One of the most common problem behaviors I hear from my clients is jumping. A jumping dog can be embarrassing when guest are over and a dangerous behavior when kids are involved. Although this can be a problem for dogs of all ages, this is a common problem for small breed dogs and young large breeds. Jumping is not a natural dog behavior, so why do they do this? Jumping is a learned behavior that most owners don’t realize was taught by them. As humans it is very natural for us to be drawn and attracted to large round heads of puppies, large puppy eyes, and of course that puppy smell. We also like to show love and nurture the puppy by picking it up and holding the puppy close to our faces. As we do this, the puppy is getting familiar with our scent. The puppy is enjoying the smell of your skin, hair, and breath. Plus, the puppy is enjoying the warmth from our body, the touch from our hands, and all the attention. This is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is what you give when you want to increase the possibility of the behavior to repeat. We have a puppy enjoying the closeness to its owner and receiving positive reinforcement. As you notice the puppy is getting older (and much bigger for the large breeds) that “puppy attention” dies down but the dog has learned the positive effects of being close to people. Not being aware of its own growth your dog wants to get close to you and to do that, he starts jumping.
So how do we stop the jumping? Make sure NO ONE gives your dog attention for jumping. Most people like to hold a jumping dog down or pet the dog thinking it will calm the dog. The dog will take any kind of physical contact as a reward, along with eye contact and spoken words which will make the behavior stronger. Turn your back, look at the ceiling till all four paws are on the floor, then give lots of praise and attention.
If you do not like your dog’s behavior, change it for an alternative behavior. A good replacement for jumping is sitting. Ask your dog to sit, then lower yourself to the dog’s level for its praise and reward. Your dog will learn there is no need to jump for your attention. He simply needs to sit.
To teach sit, first have your dog in a standing position. Hold the treat between your thumb and index finger keeping your hand open with palm facing up. Hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose. Slowly lift the treat above your dog’s head so your dog starts to look up. This should cause your dog to sit. Once the dog is in a full sit position say “Good” then “OK” to release. Another way is to capture the behavior at home. Always keep treats available. When you see your dog sit, reward and give praise. This will give the dog the idea that he or she is training you. When he or she sits, you give treats. There are different ways to use the capture technique. Use a room that will be boring to your dog, this will be a room like a bathroom or a laundry room. Take a chair with you (this could take some time in the beginning) and just wait. The dog will get bored and eventually sit. When that happens say “Good” and give reward. DO NOT USE THE WORD “SIT” UNLESS YOU ARE 100% POSSITIVE YOUR DOG WILL SIT. Repeating “sit sit sit” over again can make the word meaningless to the dog. Reward the dog first for its sits, and the dog will learn that sitting gets him a reward. The behavior then will increase. When this happens, you can start to apply the cue to the behavior.
The key to training is patients and timing. Be aware of what you are rewarding. Food, treats, touch, speaking and eye contact are all rewards to your dog. Reward all wanted behaviors and do not reward unwanted behaviors.
I am an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and owner of Furry Tail Dog Training.
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