This is the number one complaint we get from pet dog owners. Your dog didn’t learn to do this in one day, it's been practiced for their whole life! And unfortunately, new habits take time and consistency to replace the old. . The key to all dog training is CONSISTENCY. Unfortunately, humans are not very consistent….that's why diets and resolutions are so hard to keep! But if you want your dog to understand what you’re asking for, you must be black and white (pun intended for my border collie readers) The unwanted behavior must never be reinforced if we want it to extinguish. First of all, we need to STOP TEACHING DOGS TO JUMP ON US Yep…we (unintentionally) reinforce this behavior all the time.
It begins when they are still with their litter…humans approach the pen and the adorable puppies are on their hind legs, reaching toward the sky, and what do we do? We bend down and pick them up!! We lift the sweet furry creature and snuggle them into our chest with kisses and breathe in the puppy breath! And what did that puppy just learn? "Jumping gets me out of this pen and more importantly, closer to the human’s face" (where the sounds and smells are coming from our mouth).
And so it continues....
We take the puppy home, and the pup will often put their feet on our leg as they look up at us, we've all seen this, and we've all done this....being the lazy humans that we are, we then reach down with our hand, and PET the dog. BOOM! More reinforcement... We may even continue to pick them up for many months, even with their feet on us…because they’re SO CUTE AND SNUGGLY!! This is especially true for small breeds...this reinforcement could be happening for YEARS! Visitors begin to greet your puppy, and again, the puppy jumps up with wiggly excitement, and the visitor says, “No worries! I love dogs!!” and they continue to reward that behavior. Now it is super generalized so the dog thinks, "OH! So jumping works on everyone! This is the ticket to getting their attention!" Suddenly, the pup is 6 months old…much bigger, and the now the claws kinda hurt. We are now shouting “GET DOWN! GET OFF! STOP IT! NO! NO! NO!” And the dog thinks, “But we’ve done this all my life…I have not changed…YOU have.”
THINGS YOU ARE DOING THAT IS KEEPING THE JUMPING STRONG: Understand that when you make eye contact with your dog, you just reinforced their behavior. You gave attention…and that is exactly what they wanted. It worked. When you swat at them and push them off of you – yep, you reinforced the behavior again. That is STILL ATTENTION. You didn’t give them a cookie, but you gave the behavior attention and that’s what they wanted. Just like the 4th grade class clown…even bad attention is better than none 😉 Also, if you consider the style in which dogs play together, they often body slam, nip, push, and shove one another. Some dogs may even take your shoving for a form of play and hence rev them up even more! Shouting “NO! GET DOWN!” is not helpful if your dog is already aroused and in the middle of the unwanted behavior. And also, that's still giving the behavior attention. And lastly, the dreaded behavior chain. You know the scene.... * The dog jumps up * You say "Buffy, SIT" * Then you give Buffy a cookie for the sit. Your dog just learned: jump on human, sit, eat a treat Once they’ve jumped up, you’ve lost the opportunity to reinforce your preferred behavior.
WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR DOG’S JUMPING: Meet them on the ground Bend over or stoop down and greet your dog BEFORE they leap to greet you. You know the jump is coming…so be ready with your plan before it happens. Provide a ton of pets and lovin until the dog has settled a bit. Ask for an incompatible behavior Ask your dog to do something that is incompatible with jumping Cue it BEFORE they reach you so that they have time to compute what you’ve said, and then reward them for that behavior. If your dog is SUPER excitable or anxious, then a sit may be too much for them at first. Try teaching them a targeting behavior like a nose touch to your hand or just reward them for four on the floor.
For door greetings, teach your dog to bring their toy to the visitor.
If they are focused on a task, they are less likely to perform the mindless excitable jumping. I have found this to be especially successful for breeds like labs and goldens. They love having something in their mouth and it seems to stop them from leaping up.
If they are eating, they aren't jumping! For greetings on the street, try feeding your dog some treats while the greeting is progress. Be involved in the greeting instead of letting your dog move ahead and wing it on their own. It will provide some distraction so that they can tolerate the touching without going over the top (and onto the person). Excitable voices and touching can cause even the most well behaved dogs lose their manners. In time, you can fade the treats into just petting if your dog finds that rewarding. The point here is that you are preventing them from PRACTICING the wrong behavior. Dogs get really good at whatever they practice. These are just a sampling of the ways to reduce jumping behaviors. You should also plan to manage your dog with a leash (yes even indoors) or put him/her behind a gate when visitors arrive to make sure they aren't practicing the jumping if you are not able to practice training the new behavior at that moment. Remember that the jumping serves a function or a purpose to the dog, and that behavior is meeting a need. Our solution must also meet that same need, but in a more acceptable way for humans.
To Recap: if the dog is seeking attention from us, we need to show them that they can: 1) Get our attention in another way BEFORE they resort to jumping 2) The jumping will no longer result in ANY attention One more tidbit: If you just adopted a rescue dog, you can (and absolutely should) start over as if that dog is a puppy! You can teach them that jumping no longer works, even if it did in their previous life/home. Just start fresh and "be consistent" ;-)
Keep the faith! This is one of those things that takes time and patience, but if you stay the
course, it will be well worth the time spent!