Dear Porky & Buddy,
Sally, my ten month old lab mix is driving me crazy. She is always on the couch, especially when I am sitting on it, and no matter how much I yell at her, the minute I turn my back she is right back up there. What am I doing wrong? I just don’t want my beautiful leather couch to be ruined.
Hmm . . . Where shall I begin?
First a philosophical discussion about dogs and furniture. For a dog, there is no such thing as a “beautiful leather couch,” or a “frumpy, ugly plaid couch,” or anything in between. They are all just “comfy places to snuggle up with my humans.” If you were willing to just get down on her dog bed, that would resolve the problem.
Assuming you are not, your only alternative is to train her that the couch is not an acceptable spot. And yelling at her things like, “Sally, I’ve told you before, get down off the couch. I do not want you up here! You’re going to ruin it!” does not constitute “training.” All she hears is “Sally, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!
Let’s face it. Dogs are not rocket scientists! But they know one thing really well. They understand the concept of being rewarded for behavior. If they do something and it always gets them something that they want they will keep doing it. Right now, Sally is getting on the couch and getting a lot of attention for it. It may be negative attention but it is still attention, so she keeps doing it. What you need to do is teach her a command that means get down off and stay off the couch and then reward her for doing that, by giving her a lot of attention when she obeys that command.
There is a training technique that I really like, called “Nothing In Life Is Free” which will help you teach Sally all kinds of things in a safe, non-confrontational way. I like it because it is based on dogs’ love of earning rewards. This technique requires Sally to “work” for everything she gets from you. Have her obey at least one command (such as “sit”) before you pet her, give her dinner, put on her leash, or throw her a toy. You can learn more about the basics of this technique at the Humane Society of the United States website at http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/training_nothing_in_life_is_free.html
When you have mastered the basics and it comes time to train Sally not to be on the couch, make sure she is wearing a leash. Take hold of the leash and bring her off the couch, using the word that you want to mean basically “Get down from wherever you are.” I would suggest “off.” Once she is on the floor, then you praise her lavishly, do something fun, maybe give her a treat. Pretty soon she will recognize what the word means and you won’t need the leash any more. She will obey the command because she knows that will earn her something she wants, maybe a quick little snuggle down on her own bed.
In the meantime, if some of your furniture is ruined, we have a suggestion! Come to the Humane Society’s Humongous Yard/Garage/Barn sale on Sunday, November 7th from 11 to 3, at the YMCA/Armory, 265 West First Street in Oswego. You might find something just wonderful to replace it or any number of other things you didn’t know you needed until you saw them there!
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070.
Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.