Wednesday, 30 November 2011


'Sarah' my German Shepherd x Siberian Husky enjoying warmth & comfort
I am going to address this topic in three sections…


Clients often ask me is it OK if my dogs go on my couch? Will it make them aggressive?
The answer is no - but lack of leadership can!

Recently, I had a client ask me if his little Yorkie was being dominating as it liked to sit on the back of a couch! He had read an article on the internet that if a dog sits on the back of a coach, the dog is dominating.

I love the fact that we can do so much research at the touch of our finger…the only problem is that it magnifies the ability of those who really do not understand dogs to influence others.

To answer my client’s question, I ask them

One - Is it OK with you if your dog sits on the couch?

Two - If you indicate to your dog that is should get off of the couch will it get off without any issue?

Three  -  Can everyone else sit on the couch and your dog willingly accepts every ones presence without a complaint (no growling, no nipping, etc.);

Four - Will your dog quietly yield space on the couch should he need to move over a little to make room for people or another dog?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above - then there is no issue - there is no reason why your dog should not avail themselves of the comfort of the couch!

Sitting on a couch does not make a dog reactive aggressive - it is a lack of proper coaching and mentoring that can make a dog reactive.

Personally, I love relaxing late at night sitting on the couch, with dogs to either side of me, at me feet and in their various favourite spots around the living room...seeing them just being calm, relaxed, and content. Their energy spent for the day.
Jordie, my German Shepherd x Malamute relaxing after a pack walk

Well guys, just like humans, dogs are opportunists too! So adjust your expectations to suit.

Dogs are very intelligent. If you do not want your dog on your couch than you can coach him not to go on…but be fair…dogs love comfort…so when you are out of the house, don’t be surprised if you peek through a window and see your dog stretched out on those comfy pillows.

Don’t set your dog up for failure. If you don’t want him on the couch including when you are not home you are going to have to close a door or put a baby gate up to section off the spaces that accommodate couches. Be fair.

'Robbie' my Boxer and 'Tibby',
both of my cats love to cuddle with Robbie on the couch
To teach your dog not to go on the couch - please don’t yell at your dog! Do this instead. If your dog goes to get up on the couch:

One -  Make sure you are calm (without excess emotion),and ready to coach with fair, firm confidence. Don't be aggressive; don't raise your voice in anger.

Two - Lead...addressing from a distance is not leadership, calmly but with assurance get up and walk over to your dog.

Three - Get your dogs attention, you can touch your dog firmly but quickly with your fingers - at its neck or waist, you can snap your fingers and say 'hey' firmly, but not with anger. Never touch or talk in anger as you then lead by the wrong example!

Four - Tell your dog what you want i.e. 'off’ or down’…I have ten dogs - different breeds, from tiny to large - they all understand this type of do the dogs I work with for my clients.

Five - Tell your dog what you would like it to do instead i.e. 'go sit down' and show your dog where you would like it to sit instead. Don’t just point - get up and show your dog where you want him to sit / lie down. Once your dog is familiar with his relax spot you will be able to point…for now you must take a more active lead.

Six - Follow through...if your dog goes back to the couch to get-up, don't get angry, simply correct as per the steps above.

Abby. All of my dogs excel at pillow arranging!
Be patient, fair, calm, confident and direct - remember you do not change your habits instantly!  

A dog will let go of a habit faster than most humans will…if coached properly. Because I have experience and have trained myself to communicate properly, when working with a dog I can often change an outcome very quickly. But please adjust your expectations to your abilities - if you have not trained yourself to communicate properly be patient - you need to learn first!

You can read these articles to get a head start…


Each and every aspect of un-balanced behaviour must be addressed or your dog will never have the opportunity to return back to a balanced, happy, healthy state.  Each little tiny thing feeds into the whole. Behaviour such as owning people or objects rarely exists in isolation - it is only a symptom of an issue. In order to address the issue and bring a dog back to a balanced state-of-being you must address all symptoms.

Again don’t set your dog up for failure, if your dog owns you don’t let it up on the couch until you address the ownership issue. This article will help you understand how to address ownership…

If your dog is possessive about space or objects that needs to be addressed as well.

'Buddy' my Cocker Spaniel and 'Jacob' my little Pomeranian
If your dog is possessive about space or objects that needs to be addressed as well. 

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 

Please note - this article is for information purposes and is not a substitute for an in-person Session with me. When working with dogs I use many techniques - it is important to note that this article may touch on one or several techniques but not all. I select the technique that I use for a particular dog based on my observations of the dog and an intuitive, instinctive assessment of that dog's and its human's individual requirements. For example when I am working with a dog that is hyper sensitive and very physically reactive I will not use voice or touch. I use a lot of therapeutic touch on some dogs, others require the use of herding techniques and so on. Each and every technique must be combined with:
  • an understanding of the real intelligence, sensitivity and capability of dogs;
  • an understanding of how to read a dog's face and a dog's overall body language;
  • an understanding of the full spectrum of ways that humans communicate and dogs communicate; 
  • understanding and recognition of the individual that is each dog - no two dogs are the same...taking a 'cookie cutter' approach to techniques is not the way to work with a dog;
  • a complete recognition and understanding of all the elements that feed a behaviour and create an issue:
    •  the vast majority of people can only identify one or two elements...which vastly inhibits the ability to resolve behavior issues;
    • behaviours do not exist in isolation - there are always many elements that feed a single behaviour, there all always multiple behaviours that create a behavioral issue;
  • self-restraint and discipline on the part of the human who is directing the dog;
  • sensitivity, awareness, intuition, instinct and timing on the part of the human who is directing the dog;
    • to understand, connect with and adapt quickly and effectively to a dog's learning requirements you must be able to employ the same tools a dog uses - acute sensitivity, awareness, instinct, intuition and timing;
  • kindness, endurance, consideration, patience, persistence, perspective, the ability and know how to let the past go, the ability to set realistic expectations at any one point in time;
  • the creation of structure, rules, boundaries and limitations for each situation at the macro and micro level;
  • understanding of all the elements that make up an instruction and direction to a dog...there are multiple steps involved in an instruction - not just one!
  • absolute honesty - if you cannot be honest with yourself you will not be able to communicate clearly with a dog.
These are just some of the techniques that I teach my clients - it is a holistic, all-encompassing approach. If you are missing any one element of the above mentioned your success rate will be affected to one degree or another in implementing the techniques offered in the article presented above.

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Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats