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Allowing pets on the furniture

There’s a point during a consultation with a client where they’ll sigh and reprimand themselves for allowing their dog on the furniture. They’ll go on how they’re bad owners and that they’re the reason for their dog’s bad behavior. While most of that statement may be true, I often find letting their dog on the furniture is the least of their problems.

See allowing your pet on the furniture isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t make you a bad owner and your dog a bad dog. Where the problem lies is if the dog doesn’t respect you. Meaning he or she is not giving you space or maybe he or she doesn’t listen when you ask them to do something that they know.

Now don’t get all crazy alpha on me and hear me out. Teaching your dog to get off the furniture when asked is a skill they must learn or teaching a dog to not invade your space while eating is a skill they must learn. They are not trying to dominate you. They have simply learned what works best in their favor. So we must be very clear during the teaching phase on what the boundaries are and be very conscious of our own behaviors to make sure we’re not sending mixed signals and reinforcing the very behavior we want to rid of. (Such as touching, eye contact, baby voice, etc.)

Just to recap, allowing your pup on the furniture is not a bad thing. Allowing your pup to dictate where you or someone else sits or lays is a bad thing. You must teach boundaries and reinforce it and be consistent. Typically, I will use the word “off” for my dogs to get off of the furniture or to move. This cue can be reinforced by tossing a food reward in a different location or by spatial pressure, depending on where you and your dog’s relationship is at.