By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
One of the most common and frustrating behavior issues in dogs is the problem of jumping-up. At best it’s annoying and leads to dirty paw prints on your clothes; but it can also result in injuries and even legal issues. Don’t worry though, with consistency and patience you can teach your dog the manners he’s missing.
Your precious little lab puppy probably looks just adorable pawing at your knees to welcome you when you get home from work. This will not be quite so cute when he weighs 80 pounds. If you never accept jumping-up, your dog will quickly learn that it is not ok. It will be much more difficult to make him understand that it’s a problem when he starts to get bigger and has already been jumping on you to your delight for six months.
Establish a routine with your dog from day one. Let him grow accustomed to the fact that when you come home he will not be acknowledged until he is calm and away from the door. He must learn early-on that he will not be rewarded with attention if he is jumping-up. When you do greet your dog, do so calmly and quietly. If you are energetic and excited, it will cue your dog to behave the same way. Take him for a nice, long walk twice a day. This will be his chance to run through all that extra energy.
Sit is an extremely important command to teach your dog, it is a foundation of control and leadership. If you train him well, you should be able to make him sit when you see that he is about to jump-up. Whenever he’s over-excited, tell him to sit and calmly praise him when he does.
Has your dog already made a habit of jumping on you? Often jumping-up is just your dog’s way of excitedly greeting you, but it can also be a matter of dominance. One way dogs show their dominance over other dogs is to stand over them and put their paws on their backs. Your dog must understand that you are the alpha dog and this kind of dominant behavior is unacceptable. One easy way to exert dominance over your dog is at meal times. In packs, the alpha dog eats first and the others do not eat until he allows. When you feed your dog, make him sit and wait until you tell him it is ok to eat.
A common mistake that programs dogs to jump-up is the owner’s inadvertent positive reinforcement of bad behavior. If your dog greets you excitedly and jumps-up, and then you give him dinner or take him outside, he sees this as a reward. He will think that every time he gets excited and jumps-up, something good will happen. Instead, wait until he is calm and sitting to take him outside or feed him. He will associate being calm with a chance to play or eat.
Consistency with commands will help as you train your dog to not jump-up. Once you have established that jumping-up is not ok, you should just be able to tell him to sit, but you’ll need a command to stop the behavior as well. Most people use “off” but any word will work just as well, as long as you, your family, and your visitors consistently use the same command.
There are many schools of thought concerning the best way to teach your dog an off command. The less humane and more controversial methods have been left out here, so any of the following have the potential to work for you. You must remember that all dogs are different, no one method is right for every dog.
The Forward Step
Whenever your dog jumps-up, step into the jump as you say “off” and then “sit”. Dogs are not comfortable standing on two legs and have a hard time maintaining balance. When you step into his jump you will throw him off balance, creating an uncomfortable experience. If you do this every time your dog jumps-up, he will eventually associate it with being uncomfortable and the behavior will stop.
When your dog jumps-up, quickly grab his paws and hold him upright repeating your off command as you walk toward him, this forces him to sit or walk backwards. Again, dogs are not comfortable standing on just their back legs, so for him this is an unfavorable result. If he thinks that every time he jumps-up he will be held in that position, he eventually won’t jump-up anymore.
The Leash Step
Start with your dog sitting in front of you with a collar and leash on. Stand on the leash so that there is enough leash to loosely dangle from his neck, but not enough that he can jump-up without the leash pulling him down. Do not use a choke chain. Stand up straight and hold a toy or treat at chest height. Use your “so happy to see you” voice and excitedly talk to your dog. When he tries to jump-up to play or get the toy or treat, use your off command and tell him to sit. The leash will automatically correct him. The more you do this, the more your dog will associate the uncomfortable feeling with jumping.
The Cold Shoulder
When your dog jumps-up, use your off command, turn your back to him, walk away, and ignore him completely. If he runs in front of you and continues to jump, use your off command again, and continue to turn away. Once he has calmed down and is behaving properly, praise him. This shows him that he will not be acknowledged until he is calm, and that calm behavior is rewarded with praise.
A Word about the Knee Method
There are many who feel that the best way to teach a dog that jumping-up is not ok is the knee method. With this method, whenever your dog jumps-up, you use your off command and lift your knee so your dog runs into it with his chest. This will throw him off balance and is an unpleasant experience, which he will associate with jumping-up. It is important to note that you are not kneeing your dog, just lifting your knee. The intensity of contact relies completely on your dog’s forward motion, not the movement of your knee. This can work well, but it can also result in injury--Your knee could collide with your dog’s face or throat, so it is not recommended.
Every dog has within him a calm, submissive, well mannered pooch. It is your job to bring out the best in him. If you have been rewarding jumping-up behavior for years, it will take significantly longer than training a puppy not to jump, but it is still wholly possible. Just keep in mind that the two most important things to remember in dog training are patience and consistency.