You spent a good amount of time picking out your furniture. You sat on a variety of couches with different fabrics, colors, and firmness, you waited for a reasonable price, and you convinced the salesperson you didn’t want the matching coffee and side tables. It was a rigorous process, but you now have furniture you love. You’ve spent hours on your couch and your bum has even left an imprint. Then one day you bring home a puppy and he jumps all over your carefully chosen furniture. He’s excited and runs around on it one day, you find him sitting against the arm another, and anytime you’re on the couch, he’s pressed up against you. It’s cute at times, but he has a bed in the same room that was carefully chosen, too, so why is he choosing to jump all over your stuff?
The Root of the Behavior
Just like you, your dog knows comfort when he experiences it. Wooden chairs are nowhere for a dog’s tushie to rest. Beds are an option, but you have closed off that room. The carpet is okay, but there is not much cushion. And his dog bed is nice, but not as nice as a couch. Your dog chooses the couch because it is comfortable. Your dog appreciates all the effort you put into choosing the couch because he has surveyed the area and he has deemed the couch the best place to sit. Dogs want to be comfortable and relaxed, and sitting on the couch allows them to do that. The fabric is soft, there is plenty of space, and he can nuzzle in the corner of the couch and feel secure. It is really a great place to be.
The couch also smells like you. He wants to be close to you because you are his family and when he sits on something that smells like you, he is happy. If you are gone during the day, he might miss you and feel better when he smells your scent. And when you are sitting on the couch and he jumps up, he might just want to be close to you. You are part of his pack and family, and it is a long-standing behavior for dogs to curl up next to their pack. The height of the couch might also be a reason, especially if you have a little dog. Have you ever seen a small dog sit or even walk on the arm or the top of the couch? A dog who barely towers above your ankle now has a prime spot to view his domain. It is high up and away from threats, and he does not have to stretch his neck to see what is going on above him. It is not only soft and smells like you, but it is safe and gives him a better view.
Encouraging the Behavior
Whether or not you let your dog on the furniture is your preference. Some experts say it can shift the power in the house from you as the alpha to your dog because you are letting your dog sit in a prized place. Others just say it’s just fine and won’t shift the power. However, if your dog demonstrates guarding behavior, which is growling, barking, or even biting when someone threatens something of his, like his food, his owner (you!), or his couch, that is when you need to consider adjusting who sits where. This type of behavior can become problematic and escalate to aggression and you should take him to a trainer. Object guarding is natural for a dog and is an instinct to protect their resources. However, it is dangerous when it escalates because it will cause problems throughout every aspect of ownership.
If you want your dog on the couch, decide where he can sit. Does he get his own spot or does he sit anywhere he likes? Is it only when you are on the couch can he come up or is he able to sleep there all day? You need to decide these things and be consistent with them. Like with any training, consistency is key. An option if you only want him on only one section of the couch is placing a folded blanket in one spot and teaching him he can sit there. You can redirect him when he moves and he will know he has a place of his own. If you choose not to let your dog on the couch, make sure he has a comfy spot elsewhere in the room. Keep his bed nearby so he can be part of the family and watch TV with you.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you decide that your dog jumping on the furniture is acceptable, you must keep in mind that he will jump on it even when guests are over, which might be off-putting. If you reprimand him, it will break the consistency you have worked hard to establish. One big consideration is how clean your dog is. If your dog was outside in the rain and has left a trail of paw prints on your floors, those paw prints will make their way onto the couch. And then a smelly, wet dog will sit on your furniture. It’s important to figure out when to let him on the couch and to make sure he listens to your commands to get off in the case that he is a smelly, wet dog. Anytime your dog is on your furniture, like a couch or bed, you want to make sure he is up to date on his shots, has flea protection, and is generally clean. Dogs pick up all sorts of things when they go outside. When he sits on your furniture and you, it’s easy for them to spread. Keeping your dog healthy and clean will also keep you healthy and clean.
Who sits where can be a power dynamic in any household. For example, there is dad’s untouchable chair, mom’s spot on the couch, and the kids can fight for a seat or sit on the floor. Letting a dog join you on the furniture takes up one more spot and adding to the dynamic. Carefully choose what you allow your dog to do and make sure you’re consistent.