Large dog sleeping on sofa10/29/2012

Recently, White Fang Ventures received a question from one of the members. The member was asking how to keep their dog, who was used to sleeping and maintaining a cozy seat on the family’s old sofa, from doing the same thing on the newly purchased sofa.

Here was my response:

Dear WFV member,

The best time to break a “sleeping on the sofa” habit is when you are getting a new sofa or you are moving from one home to another. However, you can break this habit outside of these conditions with a good plan and understanding of your dogs’ desires. Your dogs, like us, are usually seeking comfort when they are ready to relax. What better place to seek comfort than a familiar, cozy, sofa? This leads us into the first step in your habit-converting plan.

Provide your dogs with a bed approaching the comfort to your sofa. The excitement of anything new, especially a fluffy, attractive bed will be unavoidable to your dogs. While interesting and unavoidable, the new beds are still not quite exciting enough to cause an immediate release of the familiar, well-established sofa habit.

The second step is to break the old habit and part of any habit is familiarity. So, by its nature of being new, the incoming sofa is already helping to disrupt the established pattern. You can easily add to the impact of the new sofa by placing it in a new location. Suddenly, your dog walks into your living room with the expectation of jumping onto his familiar sofa, but he only discovers it’s missing. A brand new, interesting and inarguably cozy dog bed has taken its place.

Of course your dogs will also notice the new sofa and want to explore this unfamiliar object. But this is when you will be ready with leash-and-collar action to communicate to the dogs that this new piece of furniture is none of their business. Most likely, your dogs will oblige and decide to settle into their new beds for now. Rest assured, when you are not present, and the coast is clear, they will go back to investigating the new sofa and their investigation will undoubtedly require a cushion firmness test.

So, another critical step to this plan is to prevent access to the new sofa when you are not able to supervise. You can easily do this by confining them in another room. Don’t worry, this isn’t for punishment. You really just want to prevent the opportunity for your dogs to carry out their firmness test.

If confinement when you are unable to supervise isn’t feasible for you, for whatever reason, then you must employ plan B — creating an aversion. You can be creative in plan B. For instance, you could place activated mouse traps on the sofa, or cardboard armed with double stick tape (not to stick to the sofa but to stick to any trespassing paws), or you could even abandon creativity and purchase static electricity mats, developed for this purpose, to place on the sofa.

Keep in mind, we prefer to make the sofa inaccessible when you are unable to supervise because this method is infallible, where the aversion tactics can be out-smarted. Or in the event of a hurried morning, activation could be easily forgotten.

It is important to understand that it may take weeks to months to effectively convert your dogs’ slumber habits. It is time to place your new sofa in the original desired location when your dogs have satisfactorily ceased to show interest in the cushion firmness test.

Go do some good!