How To Keep Dogs Off The Couch

From time to time I get asked how families can keep their dog from jumping on their sofa or chair. I have also gotten asked whether or not they should even allow their dog on furniture.

Cincinnati Certified Dog Trainer Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, has tips for stopping your dog from getting onto furniture.Let’s talk about the second sentence first. Unless you have a situation of location guarding, meaning your dog stiffens or curls his mouth, growls or snaps at you when you approach him lying on your chair, that really is a personal choice. (If you do have a dog that location guards, please seek assistance from a trainer who uses positive strategies to help.) As you can see in my photo, if it is at night time and I get up from a spot I have warmed to get a snack, I have pretty much forfeited my spot to Sam. In our family, we don’t mind. He will come off his resting spot easily when we want him to. We even put a blanket on his favorite couch in the computer room, so he doesn’t dirty it when he lounges during the day.

However, if your choice is to allow your dog on furniture, there should not be a ‘sometimes’ contingency within that sentence. Saying that your dog is allowed on furniture when it is just your family around but not allowed when you have company over, is very confusing to a dog. Additionally, some family members may enjoy having your dog’s company on the couch and others may not. Another problem comes into play when you want to allow your dog on only certain furniture, but not others.

Inconsistent rules are pretty tough to live by for an animal, especially when it does not speak our language. Can you imagine what that’d be like to have a bowl of chocolates out within reach of a child and you told the child he could only take candy ‘sometimes,’ how difficult we would be making it for him to make a aright decision?

Now, let’s say that you do not want your dog on furniture. How do you teach that?

Prevention is key!  Remember, more often than not, your sofa or chairs may very well be the softest places inCincinnati Certified Dog Trainer Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, has tips for stopping your dog from getting onto furniture. your whole home to rest. They are also great spots to be higher for looking out windows or being closer to their favorite humans. Given an option, can you see why your dog would CHOOSE to jump on sofas and chairs? Your pet is always simply making behavior choices based upon where the value is for him in that moment. Every time that your pet gets onto your furniture, that choice is being reinforced. It is giving him more reasons in the future to make that same choice when given the opportunity.  If you are not liking his choices, then it is up to you to teach him new choices.

This is where prevention comes in. If your dog even ‘sometimes’ gets onto furniture and gets reinforced, it is being intermittently reinforced and that schedule of reinforcement builds very strong behaviors. It is the culprit behind most – if not all – of problem behaviors. While you are teaching your dog a better choice (from your standpoint), you will need to find a way to eliminate access to practice. The photo shows one way that a friend of mine is using. You can also gate off that area when you are not around to actively be in teaching mode. You may also want to cover a window if the sofa is a means for looking outside. Brainstorm ways you can cut off access to keep that jumping on furniture behavior from being practiced.

Build value for an incompatible behavior! If you do not want your dog jumping on your soft plushy sofa, get your dog his own soft and plushy area to lay down on (better yet, get your dog MANY plushy beds for choice and have them located in central locations where you spend time) and then spend time teaching him that hanging out on that bed is super awesome. Not only is it soft, but other good things happen when he is on that bed too like getting tasty treats and human attention. Really spend time making sure that you are adding extra value to being in that soft place. Remember, your pet is making behavior choices all the time based upon where the value is for HIM, so just telling him no when he has made a choice you do not agree with is not helping him to know what you would like for him to do instead.

Additionally, proactively teach your dog what you would like for your dog to do while you are on the couch BEFORE your dog decides to jump on board. When you are in training mode, practice spending some time with your dog around furniture but on the floor to build value for the floor. If your dog looks toward the furniture with intent, you can redirect his attention BEFORE he begins the process of actually jumping onto the furniture.

Be prepared for mistakes. The goal here is for there not to be errors, to be the most effective, but in the case that you may forget one day to take your dog out of the room when you leave for a minute and he chooses to take your spot on the couch, be prepared. (And then do not let it happen again.)

What you DO NOT want to do is pull your dog by the collar to get him off or use another form of aversive punishment. Not only is that not fair to a dog who simply saw a comfy place to lay his head, it will teach him that bad things happen to him around you. And will teach him that if he wants to make some choices, he had better do them out of sight of his human. If you do not have a resource guarder, you will be giving him reason to become one in the future.

Another thing to be careful of, is that you not lure him off with food or a toy as you may actually be adding value to that decision of getting on the sofa since, from your dog’s perspective, getting on the sofa got you to produce high value treats or play.

Instead, consider just ignoring him and going to his pillow to have a good time without him or doing something fun in the other room. Eventually he will come off, and then you can work building value for being in his bed. After which, you can remind yourself that better management must in practice if you are really going to make a solid behavior change in your dog.

My challenge to you is this: When your pet is doing something you do not like, think about what you would like for your dog to do instead. Be the giver of good things for good choices. Your dog will thank you for it!

Dog Body Language

understanding dog body languageThis time of year, everyone enjoys being outdoors with their dogs including at dog parks. And, while it can be a lot of fun, it can also be very problematic. An aversive experience for your dog can occur very quickly, and can have long term impact on your dog’s emotional well being. Do you know how to recognize when your dog is in trouble, or when your dog is doing the harassing?  Do you know when your dog is communicating that he is uncomfortable with whatever is happening in the moment or when he wants space?

Below are some videos that show and explain how dogs communicate, dog body language, dog avoidance behaviors. They are well worth your time to watch, and then practice learning what your dog is trying to tell you and others.

Can I be of further help to you and your pet? Please contact me here!

Dog Park Etiquette

I am a proud member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants for both the dog and bird divisions (and am a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant through IAABC). The organization recently published this series of posters about dog park etiquette with some important information and lessons about recognizing problems and appropriate behaviors.

How to know if your dog is scared at a dog park


What to do if your do is scared at a dog park


How to know if your dog is being pushy at a dog park


What to do if your dog is being pushy at a dog park

My Furry Valentine is Coming Up

My Furry Valentine, the region’s largest annual animal adoption event, is coming up this Saturday & Sunday, February 13 & 14, 2016, from 11am – My Furry Valentine5pm, at the Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road, Cincinnati, OH 45246.

Over the past four years, the event has found homes for more than 2,000 animals. The 2016 event space is larger than ever, to accommodate more visitors, vendors and more adoptable pets. Community members who want to help but aren’t looking to adopt can donate pet supplies. The event also features entertainment, games, a photo booth, prizes and more for families to enjoy.

This year, vouchers for free admission ($3 value) can be picked up at all Greater Cincinnati UDF locations from February 1 through the event weekend. Also new this year, on Saturday, February 13 from 10-11am there will be an opportunity for visitors to meet with adoptable pets before the event opens to the general public. Early Bird admission fee is $15 per adult (children under 17 are free with an adult), and can be purchased in advance at and at the door. Quantities are limited.

For additional information about phoDOGrapher’s My Furry Valentine, visit or contact My Furry Valentine event organizer, Carolyn Evans at

Benefits Of Feeding Your Dog Through Toys

If given a choice, do you think your dog would CHOOSE to eat from a bowl or a toy? I encourage you to watch this.

Posted by So Much PETential on Monday, January 11, 2016

Canine Hip Dysplasia: Symptoms and Exercises

Do you know what hip dysplasia is in dogs? And what types of exercise can help a dog that has it? I spoke with Physical Therapist Ginger Jones, CCRP, at Care Center Animal Hospital in Cincinnati about the symptoms of hip dysplasia and some helpful exercises for dogs.

Care Center Animal Hospital in Cincinnati uses a water treadmill to exercise dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasiaHip dysplasia is one of the most skeletal diseases in dogs. It is an abnormal formation of the hip joint, which includes a ball and socket, and which can lead to gradual deterioration and loss of function.

While any dog can develop it. Large and giant breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards, and Great Danes have likelier genetic predispositions to it.

Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Difficulty rising from a seated or laying down position
  • Reluctance to climb stairs, jump or run
  • Pain in hip joints
  • Having back legs unnaturally close together
  • Decreased muscle mass in the thighs
  • Enlarged shoulder muscles from bearing more weight on the front legs
  • Decreased activity
  • Lameness
  • Shifting their whole back end to move their back legs

 “As soon as you learn your dog has it, it is important to begin exercises to strengthen muscles and stabilize the joint,” Ginger said.

Types of exercises recommended by Ginger for dogs with hip dysplashia:

  • Incorporate into your walks going uphill some so as to shift his weight to his back legs to strengthen those muscles.
  • Practice sitting and getting back up for both strengthening muscles and stability. It is important to begin with a small number of sits in the beginning and gradually increase that.
  • If your dog has not had surgery, be careful with jumps as the pushing off can be painful; however, you can gradually build up to running some. Ginger recommends beginning with three 5 minute walks, adding a couple minutes daily each week. Once you get to a 20 minute walk, THEN she said you can initiate some jogging. “It is okay to run some as long as you build up to it first,” Ginger told me.
  • Swimming and walking on a water treadmill are good exercises.
  • Pushing a ball is a good exercise as it requires your dog to hold his head down, which takes the weight off of his hips and not all exercise should be about adding weight to the hips.
  • Doing an activity that requires your dog to move his head from side to side also helps with stability and core strength as he shifts his body weight with the movement.
  • Balance exercises are great. Smaller dogs can stand on a Bosu ball and practice shifting their weight from right to left. You can also practice having your dog raise one front paw and then the other, and practice walking on uneven surfaces.
  • An exercise to avoid is agility as this requires too much fast paced, quick directional change movement.
  • For front limbs, walking is important. Giving your dog a treat ball will cause your dog to lower his head and put more weight on his front limbs. You can also put something on your dog’s nose, which will encourage him to use his front limbs to get it off. Walking downhill is also good for front leg work.
  • Caveletti exercises are good for arthritis and hip dysplasia as they increase the range in the front and hind limbs, increase flexion, and is good for placement of the feet and balance, and core strength. You want to start at a very low height and build it up. Six caveletties is a good number for that.

Some other additional tips Ginger suggested:

  • A good, well cushioned orthopedic bed goes a long way. For larger dogs who don’t want to lay on a bed due to its warmth, you may want to buy a cooling mat.
  • A slick surface is more difficult for your dog to move on and may limit his mobility further. Area rugs, gym or yoga mats placed on wood floors will be helpful.
  • Extra weight means more pressure on those joints so if your dog is some extra pounds, consider putting him on a diet.
  • With arthritis, the best modality is heat. Before any exercise, Ginger recommends putting a heated rice bag on your dog’s problem joint and doing some warm up exercises before a walk.
  • Your vet may recommend anti-inflammatory supplements.

Does Your Dog Like His Halloween Costume?

Should dogs wear Halloween costumes?


If you want to dress your dog in an outfit, please make should make sure your dog is comfortable. Dogs will communicate this with their bodies. Some signs of a happy dog are: relaxed body muscles; loose lips or even open mouth with loose tongue; rhythmic panting. Some signs that a dog is not comfortable include: his tail may be down, his body may be tight, he may have a tense mouth, you will see the whites on the sides of his eyes, his ears may be back, he may yawn or lick his chops, he may do a body shake without being wet. If wearing an outfit causes your dog to feel stressed, he may be more likely to become reactive – especially when on a leash, in the dark, with so many strange sights and sounds and kids running around.

For more tips on pet safety at Halloween , please see my blog post.


July 4 Safety Tips For Your Dog

The time is drawing near. July 4 is many a dogs’ least favorite of holidays. Loud, unpredictable noises accompanied with big light displays can be very scary.

I’ve written about July 4 safety tips before and have revised them below.

July 4 dog safety tipsWhile you are attending your community parade or other holiday event, if your dog can become over-stimulated or afraid around crowds, unfamiliar sounds and sights, the best place for him/her is at home. You will not be doing your dog a favor by forcing him into a stressful situation. Desensitizing your dog to stimulus should be done in a controlled environment, always with your dog under threshold. Please see the bottom of this post for more on systematic desensitization.

If you spend outdoor time with your dog during the day, remember your heat safety precautions be careful to prevent your dog from overheating. A few things to keep in mind – find shady places to relax, give him/her plenty of water, minimize time spent walking on black asphalt or other surfaces that absorb heat, if your dog enjoys water then hoses, sprinklers and baby pools can provide many opportunities for exercise, watch your dog for any signs of heat related stress.

If you are entertaining, remember to keep alcohol and other toxic food away from your dog. Always actively supervise children around your dog to redirect them if necessary. Hugging, kissing, straddling, poking, pulling on body parts (like a tail), and chasing should be prevented. If your dog has been known to do unwanted behavior around guests, some suggested things you may want to consider are – planning ahead to teach him/her alternative behaviors, make sure he/she has high value enrichment activity toys, and/or give him more exercise before your guests arrive.

This is a good time to double check that your dog has proper identification in case there is an unplanned escape outside a door. Still, make sure to secure your door including a doggie door or screen windows if you have them.July 4 safety tips for dogs

Preparing for fireworks

Provide your dog with plenty of mental and physical exercise before the fireworks begin as a tired dog will be less apt to react.

Know that many dogs are afraid of the loud, sudden noise of fireworks and they may also be sensitive to the vibration caused by the noise. You may see your dog shiver, pant, pace, hide, or do destructive behavior. He/she may turn away from food. He could even try to escape out of your home or your yard which is why making sure your house is securely closed is so important.

Make sure that your dog has an accessible safe place (from his/her perspective – NOT yours). You more than likely have seen your dog retreat there on other occasions where something scary occurred – maybe it is underneath a desk, in a closet, or under a bed. If you are leaving your house, make sure your dog can get to that safe place. Some dogs, however, react by moving and being active. If possible, try to have your dog in an area away from windows with the shades drawn.

If you are at home during the fireworks, spend time with it in the safe place and provide your dog with attention and comfort if your dog seeks you out. You will not be reinforcing fear, and so long as you remain calm, your presence can help your dog cope. If your dog is not too anxious, you may even be able to do some counter conditioning where you give your dog a piece of high value food (like meat or chicken) immediately *after* a boom.

Sometimes wearing a thunder jacket or DAP collar can help; however, not with every dog. And playing white noise, or a television loud enough to mask the noise may help. You may want to consider lower frequency sounds to cover up the low frequency sound of the big booms. (But please make sure that does not scare your dog BEFORE July 4) I found a low frequency station called Low Frequency Vibrations on Pandora.


If your dog has severe cases of situational phobias like fireworks, you may want to talk with your vet about fast acting anxiolytic medication.

Cincinnati Fundraiser To Raise Money For Canine Cancer Research

Chris Pike, director of marketing & promotions for the National Canine Cancer Foundation, shared his story with me last year – a very personal reason for wanting to help raise money to fight a disease many other dog owners will experience.

He and his wife were in town to celebrate Chris’ birthday with his family. Their longing to share a home with double the joyous, childlike antics of a golden retriever took them to a farm that was ironically in the Chris Pike of National Canine Cancer Foundationneighborhood of our region’s hub for adventure – Kings Island.

And there he was. A 10 week old, cream colored teddy bear who bounced as he ran straight into the arms of the couple Chris and Eileen Pike of Cincinnati with golden retrieverswhose home and hearts were to be one with his for the rest of his life. Skyler had a way with women. Truth be told, he had a way with everyone. It was his beautiful, magical gift that he was brought into this world to share.

Kiara too filled her world with love.  Every day was an adventure, a new opportunity to explore and new people to meet.

Sadly those gifts were brought to an end by canine cancer. Chris learned, it was actually fairly common especially in golden retrievers. In fact, cancer took the life of not just one but two bundles of sheer happiness from the Pike’s household.

Today, the legacy of Skyler and Kiara is in the hard fought battle of Chris to wage a war against that deadly enemy.

National Canine Cancer Foundation

The National Canine Cancer Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that provides grants to researchers working to save lives, find cures, improve treatments, and develop more accurate and cost effective diagnostic methods in dealing with canine cancer.

Its funds are used in eliminating cancer as a major health problem in dogs through education, outreach and research to save lives though finding cures, better treatments, more accurate cost effective diagnostic methods in dealing with cancer and diminishing dogs suffering from cancer.

“We are happy to say that we have approved to spend $382,994.72 in 2015 and $308,055 in 2016 in funding research grants.  That will be $691,049 spent on research grants. Also we will spend another $1M over that same period on raising awareness and reaching out to dog owners on how to be proactive in increasing the survival rate of dogs with canine cancer,” Chris told me.

Oakley Pup Crawl

Join me and more than 1000 other dog lovers in participating in the 2015 Oakely Pup Crawl on April 26. You can come alone – or bring your dog. And, if you do not have a dog, you can ‘rent’ a dog for the afternoon from Recycled Doggies. (Last year, all of the rented dogs were adopted at the end of the event.)

How the proceeds will be used

ALL of the money raised at this year’s Pup Crawl will go toward one of the research grants being funded by the Foundation. The research, headed by Gwendolen Lorch D.V.M., PhD. Assistant Professor, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, at The Ohio State University, will look into the triggers of canine lung cancer.

Please click here to read about the fundraiser in Oakley Square to raise funds for the National Canine Cancer Foundation. It’s going to be a ton of fun for a great cause!


My Furry Valentine Is Cincinnati’s Pet Adoption Mega Event

All too often puppies and dogs find their ways into shelters, for many reasons, often for no fault of their own. They are the victims of circumstances beyond their control, like an illness or death in the family, divorce, growing family, family relocation, or improper training and preparation from owners.

Nearly 3 million of them are euthanized every year in the United States.

My Furry Valentine Cincinnati pet adoption event

photo credit:
for My Furry Valentine

All I have to do is walk into my parents home where I am greeted with 40 pounds of love to be reminded these animals deserve places they can call home. I see all the time through my dog training clients and friends the beautiful gift of adoption.
Coming up this Valentine’s Day weekend is our region’s largest pet adoption event, My Furry Valentine. It will be at the Sharonville Convention Center from 10 am to 5 pm.

My Furry Valentine is hoping to find homes for 550 animals during the weekend event. The event is fun, family-friendly and free to attend. This year’s My Furry Valentine is hosted by phoDOGrapher and presented by Top Dog sponsors IAMS and Tri-County Mall with additional financial assistance from The Joanie Bernard Foundation.

Please click here to read my list of considerations before you go.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...