How To Protect Furniture From Dogs

If you have the great fortune of sharing your life with a canine and don’t have a strict “keep the dog off the couch” policy, the need to protect your furniture is a foregone conclusion. You’re long familiar with the tell-tale signs she’s been on the sofa (or the bed, or your favorite over-stuffed chair). The evidence she leaves behind when she trades her dog bed for your bed or sofa is usually benign: maybe a little dirt or a few tufts of dog hair you can vacuum away without much fuss.

Occasionally it’s worse—she may have availed herself of the sofa before you had a chance to swab her muddy paws when she came in from the rain, and now cleanup requires some elbow grease. Or worst of all: you’ve returned home from an outing to find your dog chewed everything within muzzle reach—sofa eviscerated and its stuffing scattered, or the appealing leg of your prized Morris chair reduced to splinters. (Your dog is also at risk of harm in these scenarios.)

There are several ways to protect your furniture from the family dog, whatever the source of her mess—including destructive chewing. Solutions run the gamut from cheap and easy to costlier and more complex. Settle on the ones that work best for you, then settle down on the sofa and give your gal a belly rub.

Protecting Your Furniture From Dog Hair

We’ve all been there: the family dog leaves hair, dirt, and other unpleasant cast-offs on the sofa exactly where you wanted to plop down and unwind. Perhaps you allow her up with you, or maybe she avails herself of this privilege against your wishes when your back is turned. Either way, the jig is up: the hairy evidence betrays her innocent-looking mug. Dog hair, drool, odors, and worse—as awful and smelly as all that can be, the mess is usually only temporary.

1. Choose Dog-Friendly Upholstery

Some textiles are more forgiving of canine castoffs than others, and leather tops the list: it does not collect hair like other materials do, it’s easy to vacuum, and a quick wipe-down with a moist cloth takes care of most messes.

Leather upholstery is durable and it’s pretty—the only thing it really does not like is a sharp toenail poking it. If you choose leather furniture, keep your dog’s nails trimmed; you can even file them to smooth their rough edges.

Microfiber finishes a close second to leather as a dog-friendly material because it’s relatively easy to clean and does not seem to hold odors like other textiles do. Cotton and linen are common upholstery choices, but can be less forgiving—they are somewhat easier to keep clean if you vacuum them on a regular basis. Wool is the worst, as it must be professionally dry cleaned. But if you have wool upholstery and a dog-induced stain that demands immediate attention, apply Woolite or another gentle detergent to the spot with a soft cloth; be advised that if the material gets too wet it will shrink.

Another option is covering your sofa and chair seat cushions in a low-maintenance fabric you can zip off and throw into the wash.

Whichever kind of upholstery you choose, buy something that coordinates with the dog: you’d never pair a creamy, light cloth upholstery with your hairy Black Lab.

2. Use Washable Furniture Covers

If you’re not prepared to redecorate any time soon, the simplest solution of all is using washable covers and dog throws to protect your furniture. This requires the least effort on your part. You know where your dog likes to be: cover his “spot” with a washable protector. Keep several in rotation so you always have a clean one handy. And if you can, choose a cover that is specially made to combat dog hair and dirt.

3. Give Your Dog An Attractive Alternative: His Own Indulgent Bed

He probably already has his own bed, but does he love it? If his bed is soft and comfy, he may opt for it at least sometimes. A thick, bolstered orthopedic foam dog bed is an excellent example. And you can make this a still more attractive option by leaving a delightful toy on his bed and praising him copiously when he chooses to go there. If he is unaccustomed to a dog bed, try leaving an item bearing your reassuring smell on it, like an old T-shirt or sweater, at least in the beginning. Keep washable dog bed covers in rotation so there’s always a clean one at the ready.

Beyond these solutions, practice daily drills to protect your furniture from the inevitable hair and other dirt that is part and parcel of living with a canine companion:

  • Set up a mudroom or mud “station” just inside the door. It does not have to be fancy: include a washable mat that’s made to collect water and mud, a rack of dog towels, and a place to hang her leashes. Wipe her down right away when she comes inside: she’ll soon learn she gets a foot and belly massage every time she walks through the door and will stop for the indulgence.
  • Vacuum and/or wipe down your furniture every week if the doggie is allowed on it. Rotate the cushions to give them equal wear and tear, and so her favorite spot is not so obvious.
  • Seems like a no-brainer, but keep your dog clean and groomed. Regular bathing and brushing reduces shedding by a mile. If your dog sheds prolifically, the FURminator® is an excellent de-shedding tool. Keep her nails trimmed, and consider filing them.
  • Set boundaries. If there are heirloom pieces or places that are simply off-limits, teach your dog, gently. The hissing sound of compressed air can work (not sprayed directly onto her), and bitter preparations that are meant to deter animals can also be very effective teaching tools. Just be consistent: sending mixed signals (you can come up today, but not tomorrow) is very confusing for your dog.

How To Stop Your Dog From Chewing The Furniture

It’s normal for dogs to chew, and for puppies in particular. But if he is targeting the furniture instead of an appropriate dog toy, follow these strategies:

  • Make sure he has lots of safe, sanctioned toys to satisfy his urge to chew and to stave off boredom. Build an obsession in him for his own things by feeding him via a refillable food toy.
  • Undertake a crate training regimen so your dog becomes accustomed to staying contentedly confined in his crate when you are away or can’t directly supervise him.
  • Alternately, use a dog gate to separate him from rooms in your house where he has chewed or destroyed furniture.
  • A tired dog is a good dog: give him plenty of daily opportunities for vigorous exercise and play to help him stay calm when he’s inside.

When All Else Fails:

A dog who chews furniture not only destroys your things, but also risks hurting himself on the splintered wood or ingested fill. If inappropriate chewing is already an established pattern, try spraying a “taste repellent” directly onto vulnerable wood table and chair legs, and furniture upholstery. Make sure the preparation is safe and non-toxic for dogs, and remember to reapply it often to maintain its effectiveness. Use a commercial preparation or make your own solution using 10 parts water to 1 part cayenne pepper, dispensed from a spray bottle—most dogs steer clear of spices. Be sure to shake the bottle every time you use it, as the cayenne will settle in the bottom. Then spray it where your dog has chewed.

The first time your dog tastes the “spicy” furniture, do not be surprised to see him shake his head, drool, or even retch. For some dogs one unpleasant experience is enough. Others will go back for a second or third chewing attempt. But after repeated exposure most dogs eventually give up. Importantly, avoid using the spray repellent strategy as a substitute for enticing and fun toys for your dog. Given the right opportunities he’ll eventually learn to make good choices on his own.

If you enjoy the company of a family dog, expect the mess: it goes with the territory, and your furniture is no exception. It’s also reasonable to expect some destruction, especially at first. Be patient—if your dog is new to you, he needs some time to learn the house rules. Resist holding him to unreasonable standards: he wants to love you and be with you, better still if it’s right next to you on the sofa. Protect your furniture using a strategy that works best for you, and above all, love your dog.

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