Living in Harmony with your Dog
Training Tips Series – Resolving Common Behavior Problems Post #1
Teaching Your Jumping Dog to Keep all 4 Paws on the Floor.
We all love knowing that our dogs are excited to see us, so sometimes jumping is a behavior that we inadvertently reinforce and reward. Can you honestly say you’ve never hugged your dog when he jumped up on you? We get it! However, when little puppers grow into much larger puppers, jumping can be problematic and sometimes even dangerous. If you’ve struggled to welcome company into your home without your pup clobbering them, perhaps these tips will help resolve your problem.
Ignore Crazy, Reward Calm
Heed these words: Successful behaviors will persist as long as you reward them. What does this mean? Jumping is an attention-seeking behavior. Dogs achieve success when they jump and you give them attention. Any acknowledgment on your part is a reward, whether it’s a hug or eye contact or a “hello!”. Sometimes even yelling at your dog can be considered successful in the dog’s mind, because you are giving them the attention they seek. Pushing or kneeing your dog can be like a game for some breeds, again rewarding the behavior. Instead, try this:
When you enter your home and your dog jumps on you, go completely still and disconnect from your dog. Disconnecting means avoiding eye contact, praise, and touching. Make yourself uninteresting. Do not move. Do not acknowledge your dog until he or she calms down. When your dog’s energy level calms and 4 paws are solidly on the floor – praise, praise, praise.
Always reward good behavior.
Sometimes your dog’s energy level will escalate again once you praise, so be prepared to repeat the process. Dogs are generally quick to catch on to what gets them attention. Reward them for having 4 paws on the floor. Eventually, they’ll get it.
This method will work, but only with patience and practice. You’ll have to be prepared to stand still for longer than you’d like and make the practice consistent. Hey – you could always get out your phone and answer an email you need to respond to (why not use your time wisely, right?). Your dog might jump on you for a while. But, eventually, you’ll teach the dog that he or she will only receive praise, attention, and treats when all 4 paws are on the floor and the energy level is calm. In addition, you’ll need to have ALL of your house guests and family members practice this as well. If you are working on teaching your dog not to jump, no one should be hugging the dog. Ignore crazy, reward calm.
The “Off” Cue – A useful cue for jumping and more
Sometimes jumping is dangerous, and you need an alternative to the ignoring method. Some dogs LAUNCH. You know what we’re talking about. In these cases, you may need to teach the “Off” cue.
Step 1 – Teaching your dog the “Off” cue: “Off” is pretty simple. Make sure you don’t use the term “down” if that is your dog’s cue to lay down, as that will only confuse the situation. To teach your dog the “Off” cue, we recommend starting with teaching your dog to get down off the couch or somewhere they like to jump up on. Simply say “Off” and cue your dog to jump down by luring him off with a high-value reward. As soon as ALL 4 PAWS TOUCH THE FLOOR, immediately praise and reward your dog. What you are doing is teaching your dog that 4 PAWS ON THE FLOOR means “Off”. Once your dog understands the “Off” cue in an easy and calm situation, he will be more likely to understand the cue in a higher intensity jumping situation. By the way, teaching your dog to jump off the couch is not punishing him. Dogs love mental stimulation and learning. To make it fun, you can teach your dog “Up” onto the couch, bed, or wherever you allow your dog (even an outdoor spot like a bench), then “Off”. Your dog will get some exercise jumping up and off the couch over and over – make it a game!
Step 2 – Using the “Off” cue to extinguish jumping: When your dog jumps up and towards you, say “OFF” and quickly back away so that he misses his mark and hits the floor. Once he hits the floor with ALL 4 PAWS, praise and reward your dog IMMEDIATELY. You can even throw a small handful of treats to the ground to keep your excited pup interested and give him time to calm down a bit. This might mean you need a pocketful of treats when you enter your home, but your pockets are washable and the results will be well worth it.
All of our training tips are guided by our love and respect for all dogs and our desire to help dog parents create harmony in their households. Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement and repetition. Practice makes perfect. Praise, Praise, Praise your good dog. You got this!
John Barrile and Shannon Morrow of Surf Sitters Pet Care and Dog Walking are both certified dog trainers who have years of experience working with dogs of all sizes, ages, energy levels, and abilities. They love sharing their knowledge and helping Topsail areas pet parents create harmony and great relationships with the canines in their homes.