Monday , 11 December 2017

Ask A Trainer: My dog jumps on people – can you help?

Hi, my name is Amy, and I have a darling Husky named Diamond that I adopted two years ago.  She is 5 years old, and is a complete angel!  She knows her ‘sit, stay and come’ very well, but she has just one problem that I can’t seem to get rid of.  Whenever she greets people, she almost always jumps on them.  I don’t really mind that much, but I have a young niece who comes to visit, and I’m scared that Diamond may actually hurt her, (even though I’m sure she would never do that intentionally.)  I’ve tried scolding her, I’ve tried pushing her off, but nothing seems to work!  Can you please help me?

Hello there Amy!  Thanks for writing in with a great question!  Believe me, you aren’t the only dog owner who faces this problem.  Many of my clients deal with the same issue, so thank you for bringing it up!  We’ve all heard of, and have probably even met the dogs who jump up excitedly onto people when greeting them.  They just seem so happy and excited to see us, that the only way they can express themselves is to jump all over us, smothering us with sweet, slobbery kisses!  And while a tiny 4 pound miniature poodle who jumps on us may seem cute, it’s a whole other story when it comes to a large dog who may way over 60 pounds.  While it is good manners to not jump up on people when greeting, it can also pose a danger, which you mentioned in regards to your niece.   So curbing a dogs jumping is great in terms of doggy manners, but it also improves the all around safety of everyone when it comes to greeting.

If you watch how dogs meet other dogs, you’ll notice that they never do so by jumping up all over them.  If they try to, the other dog will usually let the jumping dog know that that is not the way to politely greet other dogs.  Most dogs will approach each other, and then start to sniff each other by way of greeting.  This is the polite way for dogs to greet other dogs.  And this is something that we can take a lesson from.

While it is by no means planned out, or the goal, we, as dog owners sometimes inadvertently teach our dogs to do the things that we really don’t want them doing.  When we come home after a long days work, and we can’t wait to see our dog, and to get those slobbery unconditional kisses,  we often encourage the dog to get excited by calling to them as soon as we get in the door.  Maybe we use a high pitched, excited voice when calling them as well:  you know, that baby talk we all use when we’re loving our dogs.  The thing that we need to keep in mind though, is that our dogs know that we’re coming home long before we open the front door, and announce that we are home.  They know the sound of our cars from a block away, and they know the sound of our footsteps in the hallway before we reach the door.  So most dogs usually start getting a little excited to see us before we’ve even opened the door!

Keeping the excitement levels down when coming home or greeting the dog, is a wonderful way to help her learn how to have impulse control.  It is much harder to teach an over excited dog, than it is to teach one who is relaxed and paying attention to you.  Sometimes this might even mean ignoring the dog for at least 5 minutes when entering the house.  This means not calling her to you, not announcing that you are home, and not petting her.  Just go about your normal routine of taking off your coat and shoes, putting the mail on the counter, and settling in.

We have to remember though, that for a dog, jumping is a very self rewarding behavior.  It almost always gets her what she wants.  And what most dogs want, above almost everything else, are our love, affection and attention!  And even though you’ve scolded her, and tried pushing her off, she is still getting some form of attention from you in the process.  Maybe not the attention you’d like to give to her, but for her, negative attention still represents attention.  So, what we need to teach Diamond is that jumping up on people will not get her what she wants.  (The attention.)  It is also much easier to teach a dog what you want her to do, rather than to teach her what you don’t want her to do.  This is where an appropriate alternate behavior comes into play.  While we don’t want her jumping, we’ll be giving her an accepted alternate behavior to perform, that we want, and that will get rewarded.

Diamonds’ new motto should be ‘Four On The Floor’, meaning that she will only get greeted once all of her four paws are on the floor.  Your goal will be to remove what Diamond is trying to get when she’s jumping up.  (Attention.)  To do so, you will simply turn around.  You’ll cross your arms, and you will not look at her.  You don’t have to tell her ‘no’ when you turn.  Just turn around, presenting your back to her.  She may try to jump up again.  If she does, turn around again, without saying a word.  At this point, she will probably try to figure out what’s wrong, and she may walk around to the front of you.  She may try jumping again, but she will most probably sit instead, trying to figure out what it is that you want from her.  If she’s sitting, this is the time to reward her.  You can tell her ‘good sit” before you reward her as well. You don’t need a treat to do this either, your attention is reward enough for her, as this is what she wanted in the first place!

Remember the new motto ‘Four On The Floor’, making sure to practice this each time you, or guest comes in to greet her.  If you’re constant, then it shouldn’t take Diamond long to learn that sitting or standing will get her the attention that she craves so much from you!

Good luck and happy training!

Meira Frankl

Perfect Pet Training


To ask Meira a question, please contact us – and your e-mail may be posted here!

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