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Jump! Don't jump!

Jumping dog

Your dog is jumping up on people? Your dog is jumping over the fence? Let’s fix that!

The vast majority of problem behaviours with our dogs are worth it, for our dogs. Confused? Read on:

In order for a bad habit like jumping to start two criteria have first to be met:

1) There must be something attractive enough about getting up there in the first place 2) There must have been something beneficial about having been up there to want to go back

The act of jumping itself is a means to an end and not really the issue, it’s the motivation to do it and the payoff of being up there. Let us look at why our dogs might be motivated to get up in our faces and rewarded for being there:

1) We invite them up when they are pups, this is tapping into an innate puppy behaviour from which our dog learns to adapt that inborn skill to their new environment, your home. 2) When we are playing with our dogs, even feeding them, we hold on to the interesting article too long, compared to our dogs capacity and we create a pushy habit. 3) We shriek in excited tones when interacting with our dogs, much like the YouTube trainers recommend, that surely creates an abundance of excitement and a lasting memory. 4) We teach our dogs to jump and they transfer their skill set to other situations. 5) We allow them to jump sometimes, but not all the time. 6) Our dogs crave our attention.

These are just some of the examples and the list does go on, but these are the ones I find most often. Notice the common denominator in all these 6 points? W-E. Our dogs simply reflect their environmental standards within which they live and if we are providing a lifestyle that promotes – advertently or not – “bad” behaviours then we will also be forced to suffer them.

Before we talk about a cure, let us look at prevention by addressing each of the 6 points above :

1) Stop carrying your pup, and allow them to grow beyond a puppy. Particularly at times when you are greeting your dog, picking them up creates a routine which your dog will eventually re-create, with everyone. 2) Create an event which sets your dog up to succeed. If your dog cannot sit still for 30s, don’t make them wait for 40s and expect them to behave. 3) There really is little need to sound like a mouse. Sound like yourself and be genuine, your dog will thank you for it. Sounding like a wounded mouse can elicit your dogs curiosity or worse prey mode. This can lead to some conflict in the house. 4) Don’t teach your dogs to jump in the first place. Most pet dogs do not dock dive, or climb a palisade. 5) If you do not want your dog to jump, do not allow it, ever. If you continue to engage with them whilst they are jumping they will want to keep jumping. If you continue to eliminate the jumping they will stop. 6) If you provide your dog with enough social engagement – between you and them – your dog will be able to control their enthusiasm. If you keep your dog away from you and only engage with them 5mins per day, expect the relationship to suffer. In this instance you will be forced to suffer the overly enthusiastic greeting of a dog that misses you.

We can see then, that providing a healthy, balanced and socially adequate environment will allow our dog to specialise to our home and the expectations we have within it.

What about my already jumping dog? Well while there are many ways that lead to Rome I will give you two very simple ways, one slower way, useful for the soft dogs and one fast way, useful for the more stubborn dog and I will also assume that you are alone.

Keep in mind that if your dog is jumping they are motivated by what is up there to get and rewarded by the interaction when they are up there. We need to create a scenario whereby the motivation to get up there is outweighed by the motivation to stay down here and we also need to keep in mind that we need to provide a competitive reinforcer that will keep our dog wanting to be down here rather than up there.

For most pups and soft dogs teaching a sit is sufficient. Teach your dog to sit and when they are reliable you can start to add time as a component to the sit. Whilst your dog is going through the motions of sitting for your duration you will need to provide something that motivates your dog to stay in that position. Food works quite fine. Pick something your dog likes and aim for a drooling dog. The more dribble the better!

For a more committed dog teaching a sit may not be enough. In some instances, for example when very small, elderly or infirmed family members are affected you will need faster results. In that case we will move our jumper whilst they are in the air to reinforce the notion that being on the ground is better than being up in the air. First thoughts are to push your dog down, this often will make them want to get up even more. So rather than push down, push up. You will find that as you walk through the door your dog will jump up. When they are up, place your knee under their prosternum and lift slightly. This will bring the dog up when they expect to go down and they will suddenly change their emotional state from wanting to go up, to wanting to go down.

Alternatively, particularly if your dog is not a high jumper, grabbing hold of the front paws and keeping your dog up until they squirm to get back down creates that contrast just as well.

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