Teaching ‘Off’: Dog Training Plan

Why this cue is useful for your dog to know: You can teach “off” to get your dog to move when you want his spot on the couch. It’s easier — and kinder — to have the dog jump off the couch (or chair or bed) on cue than to lift or push him off. Teaching “off” is also a great way to work around dogs who might guard their spot.

End behavior: On cue, the dog will remove his paws (or his entire body) from the item, person or surface he is currently on.

Step 1: When the dog has his paws or his body up on something (such as a counter or table), say “off” and use a treat in front of his nose to lure him off of the item. As soon as all paws are back on the ground, click and give him the treat. Repeat the next four times he gets up on something. Then, test your cue: Say “off” and see if he gets off. If he does, move on to the next step. If he does not, repeat Step 1 five more times and test again.

  • Tip: If the dog won’t follow the treat as you try to lure him off, you need a higher-value treat. It’s important to use a treat or food item that your dog really likes, so that getting off of the thing he is on is much more rewarding than staying on it.

Step 2: As soon as he gets off of the item when you say “off,” click and treat. Once he is reliably getting off when you cue him, you can start fading the click and treat part by starting to praise him or giving him treats randomly.

Proofing

Proofing means teaching the dog to generalize the behavior in different contexts.

Items: Practice with different items, such as a couch, a bed, a kitchen counter and a coffee table. If the dog jumps up on people, practice with different people. For each item or person, start with Step 1.

Handler: Get other people to practice “off” with the dog.

Distractions: Practice with the dog in different locations with varying distractions. For example, practice both when the kitchen counter is empty and when there is a tasty snack on it.

If you get stuck on any step, stop and take a break. When you try again, go back to the previous step in the plan. If necessary, create intermediate steps with intensity and duration that your dog is comfortable with. Don’t rush: Take it at the dog’s speed.

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