There's nothing more wonderful than coming home to an excited and affectionate puppy or dog. No doubt the first thing you want to do is give him/her a great big cuddle or pat as he/she jumps up to win your attention. Ok, so it's cute now but what will happen when your puppy grows into a 30kg Golden Retriever or a 40kg Rottweiler?
It can be very confusing and distressing for dogs when they encounter inconsistency in the way you respond to their offered behaviours. If as a pup your dog got lots of reinforcement in the form of praise and pats for jumping up, it will not understand why you are suddenly reacting differently and getting upset / aggressive or scary when they try it as a bigger adult dog.
How to stop your dog from jumping up
The key to managing jumping up is to avoid reinforcing / rewarding your dog for jumping and instead rewarding it for sitting or at least having “paws on the floors”. Ideally it would be best to get into this habit from day one, but it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!
Specifically what you should do is, whenever your dog jumps on you, immediately turn away, do not look at or speak to your dog. Then as soon as your dog gets down and has all four paws on the floor, reward this with an immediate marker such as a clicker or just a verbal marker such as saying “yes” or “good” and ideally give a food reward of high value. Practice this over and over, be very consistent. Make sure you are on the ball with timing. You need to reinforce a behaviour within 0.5-1 second for your dog to associate it clearly with its actions.
The other important thing to do is teach and practise an alternative behaviour for your dog to do which is incompatible with jumping up at you. Teach your dog to reliably sit on cue when asked. Do this using positive reinforcement, lure your dog to sit down by carrying a treat above it’s nose and dragging it backwards above its head to encourage the dog to look up and lean backwards. As soon as their bottom hits the ground, say your verbal marker and give them a reward. Repeat this many times until they strongly make the connection. This means your dog learns that good things happen when it sits and that this is the most effective way to get your attention - there is no need to jump up.
We call this the “sit means please” behaviour protocol. If your dog learns that by sitting calmly it will gain your attention and have its wants and needs met then this gives your dog control over its social environment. Having these consistent structured interactions means that your dog will not feel the need to jump up at you or try other things in an attempt to provoke you for what it wants. This helps any dog feel more comfortable, confident and less anxious.
friends and family can help prevent jumping up
Everyone in the family needs to participate in preventing jumping up. One rule must be applied for all, and that includes visitors. When you are expecting visitors make sure they understand the process and why it is absolutely necessary to follow your instructions. If you like you can also involve your visitor by providing them with a selection of treats so they too can reinforce good behaviour. Whatever the case, a bottom and all four paws must be on the ground to receive any attention whatsoever.
Other tips for family and visitors:-
- Manage the situation to set your dog up for success.
- Train your dog to go to a mat or crate on cue whenever a visitor arrives.This will avoid an excited exuberant uncontrollable reaction at the front door. Make sure they have an amazing treat or chew to keep them busy.
- Practise calm meeting and greeting by having your dog restrained on a harness or head halter and allowing them to sniff the visitor and reward them for having all four paws on the ground or sitting down.
In general, whenever your dog does something you don’t like, don’t punish them. This will just make them confused and anxious.
Instead live by the motto: “Don’t do that, do this instead!”. Redirect them into doing an incompatible more appropriate behaviour such as coming to you and sitting or going to lie on their bed. Ensure you give them fabulous rewards when they comply.
Consistency is the key, people often give mixed messages to dogs. Make sure you never inadvertently or deliberately reward them for the things you don’t want to encourage, instead generously praise and reward the good stuff!
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