Why Does Your Dog Go Crazy When You Sit on the Couch?

It’s been a long day, you’ve been looking forward to sitting and relaxing and what happens? Your dog goes crazy when you sit down on the couch. What’s up with that!

There are lots of reasons for this behavior, and they include letting you know he’s hungry, it’s time for his walk, he’s bored and wants to play, he missed you and just wants attention or he’s displaying resource guarding, also known as possessive aggression. That means he sees the couch as his, and you are not wanted.

Why Your Dog is Aggressive on the Couch

First let’s figure out if he’s really being aggressive, or just trying to tell you something.

Here are some things your dog may be trying to communicate:

  • It’s past his mealtime and he’s hungry
  • He needs to pee/poop
  • He wants to play with you
  • It’s time to go for a nice long walk
  • You’ve been out all day, he’s been waiting hours to see you, and all he wants is a good cuddle
  • He’s displaying resource guarding behavior

How to Get Your Dog to Calm Down on the Couch

In the section above, I listed some things your dog was trying to communicate. Let’s look more closely at them and figure out how to calm your dog if one or more of them are the cause.

Barking for attention

He’s been alone all day, waited hours for you to come home, and he’s being ignored. You’re tired, you just want to sit down but he wants your attention. He wants a cuddle and/or some play time.

Here’s the thing about barking for attention – when you give him attention, whether that involves yelling at him, trying to shush him or even looking at him he learns that when he barks you give him the attention he craves. Next time he’ll bark longer.

In this situation it’s best to ignore it, no matter how loud and persistent he gets.  Stand your ground, walk out of the room if you have to, but eventually he will realise it’s not working.

Just be sure he does get some much needed attention from you, and do it before he starts barking!

Have his basic needs been met?

The following questions will help you figure out if the barking is due to any of the following reasons:

Is it past his meal time? Is his water bowl empty? Has it been too long since he’s been out for a pee? Is he overdue for his walk? Have you satisfied your dog’s need for mental stimulation? When we refer to mental stimulation that would be in the form of a puzzle toy, snuffle mat or Kong for example.

Does this seem to explain your dog’s behavior when you sit on the couch?

Why your dog hates when you sit on the couch

He’s displaying resource guarding or possessive aggression

If you’re sure his behavior cannot be explained by anything we’ve talked about so far, it’s likely due to resource guarding.

Note: I would recommend speaking to a trainer to help you determine if this is, indeed the issue.

What is Resource Guarding?

As the name suggests, it is when a dog guards an item/items he sees as valuable. He not only can guard it from you but other dogs as well.

What Kind of Items Will a Dog Guard?

In addition to the couch, he could guard pretty much anything:

  • A sock
  • His bed
  • His food bowl/food
  • Toys
  • People

Signs Your Dog is Resource Guarding  

  • Runs away with the object
  • Bares his teeth/curls his lip
  • Growls
  • Barks
  • Lunges
  • Body stiffens
  • Stands over the item
  • Gives you “the look” – the one where he looks at you sideways and you mostly see the whites of his eyes!

Although we’re talking about signs of resource guarding the couch, you’ll see these same signs no matter what your dog is guarding.

 

How to Deal with a Resource Guarder

• Never punish or yell at your dog. It’s not his fault, and it will only add more stress to the situation. It may even cause him to become more aggressive.

• Do not let your dog have free access to any item he guards.

• If he reacts like this to anyone that attempts to sit on the couch, make sure everyone living in the home as well as visitors know not to sit there. You’ll be doing some training so they won’t have to avoid it forever!

How To Stop Your Dog Guarding the Couch

Every dog has a comfort zone, a distance you need to be so he doesn’t react. What is that distance for your dog? If you’re not sure, the next time you approach him when he’s on the couch pay attention to how close you can get until he reacts. For this training, please be sure you remain outside that zone.

Note: The following steps can be adapted for any item your dog guards.

Why your dog goes crazy when you sit on the couch

Step 1

Stand just outside the zone, and have a few treats handy. You want the good stuff, the ones he loves but doesn’t get very often. Hot dogs, ham, cheese or boiled chicken are all things to try in advance to see what he thinks. Keep the pieces small, so he doesn’t start putting on weight during the training.

Step 2

From that spot, throw your dog a few pieces of treat. The point of this is to show your dog good things happen when you’re around, and he doesn’t have anything to fear.

Practice this every day for a couple of minutes. When you see he’s perfectly relaxed with this exercise, move on to the next step.

Step 3

Until now, you’ve been throwing treats from well outside his reaction zone. Now you’ll continue throwing a few treats, but this time you’ll take one step forward, meaning closer to your dog on the couch. Throw the treats then step back.

Practice this over the course of as many days as necessary to ensure he’s comfortable.

Step 4

This is a repeat of step 3, but instead of taking one step closer, you’ll take two, toss the treats, then take those same two steps back. You’ll keep increasing it by one extra step, until your dog is comfortable with you being close to the couch.

Step 5

If you’ve reached this step, it means your dog is okay with you near the couch. Fantastic! Now you’ll want to sit on the couch, but start by being as far away from him as possible, and carry on with the treats.

Important points: For this to have the best chance of success, you need to move through the steps very slowly. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t able to take an extra step for 2 weeks, it takes as long as it takes.

If at any point your dog reacts, even if it’s a mild reaction, you’ve moved too quickly. You’ll have to go back to the point where your dog was calm and progress more slowly.

 

If your dog guards his food, this article with step by step instructions, will help: The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Food Aggressive Dogs

If your dog won’t share his toys, get helpful tips in this article: How to Train a Dog to Share His Toys: A Comprehensive Guide

 

Does your dog behave this way, whenever someone tries to sit on the couch? What have you tried that’s helped relieve his anxiety or aggression? Sharing helps others, so please share your tips below.

 

I’m a dog trainer specializing in helping shy, fearful and aggressive dogs.

Does your dog go after other dogs and people while on a walk? Is he or she petrified of fireworks and thunderstorms? Does he growl or even nip when someone goes near his food bowl or treats? Is he scared of the vet? Men? Children? Visitors to your home?

All sessions are conducted via Zoom, at a time convenient for you.

Get in touch today to book your FREE 15 minute, no obligation call. It will give you the chance to let me know what’s going on, and we’ll talk about how I can help. I can be reached via my FB page or website.

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