By Sherri Romig CPDT-KA
Inappropriate jumping is one of the most common problems seen in dogs. Fortunately, it can be very easy to fix with a combination of patience and consistency.
First, we must think about why the dog is engaging in this unwanted behavior. The most common answer is that he is jumping up for attention. When a dog’s paws are on your chest, whether you are giving him a hug or pushing him away, for those few seconds he is the center of your attention. This is very rewarding for a dog.
To stop the problem jumping, what we need to do is stop rewarding the behavior we don’t want, and start rewarding the behavior we do want. The reward in this case is our attention. So, from now on, whenever the dog begins to jump up, we must immediately take our attention away. The best way to do this is to simply turn your back, cross your arms, and look at the ceiling. Remember, even negative attention (like yelling “off” or pushing the dog away) is still attention and therefore rewarding to your dog. We must behave as if a jumping dog simply does not exist.
After a few seconds or minutes, the dog will become confused about why he is not getting the attention he always gets for jumping up. He will stop jumping and either sit or stand still to think about what to do next. The instant this happens, turn around, get down to the dogs level and reward him with attention. If he begins to jump again, immediately stand back up and repeat the process. We want him to learn that jumping up gets ignored, but sitting or at least having four feet on the floor gets loads of love and attention. Once he figures this out, the choice between whether to jump up or to sit to greet becomes obvious. He will choose to perform the behavior that will earn him the reward he is looking for.
When you first begin to practice this, it may take a little bit for the dog to really catch on. For awhile, his first instinct will still be jumping up, and the more he has been rewarded for it in the past, the longer it will continue. But, you will find that he begins to offer the desired behavior (sitting, or four-on-the-floor) faster each time. Don’t get discouraged if he doesn’t get it immediately. Remember, jumping up has been rewarding for him for a very long time. He will still want to do it until he learns that it is no longer rewarded at all, and the only way to get your attention is to offer appropriate behavior.
The best way to speed this process along is to make sure that you and everyone else the dog greets is 100% consistent in ignoring a jumping dog and rewarding polite greetings. This cannot be stressed enough! If jumping is ignored most of the time, but rewarded every once in awhile, it will never go away. The dog will always jump up first to see if this is one of the times that will be rewarded. Remember, this must be followed by every person, every time in order to be effective! Consistency is the most important part of training the dog not to jump.
If you follow these steps and use patience and consistency, you will find your dog offering polite greetings and sitting patiently for attention in no time!