Let’s face it: dogs love couches, chairs, sofas and beds for the same reasons we do: they are comfortable pieces of furniture and make dogs feel secure, you may therefore be looking for ideas on how to train a dog to get off the bed or furniture. Training a dog the “off cue” requires a little bit of initial effort, but with some tasty treats, your dog should get the concept in no time. Dogs aren’t brought into this world knowing what the “off cue” means so it’s ultimately our job to teach them. So here’s a helpful guide on training your dog to get off the bed, couch or other furniture.
First, Skip These Harmful Training Methods!
If you feel compelled to get your dog off the bed or couch just because “you said so” by grabbing him by the collar or pushing him off, consider that this may cause problems in the long run. Scruff shakes are a big no no, which could backfire and lead to worse problems, and scolding a dog for not getting off the bed often accomplishes nothing other than causing fear and stress as the dog often has no clue of what he’s being asked for.
So what’s left to do? You can train the positive off cue, which will tell him what you exactly want him to do. Indeed, most dogs who are trained “off” using positive, dog friendly training methods are often collaborative and willing to give up the comfy bed when asked.
Why do we call it the “positive off cue?” The word “command” gives the idea of asking our dogs to “get off or else” and this is a type of warning rather than a benign signal for getting a dog to willingly complete the action of getting off the bed.
“A cue is completely different from a command. There is no threat implied with a cue. A cue is like a green light that tells the dog that now is the time to execute a behavior for the chance of reinforcement.” Joan Orr
A Word About Words
Using the “off” word comes handy if you want to find a way to get your dog off the bed or off the couch and you never used this word before, but you may have to re-consider using the word “off”if you used this word in the past and it has assumed negative connotations (poisoned cue). If you used the word “off” before in a harsh tone of voice or worse, used it when pushing your dog off the bed or pulling him by the collar, you are better off using a whole new, fresh word. What word can you use? You may want to skip “down” as you might use this to cue your dog to lie down and thing get confusing with using a cue for two different actions, so why not try with “floor” or “jump” instead?
How to Teach Your Dog Off
Teaching your dog off comes handy both for preventing problems such as a dog who acts protective of the bed or growls when asked to get off the couch. If your dog has shown signs of aggression though, you want to have a dog trainer or behavior consultant guide you through this training for safety purposes. We don’t want anybody to get hurt!
Here’s how to teach a dog the off cue. Arm yourself with a clicker and some tasty treats. If you do not have a clicker or don’t know how to use one, you can replace it with a verbal marker such as “yes.”
- Wait for your dog to jump on the couch or bed. If your dog doesn’t go, you can try to persuade him by tapping on the couch or bed. If your dog goes on the bed at certain times of the day, plan your training sessions around that specific time.
- Say your cue “off” or “floor!” and then toss a treat on the floor with a downward motion of you hand. Treats that are hard and make a noise as they make impact with the floor work better as they’re more likely to grab a dog’s attention.
- Just when your dog jumps off the bed or couch, say “yes” or click your clicker and then your dog is off to eat the treat.
- Repeat this exercise several times when the opportunity presents making it a fun and upbeat activity.
- At some point, say “floor” without actually tossing the treat. Just pretend you toss it. When your dog jumps down say “yes” and feed him the treat, but this time from your other hand. Your goal is to say”floor” and stop tossing the treat. You can morph the tossing treat hand movement with you just pointing at the floor and then feeding the treat from your other hand when you dog jumps down.
- Now, it’s time to further raise criteria. A day may arrive when you need your dog to get off the furniture and you don’t have treats. Start mixing in praise without giving treats or other rewards such as offering a favorite toy you have hidden behind your back or pocket or rushing together to the yard to play. Don’t stop giving treats altogether though, especially if your dog is particularly food motivated; he may still need the occasional treat to keep himself motivated!
Tip: what if my dog keeps jumping up more and more on the bed because he has learned he gets a treat when he’s asked off? If so, congratulations! You got quite a bright fellow there! It’s called a behavior chain, just like dogs learn to jump on people and then sit for a treat or to pull on the leash and then heel for a treat, in a yo-yo-like fashion.
How to break the chain? Here’s a little tip. When your dog jumps off the bed, don’t immediately give a treat, instead, ask him to do another behavior instead such as a sit, a down or a cute trick. And don’t forget to close that bedroom door: bed out of sight, bed out of mind!