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YOUR DOG, YOUR COUCH

‘Sarah’ my German Shepherd x Siberian Husky enjoying warmth & comfort
I am going to address this topic in three sections…DOES ALLOWING YOUR DOG TO SIT ON THE COUCH CREATE DOMINANCE,  AGGRESSION?Clients often ask me is it OK if my dogs go on my couch? Will it make them aggressive?

The answer is no, sitting on the couch does not make your dog aggressive – but lack of leadership can!

Recently, I had a client ask me if his little Yorkie was being dominating as it liked to sit on the back of a couch! He had read an article on the internet that if a dog sits on the back of a coach, the dog is dominating.

I love the fact that we can do so much research at the touch of our finger…the only problem is that it magnifies the ability of those who really do not understand dogs to influence others.

To answer my client’s question, I ask them

One – Is it OK with you if your dog sits on the couch?

Two – If you indicate to your dog that is should get off of the couch will it get off without any issue?

Three  –  Can everyone else sit on the couch and your dog willingly accepts every ones presence without a complaint (no growling, no nipping, etc.);

Four – Will your dog quietly yield space on the couch should he need to move over a little to make room for people or another dog?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above – then there is no issue – there is no reason why your dog should not avail themselves of the comfort of the couch!

Sitting on a couch does not make a dog reactive aggressive – it is a lack of proper coaching and mentoring that can make a dog reactive.

Personally, I love relaxing late at night sitting on the couch, with dogs to either side of me, at me feet and in their various favourite spots around the living room…seeing them just being calm, relaxed, and content. Their energy spent for the day.

Jordie, my German Shepherd x Malamute relaxing after a pack walk
AND WHAT IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR DOG ON THE COUCH…Well guys, just like humans, dogs are opportunists too! So adjust your expectations to suit. Dogs are very intelligent. If you do not want your dog on your couch than you can coach him not to go on…but be fair…dogs love comfort…so when you are out of the house, don’t be surprised if you peek through a window and see your dog stretched out on those comfy pillows.

Don’t set your dog up for failure. If you don’t want him on the couch including when you are not home you are going to have to close a door or put a baby gate up to section off the spaces that accommodate couches. Be fair.

‘Robbie’ my Boxer and ‘Tibby’,
both of my cats love to cuddle with Robbie on the couch
To teach your dog not to go on the couch – please don’t yell at your dog! Do this instead. If your dog goes to get up on the couch:

One–  Make sure you are grounded – emotionally neutral, and ready to coach with fair, firm confidence. Don’t be aggressive; don’t raise your voice in anger.

Two – Lead…addressing from a distance is not leadership, calmly but with assurance get up and walk over to your dog.

Three – Get your dog’s attention, you can tap your at his/her shoulder or waist, you can snap your fingers and say ‘hey’ or ‘uh’.

Four– Tell your dog what you want i.e. ‘off’ or down’…I have ten dogs – different breeds, from tiny to large – they all understand this type of direction…as do the dogs I work with for my clients.

Five – Tell your dog what you would like it to do instead i.e. ‘go sit down’ and show your dog where you would like it to sit instead. Don’t just point – get up and show your dog where you want him to sit / lie down. Once your dog is familiar with his relax spot you will be able to point…for now you must take a more active lead.

Six – Follow through…if your dog goes back to the couch to get-up, don’t get angry, simply direct as per the steps above.
Abby. All of my dogs excel at pillow arranging!

Be patient, fair, calm, confident and direct – remember you do not change your habits instantly!  

A dog will let go of a habit faster than most humans will…if coached properly. Because I have experience and have trained myself to communicate properly, when working with a dog I can often change an outcome very quickly. But please adjust your expectations to your abilities – if you have not trained yourself to communicate properly be patient – you need to learn first.
AND WHAT IF YOUR DOG IS NOT IN A BALANCED STATE OF BEING…Each and every aspect of un-balanced behaviour must be addressed or your dog will never have the opportunity to return back to a balanced, happy, healthy state.  Each little tiny thing feeds into the whole. Behaviour such as owning people or objects rarely exists in isolation – it is only a symptom of an issue. In order to address the issue and bring a dog back to a balanced state-of-being you must address all symptoms. Again don’t set your dog up for failure, if your dog owns you don’t let it up on the couch until you address the ownership issue. This article will help you understand how to address ownership…

If your dog is possessive about space or objects that needs to be addressed as well.
‘Buddy’ my Cocker Spaniel and ‘Jacob’ my little Pomeranian

If your dog is possessive about space or objects that needs to be addressed as well.

Buddy the Cocker Spaniel one of the many rescued dogs in my own dog pack was not allowed up on any couch or bed until his over threshold aggressive-reactive issues were resolved. Today he is free to use the couches as all the other dogs do.


About Karen

Dogs are my life, my work, my passion… I am a Dog Whisperer, Dog Behaviorist and Holistic Canine Wellness Adviser with a wealth of real-time, real-life experience living and working with dogs. For two and a half decades I have worked with and shared my life with dogs. My own dog pack is comprised of eleven dogs, various breeds and ages. I provide a full range of services including Obedience Training for puppies and dogs; canine Behavior Modification; canine Psychological Rehabilitation, specializing in assisting dogs that are experiencing extreme states of insecurity, anxiety and aggressive-reactive behavior; Diet, Nutrition and Wellness Advice and Plans for canines and felines…natural wisdom for you and your companion animal.

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