Down Spot! Down Princess! Down Rover! Down Peaches! ... Down Comet! Down Cupid! Down Donder and Blitzen! I've heard that command many times, from many desperate dog owners, directed at many determined dogs. The jumping dog is a universal problem, but a better understanding of what's motivating the behavior can go a long way toward addressing it.
Also, this behavior can be positively reinforced during greeting times, when a jumping dog is met by an excited owner who immediately praises, feeds, walks and/or plays with their pet after getting "jumped," so to speak. Jumping becomes part of this routine. It is rewarded and reinforced.
A second reason for jumping, which is less commonly the case, is that they may be trying to establish dominance. Dogs jump up on each other through what's known as "teeing off." In particular, they rest their head or paw (or both paws) on the shoulder of a dog they want to dominate and exert a bit of downward pressure. Because we walk on two legs, we're more difficult to tee off on, but the motivation is the same. The dog may be trying to express dominant status. In these cases, they often
jump up once and more or less lean on you.
It's important to identify this behavior by seeing it in the broader context of your relationship. First, realize that a disobedient dog isn't necessarily a dumb one. If they don't listen to you, and push and pull you around, they may have decided not to recognize you as their superior in the pack hierarchy (while still thinking the world of you as a companion!). Whether it's male or female, a dog that consistently jumps on you may be exhibiting one of many behaviors of the signs of Alpha dog. (Alpha dog behavior is something we tackle in the Secrets to Dog Training Bonus book, "Secrets to Becoming the Alpha Dog," and there's a full DVD devoted to the topic in our "Dog Training DVD Series").
If you suspect that the jumping is in fact an expression of dominance, then it is likely that your training will need to involve heavier corrections. This just means you might need to do more than simply ignore the dog while jumping and train them to Sit and Settle before getting your attention. For instance, water squirting, sharp "growling," or even forcing the dog down and holding them down until they are still are all corrections that will short circuit this behavior.
Some dog owners don't mind when their dog jumps up to greet them - it is a most a dramatic and flattering hello to say the least. And the last thing we want to do is convince our pets that they have no reason to be excited to see us. We don't want to take the spring out of their step, so to speak.
But when the same dog jumps up on others, such as other family members or friends, it can be awkward and even dangerous. A dog jumping up on strangers is always a bad look. The good news is a well-trained dog can learn to jump up only when "invited" to do so by its owner. This is fine for playtime for instance. But let's learn the rules before we break them.
During greetings, always try to prevent your dog from jumping up in the first place. Put your hand (or both hands) out in front of you and hold still. A trained dog will be able to respond to this gesture reasonably quickly with repetitions. As with any training technique, do not introduce any verbal commands UNTIL the correct behavior has been demonstrated. Only when your dog gets down on his own accord should you start using the "down" command to accompany the behavior. This is how they learn the command, by having the right action to associate it with.
For most, this type of prevention does not work right away, especially for puppies that lack enough formal training. You'll have to know how to react when your dog starts jumping up. Mostly, this involves knowing what NOT to do. For example, when you have a problem jumper, don't be over-enthusiastic during your greetings. This obviously reinforces the behavior. And do not forcefully push the dog away from you. They interpret this as a form of playful engagement. The result: dogs always push back. It's instinctive. The same principle is the reason for the majority of cases where dogs pull on leashes: they are encouraged by the force exerted on them.
Turn your back and ignore the dog. And calmly ask him to sit. When he has calmed down, and ideally responded to the sit command, then you can turn and greet the dog. If he starts jumping again, repeat the process. Be patient, this is where you get to send a message mainly through your body language, and the dog will surely take several trials to receive it. Often it is recommended that you stick your knee up and put the dog off balance, which is almost a reflex reaction. Turning your back and stonewalling is better if you can manage.
One of the absolute best suggestions I give is to always greet a calm dog "at its level." Squat or kneel down, and open your palms open toward the dog. This is a non-threatening posture that dogs very quickly associate will impending praise. We all like when others try to meet us on our level. Dogs are no different in this respect. But make sure they earn it first!
Avoidance is your best bet when introducing new people into your house. If you have established your position as the dominant member of your pack, then your dog should never be allowed to position himself in front of you when the front door opens. It's time for you to become the Alpha Dog if that's the case, which also means more training for you. It is good practice to give a calm and firm "stay Down" warning in advance just before you open the door for a visitor or let them into the house. Your dog will be responding to your sense of composure and assertiveness, and start to truly believe that there is no real reason to freak out every time the door opens.
That concludes the first installment of your Secrets to Dog Training 6 Day Course. Join me next time when I answer a question that has plagued dog owners since the beginning of time:
"Why is My Dog Ignoring My Commands?"
Secrets to Dog Training
I've been a professional dog trainer for well over 20 years, and in that time I've helped thousands of dog owners just like you to get the friendly, well behaved, slipper fetching, best pal they always wanted.
But it didn't start out that way. I've always loved dogs, some things never change. But when I first started my professional dog training career I relied on the so-called 'best practices' when it came to dog behavior training. It was only when I heard people tell me over and over again that they just weren't seeing results that I started to question the old accepted wisdom. So I started a journey, a quest to search out the best, most effective, techniques, tips, and tricks that really work.
And that's how I came up with Secrets to Dog Training. Year after year I found new techniques that achieved the results I wanted. Eventually I had a whole book worth of great resources: Secrets to Dog training...
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