Some puppy owners encourage their puppy to sit beside them on the couch, while others find this behavior unacceptable. If you choose not to let your puppy on the couch, or other furniture, it's best to train him to stay off the furniture while he is still a puppy, before he gets too used to getting comfortable on the couch. The following article will provide you with tips on training your puppy so he understands the "off" command.
Why does he want to sit on the furniture anyway?
Your puppy may not be misbehaving when he jumps up on the couch; he may not know that you don't want him on the furniture. It's natural that a puppy who doesn't know the rules will make up his own. If you've invited him to snuggle up on the couch with you even once, then he may take that to mean he's welcome on the furniture all the time. Let your puppy know what is allowed, in a clear and gentle manner.
Your puppy may like to be on the furniture for many reasons. First, he may want to be as close to you as possible. And if you're sitting on the couch, then the closest spot is up there beside you. If you're not on the couch he may want to be there anyway, because he's lonely and the couch smells like you. It may also give him a view of the room that he doesn't get from the floor. If the couch is located near a window it may be even more appealing, as it may give your puppy a look outside.
First, decide right from the beginning if you will allow your puppy to sit on the furniture. And stick to your decision at all times. Consistency is key. Everyone in the family needs to know the rules, and help your puppy to remember them. If you allow your puppy to cuddle up beside you on the couch at some times, and not others, he won't be clear about what the rules are. Remember, too, that puppies grow. If you decide as he gets bigger that you don't want him on the furniture anymore it may be a hard habit to break. You should also take into consideration that he will lie on the furniture when he's dirty if you let him lie there when he's clean. Also, some puppies become more aggressive when they are allowed on the furniture—they may confuse their role in the dog hierarchy because they are on the same level as you, the pack leader.
The "off" command
The "off" command tells your puppy that you want his paws on the floor, not on the furniture. Some people use the command "down" for this, while others differentiate between the commands "down" and "off", using "off" for when their puppy jumps up on furniture, or people, and "down" for when they want their puppy to lie down on the floor. Whichever you choose, be consistent.
To get your puppy off a piece of furniture take him gently but firmly by his collar and say "off" while helping him down from the furniture. Release your puppy's collar once he is on the floor and give him praise and a treat. Do this consistently to encourage the behavior you want, and eventually you will not have to physically lead your puppy down from the furniture—giving the command in a firm voice will be enough. You may want to provide your puppy with his own bed so he can get comfortable on the floor and will be less likely to climb up on the furniture. The bed should be kept in a central area of the house, where your puppy is not lonely and can interact with the family.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!