Dealing With Jumping


When we ask pet owners, "What are your pet peeves with your pooch?" the number one answer is, "my dog jumps on everybody." Most such jumping is a friendly greeting, and that's the kind of jumping we're going to talk about here.

Puppies jump up and lick the corners of an adult dog's mouth to trigger the adult to regurgitate food for the pup to eat. (Yucky but true.) This jumping up and licking behavior is retained into adulthood as a submissive greeting. Our challenge is to teach the dog a different way to greet--to Sit rather than to jump. Trainers refer to this strategy as DRI-the Differential Reinforcement of an Incompatible behavior. Sitting is incompatible with jumping; a dog can't jump and Sit at the same time. So if your dog doesn't yet know how to Sit on command, that's the first order of business.

Teaching Your Dog to Sit

The fastest and easiest way to teach a dog to Sit is to use a food lure. The lure acts as a magnet for the dog's nose, and when w e can move his head, we can move his body. In this way we can avoid physically forcing the dog into position. Here's how:

Once the dog is consistently following the food lure, you can start saying, "Buddy, Sit" right before you lure him into the Sit position. After many, many trials, he'll learn to associate the word "Sit" with the action of sitting and then getting a reward. He'll think, "Ah, sitting is a good thing for me. When I sit, I get treats."

Training Sit to Greet

Be prepared to greet your dog; have some tasty treats in your pocket. As he approaches, immediately use the food to lure him into a sit. The very moment he Sits, give him a treat and calmly praise him. (If you praise him too enthusiastically, this may excite him and make him want to jump even more.) As he Sits, you may want to crouch down so he can be closer to your face as you calmly praise him. With some dogs, it may be helpful to gently slip your finger through his collar to help prevent the jumping. Remember, praise and give treats only when he's Sitting.

Don't Reward Jumping

If you don't want your dog to jump, don't pet him or give him attention when he's jumping. It's unfair to your dog to allow him to jump on you when you're in grubbies, but scold him when you're dressed up, or to allow him to jump on family members, but not on company. It's too hard for most dogs to make these kinds of distinctions. Also, don't inadvertently reward jumping by giving him attention-even negative attention-when he jumps on you. If you say, "No, no, bad dog!" and push him away, he may interpret this as play, or consider it better than no attention at all. If you don't want him to jump, don't reward that behavior.

Sitting To Greet For Company

When you know someone is coming to your house, put a five-foot or six-foot leash on your dog. Stand on it so he can comfortably stand, but can't jump up. Why? To keep your dog from being rewarded by your company for jumping on them. A lot of your dog-loving friends will pet him and talk sweetly to him when he jumps on them. "Oh, I don't mind," they'll say, "I like dogs." But the more the dog is reinforced for jumping, the harder the habit will be to break. Children who squeal and push the dog away or run from him also make it more likely the dog will jump. Dogs think this is a great game.

(By the way, we're assuming here that your dog is jumping because he's friendly, not because he's aggressive. Aggressive lunging at strangers is a whole different problem, with different solutions.) So when company arrives, with your treats ready and standing on your dog's leash, lure him into a Sit. When he is Sitting, have your guests approach and give him treats, but only while he's Sitting. If he jumps, the guest should back away or turn away, breaking all contact with the dog.

You can make this exercise easier at first by having your guest approach very calmly and not speak. After the dog can Sit with this level of interaction, you can make things harder by having your guest speak softly to him. The better your dog becomes at Sitting to greet, the more animated the greetings can become.

Try to have a lot of different friends help you practice Sit-To-Greet with your dog. And remember to have all family members practice , too. Get in the habit of carrying some dry treats in your pocket. When your dog greets you by Sitting, immediately reward him. In other words, catch your dog being good! Dogs do what works. If Sitting is what earns attention and treats, that's what he'll learn to do.

You can speed the process up by having the dog Sit before other good things happen. Have him Sit before he gets his dinner. Have him Sit before he goes outside, or before he gets a toy. Before long, Sitting will become a powerful thing to him.

Teaching a dog to Sit to greet is one of the most positive and humane ways to deal with jumping. If your dog seems to be having an especially hard time with jumping and is wild and excited a lot, be sure he's getting plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and quality time with the family, as well as lots of opportunities to meet friendly strangers. Many behavior problems can be lessened when these basic doggy needs are met.