Keeping Your Pets Off The Furniture

By Jennie K. Willis, PhD as published by the Coloradoan in October of 2012

As the ground gets muddier and the days get colder, our pets will be spending more time inside with us.  For some families this means beginning the battle of who gets to sit on the couch again. There is no reason you have to keep pets off the furniture. You may have been told you need to show whose boss by being “higher up” than your pet.  That’s not true, it’s really just a matter of preference. Your pets like beds and couches for the same reasons we do- they are warm and comfy.

Being on furniture doesn’t present a problem unless your pets are messy, your couch or bed is small or if they have problems getting off when asked. Hopefully, some of the tips below can help you address the problem if it exists for you.

If you don’t want pets on furniture at all:

  • Make it unavailable. Close doors to rooms that have been a problem when you aren’t home. Give your pets suitable comfy alternatives and provide a new habit.
  • Make it unpredictable. Motion activated compressed air cans or devices that are motion sensitive and provide a startle can help deter your pet.
  • Make it unpleasant. Lay aluminum foil or sticky tape in big loops so they are not getting the comfortable rest experience they wanted when they jumped up there. Crackly surfaces and tape that sticks to you is not very fun.
  • Doing some of all three will probably deliver the message that there are more comfortable options available for them to choose.

If you want to retrain a pet who has gotten into an all-the-time habit:

  • Teach your pet “get up” and “get off” as a fun game. Toss a treat up on the couch while saying “get up”.  Reward them with praise and your voice. Do the same for “get off”. Drop the tasty treat on the floor and have them jump off to get it. Reward them for cooperation. Repeat often!  Practice makes perfect.
  • Tether them so they can be near you but can’t jump up. Only invite them up during practice sessions until they have reshaped their habit. New habits and expectations usually need about 4 weeks to form.

If you have a pet who does not do well getting off when asked:

  • Don’t get into a physical confrontation. If you grab at them, your pet is more likely to respond with aggression.
  • With a controlled tone of voice, ask them to “get off” and drop a handful of tasty morsels on the ground. Reward them for complying.
    • If this is an occasional problem, practicing on and off more often or with better rewards will probably help.

If this problem proceeds to growling and aggression, seek professional help. Your pet may be reacting this way out of a need to keep comfort in an uncertain or scary world. We can reshape this behavior and help them feel better.

Dr. Jennie Willis teaches classes in animal behavior at Colorado State University and regularly consults with owners about their pet’s problem behaviors.  For more information about consultation, seminars and classes please visit www.AnimalBehaviorInsights.com

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