Why Does Your Dog Jump and What Can You Do
By David Michael Sanders
Client: “Hello, I would like some help with my dog, he jumps on everyone and barks repeatedly for attention and food.”
Trainer: “I am happy to help you with that, first off, what behaviors does your dog already know?”
Client: “He knows “Shake”, “High 5 (both paws)”, “Give Me a Hug,” “Sit Up,” and “Speak.”
Trainer: Ah, okay I am beginning to see where the problem is…
One of the most common dog behavior problems clients come to me with is jumping. Why is jumping so common for dogs and why do they feel the need to greet people in this manner? The answer is very simple…While jumping is something a dog does naturally, humans inadvertently reinforce it. This usually happens when puppies are 6-10 weeks old. When the puppies are whining and jumping up on the side of the puppy pen, humans pick them up, love on them and may even give treats and play with them. While this may seem innocent and with only good intention, this hardwires the dog to jump for attention and affection during the critical developmental phase. This can, in turn, manifest what I like to call “reflexive jumping.” The behavior becomes reflexive and conditioned through repetition and positive reinforcement. Then, when the puppy becomes an adult and in some cases can weigh as much as their owner, what was once cute and cuddly is now a behavior that can injure someone or cause a dog to lose his/her home and even be euthanized.
“So, now that my dog has been accidently conditioned to jump, what can I do about it?”
1. Do not reinforce lifting a paw off of the ground in any way, shape or form until manners and boundaries can be re-established.
2. Dogs do not shake hands, give high 5’s or hug naturally. They play dominate and demand what they want. If we encourage demanding behaviors without enlisting manners first, we are setting the dog up for failure and confusion.
3. Everyone who interacts with the dog needs to be on the same page. We cannot have one person in the home encouraging the jumping behavior while another is trying to extinguish it.
4. Stay consistent while giving clear and concise direction.
5. Reinforce wanted behaviors like hand targe ing, “Touch,” “Find it” and/or “Come & Sit,” (3x-5x) for every (x1) Jump. Meaning, we are not going to extinguish the jumping behavior if the dog jumps more than he/she sits. Whatever we reinforce the most, is the behavior most likely to be offered.
6. Deliver food rewards, praise and affection at the dog’s natural height. If our hand with the treat is too far above the dog’s head, this can inadvertently reinforce the dog to jump for a reward.
7. Be proactive, anticipate what your dog will do. Redirect focus to the wanted behaviors before your dog has a chance to offer the u wanted behavior.
8. Ignore the dog until he/she calms down and the initial excitement has subsided, then engage in a calm relaxed fashion giving immediate direction. We cannot enter the home loud and excitable and expect the dog to remain calm. The dog’s response is a reflection of what we are doing. Change what you do and the dog’s behavior should change.
9. Be firm with friends and family members on how to interact with your dog in training.
10. Keep it positive, make learning the new b haviors fun and interactive so your dog wants to offer them. Make sure your dog has a positive outlet for mental and physical exercise. This will help him/her stay calm in the home and make entertaining guests an eventful experience.
Trainer’s Note: If you are a foster, volunteer or shelter/kennel employee the most beneficial thing you can do to help a dog get adopted is to reinforce manners, impulse control and four paws on the floor for attention. Allowing a dog to jump or even worse encouraging it, will make it much harder for that pup to find a fur- ever home.