The Dogcharmer: Abby

The couch is OK sometimes.

Abby, a young Lab, loves her time on the couch. Courtesy Ashley Streb.

Dear Dogcharmer,

Our lovely young Lab, Abby, is a true member of our family, and in many ways we think she has great behavior. However, there is one behavior that we cannot seem to figure out.

As a “member” of our family, there are times when we want her on the couch with us — rainy afternoons watching a movie or my daughter wanting a snuggle session with her. However, the problem is that she is not always welcome on the couch. We only want her to come up onto the couch when she is invited. Is this possible, or are we just going to create confusion for her?



Dear Ashley,

In answer to your question, “Is this possible?” the answer is definitely, Yes. Ninety-five percent, anyhow. I actually have a similar understanding with my own dog, Paulajean. She’s allowed on a particular couch by invitation only. Many dogs love a window view, especially when no one’s (humans’) home. However, the couch “invitation” with a window view that we offer isn’t verbal, it’s visual and tactile. It’s a blanket. Whenever we’re about to leave the house we put a blanket on the couch, which is Paula’s cue that stargazing from the couch is acceptable. No blanket, no couch.

As regards Ms. Abby vis-à-vis the couch, I’d suggest the following. Take a particular towel and place it on the couch wherever you want her to hang with you, and invite her onto the couch towel while tapping it and saying, “OK.” Also, whenever you’re home, have her drag a 4 ft. flat leash around, one with the handle cut off so it’s less likely to catch on anything. When she gets on the couch “sans” the towel, grab the leash and gently, but firmly tell her “Uh-uh” or “Off” as you gently, but firmly, pull her off the couch. The second she’s got four feet on the floor, you’re smiling and saying, “Good girl.” The leash is used because I don’t want your hands to go to her negatively. Hands go to her for petting and love. She’ll soon learn that she’s only allowed on the couch on the towel.

Do not leave the towel on the couch out of laziness. It’s only on when you want to snuggle with her. Most dogs are smarter than their owners realize, are manipulative, and get away with what they can. That’s why I said, “95 percent.” She’ll try testing you every so often. Don’t fail the test, or it becomes her couch!


Good luck,

The Dogcharmer


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