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.
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.