How to Train Your Dog the "off" Command

A smiling Welsh Corgi dog relaxes on a couch indoors in soft morning light.

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The "off" command is used to tell a dog to get its paws off of something. It may be the kitchen counter, your bed, the living room couch, or anything else you don't want your dog on. Dogs usually jump up to get to something they want, like a scrap of food or a comfy place to sleep. This can be a difficult command to teach, but it is possible. Just be patient and consistent and your dog will soon respond to the off command.

Stash Treats

The trick to teaching the off command is catching your dog on something you don't want it on. That means you'll need to be prepared and keep some treats in a few different places around your home, preferably near these off-limit locations. You'll have them on hand whenever needed and can begin training your dog.

Wait for the Behavior

Training a dog the off command is different from training a lot of the other basic commands. Rather than planning training sessions, you need to wait until your dog is behaving inappropriately to train it to get off. Keep an eye on your dog and be prepared to stop whatever you're doing when you see the inappropriate action.

Give the Command

When you see your dog with its paws up on the counter or making itself comfortable on your couch, tell it "off." Use a stern voice so the dog knows you mean business, but do not yell. React quickly, as soon as the action has taken place so your dog can connect your command with its action.

Lure the Dog Off

Use one of your stashed treats to lure your dog off. As you give the off command, show your dog the treat. It may also help to shake the treat and call the dog's name to get its attention. As soon as all four paws are on the floor, give the dog the treat.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

Inconsistent enforcement of this behavior can make it difficult for a dog to learn the off command, and to know what is off limits and what is not. The only way your dog is going to stay off the counters or furniture for good is if you make it get off every time it jumps up. If you (or someone else in your household) allow the dog to get away with it at times, it will learn that it's worth a shot because sometimes it will be allowed the opportunity to snatch food or curl up on the couch. Make sure that everyone who handles your dog, including family members and dog walkers, knows and enforces these rules.

Continue to tell your dog "off" each time it jumps up on the prohibited thing, even after you've completed the training. Lure it down with a treat, as needed, and make sure to offer the treat whenever all paws are on the floor.

Your dog may soon learn that when it jumps on something, it ends up getting a treat. Instead of training your dog to get off something, your dog is training you to give it treats. To overcome that problem, make your dog work for the treat. Follow the same steps as above, but before you give up the treat, give the dog another command, such as sit or down. Offer the treat only after your dog has performed this command. You'll break the connection your dog makes between jumping up on something and getting a treat.

Tips:

  • Use a crate when you cannot supervise your dog. Dogs learn very quickly that they are able to get away with certain things when you are not around. Crate train your dog so it doesn't have the opportunity to jump up on the furniture or counters when you are out.
  • Give your dog somewhere else to go, particularly if it's looking for a comfy spot to nap. Many dogs will get off the couch or bed only long enough to get the treat and then immediately attempt to get back up. Make sure your dog has a comfy spot of its own, like a dog bed. You can train the dog the "go to your place" command, and send it to its own bed rather than allowing it to try to get back on your couch or bed.
  • If your dog has been able to snatch food off your kitchen counter, you may need to do some further training to train your dog not to counter surf. This is particularly useful for larger breeds who can stand on their hind legs and reach the countertop.