Pet Parenting: How to get the dog off the couch


Note from the mamas: The Summer Remix symbol appears on posts previously published on nwaMotherlode that were noted as a “reader favorite”. If you missed the original publication date, we hope you’ll enjoy this encore performance. Happy summer!

If you’ve got furry babies at home, you’ll love the advice from local pet behavior counselor Denise Holmes, who owns a local private counseling business Ain’t Misbehavin’. Denise has been training animals for 25 years and is happy to answer your most pressing pet questions. (This post is part of nwaMotherlode’s “Summer Remix” series.)

Now on to our question of the month:

Q: I can’t keep my new dog off the couch. I’ll shoo her off, but when I come back into the room, she’s up there again. What should I do?

A: There are several things you can try. However, the first step is to make sure she has a bed of her own, or two, if this is a problem in other rooms. It isn’t good enough to tell her she can’t have THAT space (the couch), you need to also redirect her to a space she can have and then offer reward for being there. For example, if your toddler was coloring on your walls, you would redirect her to a piece of paper or coloring book on the table or floor, and then hang her picture on the fridge.

The same strategy can work for your dog.  Get her a bed of her own and put it in the same room as the couch.  Take her to her new bed, and give her something to do there, like chew a tasty bone or lick a yummy kong filled with peanut butter. Then praise her. When you leave the room and return, if she is on the couch (presumably with her treat), take the treat, take her back to her own bed, make her get on it and then give her the treat back.  If you do this a few times, she should begin to get the idea. We don’t color on the walls and the only place I get this yummy treat is my own bed.

If this strategy does not work, you can try a scat mat, which will emit noise or vibration when she touches it, or try some snappy traps, which look like mouse traps except with a paddle.  When they snap close they make a loud sound that will startle some dogs. The strategy here is to make the punishment come from the couch. The couch is bad, so I don’t get on it. You will still also want to offer the alternative space and reward (can also be praise) when she goes there.

Local reader Kristy Brown sent in this cute pic of her cats (below). She doesn’t even attempt to keep these two off the couch! Feel free to submit shots of your furry babies and they might be used in an upcoming Pet Parenting feature (e-mail: