Should you allow your pets on your furniture? It’s a controversial subject. A lot of pet owners can’t imagine life without cuddling up next to their furry friend on the sofa after a long, hard day of work. Others say that permitting pets on the furniture can lead to unwanted behaviour problems and think it should be strictly forbidden.
So, what’s the answer?
On or Off, What’s the Answer?
The truth is…it depends. If your pets enjoy cuddling up to you on your furniture, and you don’t mind a little extra pet hair to clean up, go for it! For most pets, being up on your bed or in a comfy chair with you increases bonding opportunities. Our pets like to be close to us, and snuggling up with you while you watch your favorite TV show or read a book increases the feeling of connectedness.
But for other pet owners, allowing their pets on their furniture brings out some territorial behavior that they don’t like. When behavior is affected, it becomes time to address the problem.
When It’s Time for a Change
Determining whether or not Fido’s couch time is a problem is most often more difficult for us to accept than it is to diagnose. For some pets, their place on your furniture can elicit very territorial actions.
Some behaviours to watch out for include:
- Growling or snapping at you or a family member when you sit on your furniture
- Growling or baring teeth if you attempt to move your pet
- Growling, baring teeth, or snapping at another pet or family member that comes near you while on your furniture
Any of these signs indicates your pet needs a few lessons in learning their place. It is possible that your dog or cat is resource guarding. Whether they are guarding you or the territory they have claimed as their own, resource guarding is a serious behaviour and if allowed to continue can lead to serious problems including dog bites or fighting with other animals in the house.
Fortunately, resource guarding is an issue that can successfully be treated with proper behaviour modification training. If your pet is baring teeth or growling in any of the aforementioned situations, it is best to seek the help of an experienced professional dog trainer to ensure the safety of all family members as well as your pet.
Other Things to Consider
Even if your dog or cat doesn’t display undesirable behaviour when on your furniture, it is always wise to teach them the “off” command. While you might enjoy having Fido and Frisky up close and personal to you, guests to your home might not. More than this, if there is even a remote possibility that you and your pets may be a guest in someone else’s home, it’s important that the preferences of your host be respected. Those may include keeping Fido and Frisky confined to the floor or a pet bed designated for their use only. For this reason, it’s important for your pets to understand that at times, they will be asked to get off the furniture, and when asked, they are to do so swiftly.
Training the Behaviour You Want
The first step to training a correct behaviour is deciding what you want your house rules to be. The most important thing is to have all family members on the same page with regard to the rules. If one family member allows Fido up on the couch when the other members are not home, Fido will be set up to fail. Consistency is always key when it comes to training.
There are several options available to you in establishing the rules regarding furniture in your home.
- Fido can be on the furniture any time he chooses.
- Fido is allowed on the furniture when he is invited up by you.
- Fido is allowed access to some furniture but not other furniture in your home.
- Fido is never allowed on the furniture at all.
When it comes to your house rules, there is no such thing as a wrong answer. You simply must choose what is the best fit for your family based on the behaviour of your dog.
Once you have established your house rules, you can then begin to train the behaviour you want to see. Training the “off” command is relatively simple. All you need is your dog and some super yummy treats.
Since this type of training is opportunistic rather than staged, you will need to keep treats with you at all times while you are working on training the “off” command. When Fido jumps up on your furniture, you simply move the treat over his head and down to the floor while saying “off”. This type of training is referred to as luring, and it is a very effective means of training dog behaviour.
It will take several attempts before the dog understands what it is you are looking for, but once the connection in his brain is made, he will make rapid progress.
The main thing, again, is to be consistent. Don’t allow Fido up on no-no furniture sometimes and not at other times, or he will easily become confused and training will regress. Sometimes it helps to have an alternate place to send him, so that he understands he is not supposed to be on the couch, but there is a nice, comfortable dog bed that is all his to enjoy. If this is something you would like to train, simply treat it as two commands. The first command is still “off” then using luring again, you can train “Go to your bed”.
Should you allow Fido on the furniture or not? So long as he isn’t engaging in resource guarding, there is no reason to kick him off if you enjoy having him there. Take the time to teach a solid “off” command and remain consistent in your training to help Fido understand the furniture rules for a happy home!