keeping dogs out of flowerbeds and other areas, at most feed stores, home improvement stores, and some pet stores. Don’t confuse these with underground radio fences used to keep the dog in a yard, and make sure you get a unit designed for dogs, not livestock.
Set it up so that the dog will run into or step on the wire as he gets on the couch.
I am a big fan of using motivational methods, but so far I haven’t found an effective motivational way to teach dogs to stay off furniture with the owner absent. If any trainers out there see this and know of a good motivational method, please share it with me!
One other training option available is the application of herbal repellant sprays, which are marketed specifically for keeping pets off furniture. I have limited experience with these, but the few people I know who have tried them have not found them very effective.