Clicking With Canines

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Does Your Dog Jump?

My dog JUMPS!  What is wrong with my dog and how do I stop it?  This is one of the most frequent questions of all dog owners.  Just about everyone owning a dog has had a jumping problem at one time or another.


First, congratulations!  You have a NORMAL dog.  Nearly all dogs jump up to greet their human pack members.  This is completely normal behavior for dogs.  They are saying:  “Welcome home!  How are you?  I haven’t seen you all day!  Gee, I’ve missed you!!!” 


Anyone with multiple dogs will notice that their dogs lick each other’s muzzles when they greet each other.  This most frequently happens when one of the dogs has been away from the others.  You may notice that dogs do not hug each other upon greeting, nor do they shake paws, do high “fours”, or any other type of greetings that we humans do.  They lick the muzzles of dogs they know and investigate the rear ends of dogs they don’t know!


Dogs try their best to greet us in the only way they know how:  they jump up to lick our faces (muzzles to them).  It is not our dog’s fault that our muzzles are 5 – 6 feet off the ground!  You can imagine the frustration they must experience when, as they are jumping up to say hello, they are met with scolding, pushing, and loud shouts of “NO” or “DOWN” (words they have no idea the meaning of). Or worse, some people knee their dogs in the chest or step on their hind toes.  These are some of the “old-fashioned”, and abusive, methods of dealing with this issue.


The problem with using these methods is that they actually reinforce the dog for jumping up and therefore the behavior not only continues, but usually gets worse.  From the dog’s point of view, it is trying to get your attention and say HELLO!  So anything you do, even just looking at your dog, makes the dog successful.  Even saying “NO” and “DOWN” in a stern voice, or pushing the dog down, is still giving the dog what it is trying to get:  ATTENTION!  It is very “negative” attention, but attention nonetheless, and the behavior will continue.


What to do:  Totally refrain from giving any attention to your dog until your dog offers an alternate behavior, like SIT.  When you approach your dog, or your dog is approaching you, be prepared to anticipate the jump and watch your dog’s front paws.  The instant you see your dog beginning a jump, turn around immediately with your back to your dog, fold your arms and look at the ceiling.  No need to say anything.  Keep this up until your dog sits.  If your dog comes around to your front side, simply keep turning away.  Most dogs won’t jump unless you are facing them (occasionally some will however).


Now WAIT!  As soon as your dog backs away, or better yet, sits down (at first they will be very confused because you are changing the greeting rules),  go to your dog bending or squatting down to the dog’s level and lavish lots of praise.  A treat here wouldn’t be a bad idea either.


For this to work you must be consistent, and this includes getting everyone else in the family “pack” to use the same technique.  If some members of the family allow the dog to jump and some don’t, it will be very confusing to the dog and it will take a very long time for the dog to figure out what is expected of him.  You also have to work with visitors to the home and advise them what they should do before giving your dog attention.


Also, be aware that you may see the behavior get worse right before it starts to get better.  This is especially true for dogs that have been doing this for some time.  Initially, they simply try harder, until they finally realize that it just “ain’t” working anymore and then try something else, like sitting.


For real committed jumpers, you can go to the next step by simply leaving the room.  Dog jumps, you leave and close the door.  Stay away for about 30-45 seconds and return.  If he jumps, repeat.  When you return, act as if you’ve been gone a week and really praise (you want to show what a huge difference there is when you are present and when you are not).  Usually by the third or fourth time, even the most motivated jumper will begin to get the “picture” that their jumping causes you to leave the room.  You will see them start to modify their behavior to keep you with them.  Anything a dog is able to figure out on its own, the dog will fully understand, and will retain much longer, even for life.  Much like us in this regard.


I also recommend the “leaving the room” technique for any other behaviors that you consider “out of line” such as puppy nipping or rough play.  You can choose a word such as “oops” or “sorry” that can be a signal to all other members of the family that your dog has done something it shouldn’t (like nipping), and when anyone in the room with the dog hears the word it means EVERYONE present gets up and leaves the room together.  This will have a huge effect on your dog and they will learn to modify their own behavior.  Again, consistency is the key, but usually within 3-5 instances, the dog has a “light bulb” moment and realizes what is making his family “pack” leave him.


Another technique that can be successful, if your dog already knows an alternate behavior, like “sit” for instance, is giving the cue (word) for “sit” before your dog jumps up.  In order for this to work however, “sit” must be a solid behavior that your dog does immediately, without hesitation and in all circumstances.  If he doesn’t, more work first needs to be done to teach a “sit” that you dog does every time you say the word no matter the circumstances.  Do not use this technique if your dog does not respond immediately and at all times to the “sit” cue.


You could also try to re-direct your dog by tossing a favorite toy when you enter the house or otherwise approach your dog.  After he gets the toy, then you greet him.  Of course, you have to have the toy with you each time you greet your dog.  Something that is usually difficult to remember to do.


Keep in mind that, like us, each dog is an individual and each learns at a different rate.  Certain techniques work better with some dogs and other techniques work better with other dogs.  The most important thing, however, is to be sure that any technique utilized does not diminish the bond you want to have with your dog.  Allow your dog to make choices and always reward the choice you want your dog to make.

Steve Benjamin, KPA CTP
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Karen Pryor Academy Faculty Member
P.O. Box 5715
Endicott, New York 13763