How to Teach a Dog the “Off” Command: A Step-by-Step Guide

By: Chewy EditorialUpdated:

how to teach a dog off
Photo by Marietta Losada

How to Teach a Dog the “Off” Command: A Step-by-Step Guide

Regardless of their size, all dogs should be taught that jumping up on people is a no-no. Large dogs can easily knock a person over, and even small dogs can injure someone—especially children. Since dogs aren’t born knowing that jumping up on person—or even our furniture—is  ff limits, they must be taught what is allowed and what is not. Teaching a dog the “off” command allows us to more easily communicate to our dogs what’s A-OK and what isn’t.

Ready to learn how to teach a dog to keep off? We spoke with professional dog trainers to create a step-by-step guide for you to follow.

You Will Need

✓Training treats for dogs, like True Chews Premium Jerky Cuts with Real Chicken

✓Patience

✓Enthusiasm

How to Teach a Dog the Off Command

Whether you’re a dog parent, dog trainer or dog walker, you can follow this step-by-step guide on how to teach a dog the off command. It’s effective for both puppy training and when teaching an older dog a new trick.

Step 1: Wait for Poor Behavior

Teaching your dog the off command is different from teaching your dog other tricks or behaviors. This is because you’re trying to dissuade them from doing something. Therefore, you need to wait until they’re participating in the negative behavior (e.g. jumping up on you or other people, climbing onto the couch) until you can begin the training session.

 Step 2: Say “Off” and Lure Your Dog with a Treat

When your dog exhibits the negative behavior, such as jumping, say “off” and lure your dog down with a treat. Hold the treat in front of their nose and, while still holding the treat, bring your hand down until all four of their paws are on the ground. Once down, give them a treat and lots of praise. As an alternative, you can toss a treat on the floor to lure them down.

If saying “off” and luring your dog with a treat doesn’t work, it’s possible that the treat isn’t desirable enough. Make sure to get something extra yummy for your dog to enjoy. You may also need to gently move your dog while saying the word “off,” then giving the treat once they’re on the ground.

Pro Tip: Teach your dog the “off” command as opposed to saying, “keep off” or “get down.” Keeping the command simple and consistent is the quickest and easiest way for them to learn. One-word commands, such as “off” or “down,” are always better than multi-word commands.

Step 3: Repeat Consistently

Teaching your dog the “off” command is a matter of repetition and consistency. It will take time for your dog to learn the correlation between “off” and getting a reward (whether the reward is a treat, pets or praise). Practice whenever your dog exhibits the jumping behavior or climbs onto a place they shouldn’t be, such as a couch or counter. If you aren’t consistent in keeping them off, this can be confusing.

Step 4: Use the “Off” Command in Everyday Scenarios

Even if your pet still hasn’t conquered the off command, it’s important to use the cue in everyday scenarios, like at the dog park or when you have a visitor.  Anytime your dog jumps on you, another person, or a piece of furniture, say the word, “off” and wait until they are no longer jumping and have four paws on the ground. Once they’re off, reward your dog with a treat and/or gentle petting.

Pro Tip: Keep your dog on a leash in everyday scenarios while they learn the off command. This gives you more control over the situation. You may need to give a gentle tug on the leash while saying “off” if they’re too excited.

Step 4: Ask Your Dog to Sit

You can go one step further by using the sit command with your dog after they’ve got four paws on the ground. (Check out our step-by-step guide on how to teach a dog to sit.) Once sitting, you can praise your dog and reward them with another treat.

 Things to Avoid

Here’s what not to do when teaching a dog the off command:

  • Don’t Waver: Consistency is key when teaching your puppy not to jump on people. When you are out in public and someone wants to greet your pup, you will need to make sure they do not reward your pup for jumping all over them. Limit your dog’s options by keeping them on-leash and asking your puppy to sit before giving permission to greet. You want them to practice meeting all kinds of people in a polite way.
  • Don’t Scold: As you are teaching your dog the off command, it’s important to practice positive reinforcement only. This means rewarding your dog for positive behavior and not scolding them for “bad” behavior.
  • Don’t Get Frustrated: Remember, your dog doesn’t innately understand what is OK and what isn’t. It’s up to us to teach them the difference with love and patience! If you get frustrated, walk away and try again tomorrow.

How to Teach a Dog the “Off” Command: FAQs

Q:

How do I teach a dog to keep off the couch? 

A:For a dog who is prone to jumping up on furniture, the off command is given along with a rewarding lure. For example, after the dog jumps up on the couch, you can use the lure of either a treat or toy combined with the “off” verbal cue to lure the dog off the couch. Once the dog is off the couch, give them a reward.

Q:

How do I teach a dog to keep off the bed? 

A:You’ll want to use a lure when teaching a dog to keep off the bed (similar to the training sessions for keeping them off the couch and other furniture). Lure them off the bed with a tasty treat or their favorite toy while saying “off,” and then give them the reward once they’ve gotten off the bed.

Q:

How do I teach a dog to keep off strangers? 

A:The quickest way to teach a dog not to jump on people is by having the interesting and exciting person turn their back on the dog or even move away. Dogs who receive attention when jumping, even negative attention, have been rewarded for their behavior and will continue to jump. Giving no attention to a jumping dog until their paws are firmly planted on the ground quickly teaches them the behavior you want: four on the floor!

Q:

Can I teach my dog the off command without treats?

A:Teaching your dog the “off” command is best done with a reward, but the reward doesn’t always have to be a treat! When a dog is learning not to jump on people, the reward for not jumping is attention. A treat would be icing on the cake but is not at all required since the dog clearly craves human attention more than anything else at that moment. When dogs jump on furniture, the “off” command has zero meaning to a dog unless it is paired with a reward and the behavior is lured. The reward could be a treat or a favorite toy.

Q:

Can It teach a senior dog to keep off?

A:Yes, you can teach a senior dog to keep off.  A dog of any age can be trained. Senior dogs are just as capable of learning as puppies. Some senior dogs actually learn more quickly because they are already so familiar with humans, human language, and the learning process. But old habits do die hard. A dog who has been jumping on people for six months will learn more quickly compared to a dog who has been jumping on people for six years.

The Bottom Line

Part of polite dog greeting behavior is for dogs to sniff each other’s noses briefly before moving on to the requisite sniffing of the butts. This innate desire to come face-to-face means that dogs are born wanting to sniff our human faces. Since we’re taller than our dogs, they often jump up on us to get to our faces. Dogs need to learn, over time, that jumping on a person is not allowed and that the best way to get our attention is by keeping four feet planted firmly on the ground.

Teaching a dog the off command is essential for establishing healthy boundaries for you, the people around you, and your home. It helps curb an energetic pup’s behavior and ensures others are kept safe and feel at ease.

Expert input provided by certified dog trainer Liz Claflin, vice president of operations for Zoom Room Dog Training in Culver City, California, as well as Paula Nowak, owner, head trainer and behavior consultant for Canine Country Academy in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

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By: Chewy EditorialUpdated:

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