Techniques and Tools for Making Furniture Off-Limits to Pets
There are many benefits to making a pet a part of your life and living in an apartment doesn’t have to mean forfeiting that privilege. An increasing number of apartment communities today are pet-friendly in recognition of how important pets have become to our society at large. But with pet ownership in a small space comes a few unique complications, including that there’s less opportunity to offer space for your pet to rest and play that isn’t also shared by the human residents—in short, without establishing firm boundaries you won’t be the only one sitting or lying on your furniture. Also, there’s the small fact that furniture holds pet odors, making sure that your apartment will smell like a doghouse sooner, than might be the case in a larger home with a yard. And if you’re like a lot of apartment dwellers, you might have even purchased a new sofa to go with your new apartment, providing even more incentive for keeping it fresh and new. Here are a couple of strategies for keeping pets off of the furniture both while you’re home and away!
Furniture training is all about making your pet understand that there are people places in your apartment and there are pet places; and your furniture is strictly for the people, all of the time.
Cover your furniture during the training process, which will keep it from getting stained or torn. Inexpensive plastic sheeting sold in the paint department of your local home improvement store will create a great liquid-proof barrier and add a bed sheet or two from the local thrift store so you won’t be sitting on plastic while the process is underway.
Assemble your tools: a water spray bottle works great for cats because it will annoy them without hurting them; and your own voice may be the only tool you’ll need to get the attention of your dog.
Start with the basics … when you find a pet where he or she isn’t supposed to be, use your words. NO and DOWN works well for dogs. Follow up with SIT and STAY to give them the idea that you not only want them off the furniture, but you don’t want them to get on it in the first place. For cats, simply say NO and follow up with a light spritz from the spray bottle or a light tap on the nose. This sort of training works well for younger pets … if yours are older (particularly true for cats), this might not be as effective an option. Don’t be abusive, but do be tough and persistent. Your dog might pout a little at first, but will come to respect your wishes more and more over time. Cats are a little more challenging because they don’t have particularly strong long-term memories. It will take a lot of consistency to get their attention, but eventually, your persistence will pay off. The good news about that memory thing is that when you do have to tap them on the nose a few times in the same afternoon, they’ll forget about it in record time.
Stop bad behavior before it starts. If you just bought a puppy or kitten, don’t let them on the furniture at all because once the behavior begins, it’s more difficult to stop. Remember that your pets likely just want to be near you, so giving them toys to play with, like tennis balls for dogs or jingle balls for cats, will keep them from feeling the need to play with the furniture.
It’s also helpful to let pets know where you DO want them to be. Make your dog’s bed smell more inviting by adding your scent to it … run your hands along it or cover it in a t-shirt that you’ve worn; and rub catnip on a cat bed to make it more attractive. Define “people” areas and “pet” areas, and reward them with attention—pats and treats—when they’re where you want them to be. If your cat is using your furniture as a scratching post, get her the real thing and make sure she knows that you want her to use it. If she keeps climbing up on the bookshelf to get a better view of the room, give her a tower that she can climb. If your dog wants to stretch out on your sofa, make sure his bed is big and comfortable enough for him to do the same thing.
These tools are all about making your pets not want to be on or around the furniture by making it an unpleasant place to play or rest. Here are a few tricks and tools to try:
Put double-sided tape on your furniture along the back, arms and other areas where cats are likely to claw. They don’t like the sticky sensation and will steer clear.
Place aluminum foil on top if your pet’s favorite hangout spots. Dogs and cats will find the rustling unpleasant and will avoid the spot. This is a great solution for sofas, chairs and people beds.
Cats hate the smell of orange peel. Rub a freshly-scored orange peel or a cloth scented with a little orange essential oil on places you want your cat to steer clear of. Beware—you’ll want to be sparing with the stuff because orange oil can stain. Bonus—it’ll make your apartment smell great.
Make your furniture plain inaccessible. Turn down the top cushions on sofas and chairs to make them harder to jump onto; or turn your dining room chairs over and leave them on top of sofas and chairs in the living room. After trying to access an off-limits spot a few times, Fido or Fluffy will soon realize that the comfy pet bed is much easier to get to.
In the End
Once your persistence has paid off, you’ll have a much more well-behaved pet, and a much nicer apartment for both of you to share!