Jumping up. Does your dog do it every time you come home? At mealtimes? When you're about to go for a walk, and pretty much any time s/he feels excited? You're not alone! One of the most common complaints dog owners have, particularly those with big dogs, is that they're dog is jumping up. Jumping up on them, on visitors to the house, maybe even total strangers on the street. For persistent jumpers, whether the behavior is a result of hyperactivity or just plain habit, it may feel like there's no good solution. Rest assured, there is, and chances are you can get it under control in no time at all. So how do we curb this socially inappropriate and potentially dangerous behavior?
To train our dogs not to jump up, and to do it well, we first need to understand a few principles of reinforcement. Acknowledging your dog when s/he is engaging in this behavior will reinforce it, guaranteeing that it occur again, and again. Therefore, we want to be sure we're doing precisely the opposite.
Begin by teaching your dog to "sit" to be petted. As soon as your dog jumps up, withdraw your hands and stand up as straight as you can. Clearly remove your attention by looking away from your dog and staying silent (as in, no greetings, and certainly do not say his/her name). As soon as your dog sits for you without wiggling about, you can pet your dog.
While this step may appear to be very simple, it does require some patience. Unless your dog knows "say please by sitting" already (see www.alldogstoronto.com/the-all-dogs-blog/mine-mine-mine-part-one-food-possessiveness for how to do it), you may find yourself waiting up to 10 minutes, and maybe even 15, for your dog to sit to be petted. That said, your patience will pay off big time when your dog begins to realize that the only way s/he will get what s/he wants is so sit politely.
When you do pet your dog, do so in a calm, slow, soothing massage, and make sure you do so only when your dog's butt is firmly on the floor. In this way, you reward your dog for the calmness you seek. To get things moving a little faster, add some treats, and reward your dog with a few of these when s/he sits nicely for you.
You may find that your dog simply walks away, lacking the focus required to figure out what it is you're looking for. If this happens, practice this exercise with your dog on leash. What you're going to find is that the hardest part is not giving in! There's nothing we love more than to be greeted by a happy dog when we arrive home. The problem being, particularly if we have a strong dog, that one day s/he may knock someone right over. Consistency is key here, and if everyone the dog interacts with over just a few days implements this exercise, you will have a dog that greets you politely and calmly, is a pleasure to be around from the outset, and some very impressed house guests.
Teaching our dogs to 'stay' is hands-down one of the most useful things we can do for our canine companions. Not only does it strengthen the relationship between human and dog through a working bond, a solid sit- or down-stay can even save your dog's life. In this blog, I'm going to talk about how to do it.
If your dog already knows "say please by sitting", you're halfway there. Have your dog "sit" or "say please by sitting". We're going to start this exercise with a verbal and a visual "stay" cue.
First, place your hand in a "stop" signal, and then allow it to drop to your side. Take one step backward, and immediately forward again so that you're in the same place you began the exercise. Now, here's the critical part! Deliver a treat to your dog before he has a chance to stand up. This entire sequence should happen in just a second or two.
Now, let's say that the moment you step backward your dog pops right out of that sit. You might think, "Oh man, my dog is never going to get this right if I can't get one foot off the ground!" Do not despair! Your dog is watching everything you do - it's not surprising that he is reacting to your motion with motion of his own. So how do we deal with this?
We're going to troubleshoot this exercise with your dog. Instead of stepping backward, just lift your toe off the ground and swing it backwards ever-so-slightly. If your dog stays put, perfect! Give that dog a treat! If not, it's still too much movement for him, so try just shifting your weight as if you were about to take a backwards step, but do not move your foot. If the dog stays put, reward! Gradually increase the depth of your movements, rewarding your dog at each iteration, until you can take one full step backwards, and forwards again. This process rewards your dog through the process gradually enough that they can form a meaningful connection between the 'stay' cue (verbal and hand signal) and remaining in a sit, no matter what movements you might be making.
Carrying on, the trick here is to get back into your original position before the dog stands up. This allows you to reward the behavior you actually want, a crucial element in training any animal, including dogs.
Next, you want to start increasing distance. Once your dog can stay in place for one step back and forward, graduate the lesson to two steps. Start with 5-10 treats ready in hand. Step away --> come back --> give treat --> repeat until all treats are gone.
Do this a couple of times consecutively, and increase the distance again. The goal is always the same - to get back to your dog before he stands up. The only variable here is the increasing distance.
If your dog stands up, it means that you were too far away for too long. Roll the exercise back to an easier distance you know your dog can handle, and work forward from that point. To proof the exercise, try stepping to the right and then to left, using the very same technique. Eventually, work your way around the back of the dog, and slowly increase distance. Before you know it, you will have a perfectly proofed pooch in a stunning sit-stay that you can rely on.
Stay tuned for our next blog on teaching a solid down-stay!
Many of us feel that somehow, if our dog needs to wear a muzzle, we've failed as dog owners to raise a socially healthy, well-mannered furry friend. We associate muzzle wearing dogs with danger, avoidance, reactivity, and the all-terrible biting dog. Some of us will go as far as to cross the street while out with our own dogs to avoid the muzzled beast. Yet the truth of the matter is, that strange, muzzled dog is actually, and quite factually, safer to be around than your unmuzzled one - no matter how well trained, or well behaved, your dog may be. In this blog, I'm going to talk about why having a muzzle-trained dog is one of the very best things you can do for your canine friend.
To begin, let's talk about two different kinds of muzzles. I'd like to start with my personal favorite and go-to choice, the basket muzzle.
You can find basket muzzles in all sorts of designs and made from many different materials: from wire, to plastic, and even leather. Basket muzzles are fitted around the back of a dog's head and under their ears, allowing the dog a full range of motion with his jaw, mouth, and tongue. This permits the dog to pant, a critical function of canine physiology, as well as drink, take food/treats, and interact with their environment.
When fitted properly, a basket muzzle is an excellent line of defense for a dog that has been injured and may bite/lash out due to pain, is reactive (to people, dogs/animals, vehicles, etc), and/or prone to nipping or biting for any reason. What's more, because you can give treats to your dog while wearing this muzzle, reinforcing it as a positive addition to your dog's repertoire could not be easier.
Next up we have the nylon muzzle. Not my personal favorite but an amazing, cost-effective tool in a pinch, the nylon muzzle fits firmly around your dog's nose and mouth. When fitted properly, the nylon muzzle allows for some, but not complete, movement of the jaw, mouth, and tongue, but makes eating, drinking, and panting difficult for the dog. Meant to be used for only short intervals (it is recommended this muzzle not be worn by any dog for more than forty minutes at a stretch), the nylon muzzle is a must-have in any dog-handler's toolkit. It will prevent a biting dog from doing damage to himself, other dogs, and certainly people in the short term.
When it comes to teaching your dog to accept the nylon muzzle, because it is much more restrictive to movement than the basket muzzle, reinforcement must be done slowly, carefully, positively, and over time, to ensure the dog does not consider it something to be avoided or clawed off at any opportunity.
So, for what breeds, sizes, and types of dogs are muzzles considered an appropriate tool? All of them. There are no exceptions. Our animal companions endure injury, trauma, and form poor associations just as we do. What's different here is that they have only us to rely on for their protection - even from themselves. As responsible dog owners and lovers, it is up to us to ensure that our dogs, and the people and animals around us, are kept safe and secure.
But What Will People Think?
If you believe that your dog would benefit from wearing a muzzle, but are concerned that the opinion of the people around you (whether they be family, friends, or strangers) will be negative towards you and your dog, ask yourself this question: What is worse? The misunderstanding of my next-door neighbor, or the possible injury my dog might do to another living thing in the right (or wrong) scenario?
When it comes to your pet, safety, not opinion, must be paramount in your decision making. The very last thing you want for your pet is a bite history and a record with your city's animal control, indicating your dog as a dangerous one. Dogs with bite histories can be mandated by law to have to wear a muzzle whenever outside of the home. If the complaints are numerous, your dog may even face euthanasia. Prevention here is key - don't let your dog become another statistic.
All dogs have the propensity to bite. This is, believe it or not, a natural and effective way for a dog to defend himself and has been a necessary behavioral trait for canines for as long as they've been on the planet. Chances are, at some point during your dog's life, he is going to have cause to bite, and the causes are many, including but not limited to: injury ("Hey, you stepped on my foot! Get off, that hurts!", fear ("That dog is mugging me and won't get off!", and excitement ("I caught the squirrel! Check it out!")
If you believe your dog is a danger to yourself or others, and you have ruled out all possible medical causes, get a well-fitted muzzle and hire a behaviorist or trainer. With time, hard work, and the appropriate preventative tools, dogs that have a habituated tendency to bite can live long, safe, and happy lives.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, and Decoding the Dog Park.