Coddled Creatures Pet Sitting LLC ®

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How to Stop a Jumping Dog

Collaboratively written by Heidi Wise, President and Marsha Dominguez, Dog Trainer

At Coddled Creatures we use only humane positive reinforcement behavior modification methods. We don't train dogs to listen to their owners out of fear of punishment and we don't use aversion techniques as we are not comfortable with them. We use what is called operant conditioning. This principle is based on, B.F Skinners, a psychologist's, research that proved that both a dog (and humans too!) are more likely to perform a desired behavior again, if they are rewarded for performing it, rather than punished for not doing the behavior. Dogs need a fair and consistent leader. They need to be taught what is expected. They really don't know what you want. By showing them what is expected and then reinforcing them for that behavior, you will get the desired behavior.

Training takes time and commitment. Behavior modification does not happen overnight, but if you make the commitment and put in the time you will reap the rewards, and respect from your peers, of having a well trained, well behaved and well adjusted dog.

Many dogs get excited when seeing a new person and they jump up on that person as a form of exuberant greeting. While the sentiment might be laudable, the fact is that a jumping dog can cause a great deal of harm, especially to older people or to very young children. A dog with dirty paws is seldom welcomed by anyone for jumping on them.

The problem is, while the dog is jumping up, and making a pest of itself, the people may even pet the dog as they are telling it to stop the behavior. In other words most owners encourage their dog to jump up on people. While they think they are telling the dog to stop jumping, what they are actually telling their dog is “The more you jump the more rewards you’ll get in the form of attention or petting!” In this case you are giving the dog a confusing cue, you are telling the dog to PLEASE continue jumping on people. Unless that’s what you want to be telling your dog, it’s obvious that you are going to have to change your behavior if you want your dog to change its behavior.

The easiest way to change the behavior of a jumping dog is to remove all rewards for jumping. The easiest way to do that is to encourage everyone to turn their back the moment the dog begins to jump. Everyone needs to spin around, fold their arms, make no eye contact and say nothing until the dog relaxes. Usually people want to fuss over the dogs as soon as they walk in. If you try to ignore the dog until it calms down, and then call him to you, you are showing the dog that you are the leader. When the dog settles, then give it a SIT cue. If the dog sits reward it with attention or even a treat. If it jumps everyone should immediately turn their back once again. There is no need to yell at the dog for jumping, knee the dog in the chest or spray them in the mouth with bitter sprays. These techniques are outdated. If, for instance, yelling worked then the problem would have been solved long ago. The other methods may work, but then you are training your dog to listen to you out of fear, rather then respect. The trick is to be consistent. Everyone must turn away every time the dog jumps. There should be no eye contact and no word should be spoken until the dog settles. Once the dog settles then it may be praised. Another way to look at it is to think: What do I want my dog TO DO rather than what do I want my dog to NOT do. For example, four feet on the ground. Reinforce your dog for 4 feet on the ground. Also don't make such a big deal of arrivals and departures (this also helps with separation anxiety)as this will help alot with extinguishing jumping.

By removing all rewards for jumping and replacing the rewards with no attention, the dog should learn fairly quickly that jumping will result in a “negative” reaction and – as long as the “negative” reaction the dog receives for jumping is consistent – the dog’s behavior will be modified in a remarkably short time and no harsh methods have been applied!

One other method that helps to extinguish jumping, especially with large dogs, is to throw food on the ground. Dogs gravitate to the place of reinforcement. If every time you greet your dog, you throw a few pieces of food on the ground, the dog will automatically put his nose to the ground. It becomes habit.

When you think about it just makes so much sense!