Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump
If he’s a small dog, you may not be too concerned. But if your dog is pushing 100 lbs., and he jumps up to say hello and to score a lick on your face, it might not be so cute anymore. Don’t fret, though. Your dog is normal, and you can break him of this habit.
Before you try to correct the behavior, it’s best to understand why he is jumping. Despite what some may think, dogs don’t just jump up out of nowhere and for no reason. Jumping up is normal behavior for a dog. If you ever have the chance to watch a litter of puppies interacting, you’ll notice that they jump all over each other. These are instinctual ways to play and to learn how to assert dominance over one another. Another reason your dog may be jumping is that he has been rewarded at one time or another for jumping up to say hello. If your friends have petted and loved Fido for jumping up, Fido thinks he did something good. And then he wants more petting and love from everyone!
You can try to determine why your dog is jumping. Is he jumping up on guests because he is excited and wants to play? Is he jumping up to let them know that he is the ruler of the house? Pay close attention to whether or not you are encouraging the behavior. Some people let their dogs jump up when they feel like it. You might like to get hugs from Fido when you come home, but when he jumps up on a child, he can easily knock them over. Your dog doesn’t know how to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable jumping (unless you teach your dog to “jump” on command). As with most training techniques, consistency is key to correcting the behavior.
What NOT to Do
Yelling out phrases like “NO” or “GET DOWN” when your dog jumps up may not make sense to Fido, especially if “down” means to lie down (as in most training classes). Yelling and punishing your dog with anger and frustration can actually raise your dog’s excitement level even more.
What to Do
In many professional training classes, the first tool used is the “body block.” This tool is an introductory step to other techniques you can try. When Fido jumps on you, block him with your body by twisting sideways away from him so his paws have nothing to lean on, and he’ll end up back on all fours. Make sure that all visitors follow this same routine. Do not let him get his paws on them!
If he jumps up too quickly, and you are unable to turn away from him, just turn and walk away, or, have your guest walk away. If you push him away or get excited/frustrated, he may think, “Yay, they’re playing with me!” Just ignore him. You don’t need to say anything.
After Fido has all fours on the ground, tell him to “sit.” When he sits, immediately reward him with lots of love and petting. You can squat down to his level and let him lick your face. Fido will soon learn that sitting means attention and affection.
In addition to teaching your dog to “sit” for affection, many trainers suggest other alternatives to jumping. There are many ways to implement positive reinforcement to eliminate jumping.
Remain calm and confident. Training your dog will prove to be a much more pleasant experience, and far more effective, if you refrain from feeling frustrated and angry.
For example, when you first come, do not get crazy over seeing Fido. Walk in calmly and ignore him for a few moments. This will teach him that when you or anyone enters the house, it does not equal excitement (and jumping). Make him sit, and when he does, calmly say hello and pet him. This encourages the sitting behavior and lets him know that greetings are at this level, and not by jumping up to reach a person’s level.
Another useful tool is the “off” command. You can tell your dog “off” when he jumps up on the counter, the couch, and so on. You can include this command while blocking him with your body and turning away from him. Just say it once in a firm but calm tone. As soon as he obeys this command and sits, reward him with lots of praise or with a treat. Make sure that everyone entering your house practices the same commands that you do, in order to ensure consistency.
Ding dong! The doorbell rings, and Fido comes running. He is excited and his tail is wagging. Now imagine, as soon as you open the door, you hold out a treat at your dog’s eye level. Would Fido still jump? Doubtful. He would probably be busy enjoying his yummy snack. If you would like to practice this training tool, keep a treat in your hand, with your hand at your side all the way down to Fido’s level. At first, let him take the treat right away. Once he gets the hang of it and stops jumping up to greet people (because now the good stuff is at his level), you can begin closing your fist so that he cannot get the treat. Eventually, he will learn to sit down or back away because he cannot get it out of your hand. After he sits, immediately reward him with the treat and praise him.
Remember to be consistent and to allow several weeks to decide if his behavior is improving. A jumping dog can be scary for children and for people who may be fearful of dogs. You can be an advocate for dogs by showing everyone how well trained and lovable they can be!
Every dog is unique, and with all training techniques, a dog may require more or less training than his peers. If several weeks of training fail to teach Fido to keep four-on-the floor, consult a professional trainer.
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