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Dogs on Furniture: Yay or Nay?

There are many things that divide the dog community, from training tools, types of leashes, training methods, and so many more. But when it comes to our pets and companion dogs, one divisive topic remains:

Are your dogs allowed on the furniture?

As trainers, many would think that we would have some pretty strong opinions on the topic, and while they are somewhat correct, it may be different than what you think.

Just like everything else in dog training, there is no one right answer. I have personally had dogs that I didn't apply a single rule to, and they were still amazingly well behaved. Other dogs, I had to use every rule and management tool in the book and they were still troublesome at times.

So as you can imagine, the same logic applies to rules surrounding the furniture. When you are trying to decide if your dog should be allowed on the furniture or not, the most important factor that you need to apply is your own consistency in applying whatever decision you make.

Where Problems Arise

Most dog owners who are encountering problems with their dogs getting on or being on the furniture are actually the product of a lack of consistency by the owner. For instance, many families that complain about the dog being on the furniture say: "Well I don't let him on the furniture, but my spouse thinks its okay and lets the dog on the furniture when I'm not there."

If you imagine this scenario from the dog's perspective, you can bet it would be pretty confusing to be able to enjoy the nice comfortable seat on the couch one evening and then get punished for being on the couch the next.

But imagine that every single time that dog tried to climb up onto the couch he was made to get off and get back onto the floor. It wouldn't take long for that dog to stop trying.

When No One is Looking

One of the common challenges that many owners seek help in managing is their dog's behaviors when they are not present. Either the dog is left alone in the home while the family members are out, or maybe the family members are just in another room.

Either way, when our dog's are left to make their own decisions they may take the opportunity to get away with things that may other wise not be allowed, like climbing up on the bed, the couch, or even up on the dining table!

The problem in these instances is that there is no one there provide our dog's feedback in those moments. While there are techniques and tools that can be used to deter our dogs from making these poor decisions, preventing our dogs from having the ability to makes these mistakes is the most effective means of managing this behavior.

But this still doesn't answer the question: Furniture or Not?

Well, the simple answer is always,

"If it's not a problem, then it's not a problem!"

However, this statement gets a little more complex when the situation becomes a bit more complex. Access to certain significant locations and areas of the home that are viewed as "high-value" may contribute to some more problematic behaviors. This connection between access to furniture and behavioral problems can often be difficult to recognize without understanding canine psychology and behavior along with a good amount of experience.

Some dogs that are given too much freedom and lack of rules and structure around the home may begin to develop some behaviors such as dominance aggression and resource guarding. These behaviors should always be best evaluated by a professional

When dogs are demonstrating behavioral problems such as aggression or dominance, removing many of the dog's privileges is generally one of the first recommendations we turn to. And yes,

Access to furniture is a privilege!

Once we look at our dog's ability to be on furniture as a privilege to be earned, (if we want our dogs on the furniture at all), then it becomes a lot easier to decide when our dogs have earned that privilege or not.

Our dogs should earn the privilege of access to furniture by demonstrating appropriate behaviors and meeting our expectations throughout our daily routines. Some of these expectations may include:

  • Coming when called

  • Not getting into the trash

  • No potty accidents

  • Following commands

  • Sitting politely before going through doorways

  • Walking politely on the leash

  • Not begging at the dinner table

  • Waiting politely for their mealtime

  • Going into their kennel on command

  • Waiting to be released from the kennel without rushing out

  • Any any other expectations you may have for your home

When I was young, I didn't get to go out and play with my friends until my chores were completed. If I didn't want to do my chores, I didn't get to go out and play. This ultimately taught me that meeting my family's expectations afforded me more of the things in life that I wanted.

Do I Allow My Dogs on The Furniture?

Absolutely! But they didn't always have it that way. Every time I add a new dog to my home, they start their time in my home with ZERO privileges. During this initial temporary period, I completely manage any time that they are not confined to their kennels. This means that any time that they are not in their kennel we are engaging in activities like training, play, interactive toys, puzzle games, as well as structured downtime.

During these activities, I am able to actively establish clear expectations for behavior in my home. When my dog is on leash during these activities, we can participate in plenty of fun and engaging things that don't allow for my dog to practice any inappropriate behaviors such as getting on the couch, having potty accidents or getting into fights with my other dogs.

As time goes on over the course of a few weeks to a few months, the dog is allowed some more freedom to make choices. In most cases, the dog will continue to make the same choices that were previously required, but without as much guidance and supervision.

Eventually, the dogs can be given access to the furniture, allowed to play outside unsupervised, and even be left unattended for short periods without breaking any of the established expectations.

However, all of these privileges can be taken away if the dog begins to demonstrate inappropriate behaviors again.

Consistency is the key!

Whatever rules you have for your dogs on the furniture, as long as you keep them consistent, your dog should be able to learn to meet your expectations!

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