The Infamous Jumping Problem. The Personal Connection.
Jumping. It’s one of the most common frustrations among many pet owners and especially all their friends. We’ve all been there. I recently imported a new adult German Shepherd dog from Germany. He LOVES people. His owner and trainer in Germany encouraged the jumping to cultivate specific behaviors in the sport he was working in. Well, I had a family over to visit, brought my young energetic dog out to say hi and he immediately jumped on the gentleman, practically climbing in his lap. There’s no question he has a great temperament! But having been on the receiving end of dogs jumping on me, I don’t want my dog’s jumping on other people, even if I encourage it in training.
So how do I fix jumping? How do I avoid the creation of jumping? And what do I do with an older dog who jumps?
I’m so glad you asked. It’s always easiest to start with a puppy. But no matter the age, the basic principles are the same.
First stop the rehearsal of the behavior you don’t want. Make it impossible.
Create a reason for the dog to do the things you want.
Tie that reason to an event or picture the dog will experience without you having to intervene (an environmental cue.)
Get the behavior you want and reinforce it.
Environmental Cueing Sit!
1. I teach all my puppies that people are an environmental cue to sit.
Use food rewards, keep my hands low. Get that puppy’s nose right in my hands. Lift my hands just an inch or two and wait until they puts their bottom on the ground. Mark Yes and Reward! Practice, Practice Practice. Habits are not made in a moment. Did your dog practice jumping for months and even years? Expect to have to put in some reps of practicing the correct behavior to overcome the habits you have allowed to grow.
2. Having friends over? Strangers want to pet your puppy? Similar process.
First, cue your puppy to sit. Reward them with food. Be sure the other person is within a leash length of you and your puppy. We don’t want the puppy to feel punished for going to say hi to people. Tell your puppy “Free” (or your external release word) and let them go say hi.
I like to give the other person some of my training rewards to help the puppy sit when they get to the other person. Let the other person cue them to sit and reward them first with food, then with the attention and love they so desperately want.
Be ok with other people helping with the process.
I don’t generally allow strangers to feed my dogs but when they are extremely young, I will allow a stranger who asks to pet my puppy to use one of my treats to help the puppy be successful in the obedience I want. The long term benefits of a well socialized puppy with good manners far outweigh the concern of strangers feeding my dogs. This is my personal choice.
Use Your Leash! Stop the rehearsal.
So often owners create jumping with bad leash technique. Are you trying to hold your puppy in place with your leash? This is a whole ‘nother can of worms but that constant leash pressure is punishing your puppy unfairly. They are trying to problem solve how to take that pressure away. If the only way they can remove the pressure you’re holding on their leash is by jumping. You just created it…Relax your leash! Avoid adding upward pressure on the leash. Pressure will not make your pup want to stay with you.
Is your dog jumping on other people while you’re holding the leash? It is your responsibility to use your leash in a manner that will keep your dog from putting its feet on someone else. Correction is valid in this moment. However, there is another way that is SO effective. Put your foot on the leash. And keep the handle in your hand. It’s imperative that you are not putting pressure on the leash when your puppy or dog is standing or sitting next to you and behaving. Give them enough leash that they are comfortable when doing the right thing. And then if they jump, they will correct themselves straight down. You don’t have to engage.
“Correction” gets a bad wrap in some circles. So let me explain a fair correction and how you may administer one. Correction simply means to take a dog from an incorrect behavior to a correct behavior. There is a trend in dog training to be “force free.” While that seems good, what it really means is that if the dog wants to do something badly enough it can just do it. Correction means we will stop the dog from doing the unwanted behavior. How much force we need will depend on the dog and how bad the behavior is. If the dog is going to injure someone with its behavior we must stop the dog. Tools like collars and leashes are used so that we can humanely and safely correct the dog. What tool is attached to your dog will depend on the natural strength differential between you and your dog. A harness will require the most force and strength from you to affect your dog’s behavior while an activating collar will require the least. Think of this as a function of surface area. You have a set surface area touching the leash and your dog’s equipment has an area. If the dog has more material touching it and the area that it touches is insensitive the dog will perceive less of the input you give than you perceive on the leash in your hand. Correction may be unpleasant for the dog. Any time we give the dog something unpleasant we have a responsibility to communicate what is coming and to give the dog an opportunity to avoid the correction by changing behavior. We use a marker word to tell the dog what is coming. This is a different word than we use to tell our dogs they lost the reward. In this exercise a downward tug on the leash sufficient to stop the dog from putting their feet on us would serve as a correction. Putting our foot on the leash with enough slack that the dog can stand naturally without feeling held down is required.
So often dogs find that jumping is a game. You push them off. They get attention. It’s the best wrestling game ever! However, by putting our foot on the leash and eliminating their ability to put their feet on us, we are non reinforcing jumping. It will go away fast because it’s no longer fun!!!
Just getting home from work and your puppy is losing its mind with excitement? Your dog’s favorite person appears and all your dog wants is to go greet them? Make them work for it!
I utilize the before mentioned environmental cueing to teach my dogs how to greet others. I cue my dog to sit and be calm for a moment for me. The person approaches and stops 3-4 feet away. My dog re-achieves calm. I mark “Free” and allow my dog to go say hi. I keep my leash relaxed. Because I cued my dog into obedience and self control first, they are more likely to maintain self control when they get to the other person.
I use a 6-foot-long leash and since the person is within 3-4 feet of us my dog has enough leash to reach the person without being restrained and frustrated. Allowing a dog to hit the end of the leash, make it tight and pull toward the other person restrains the dog and builds frustration which creates jumping. Leash restraint propels or pushes your dog to jump on the other person.
Opposition reflex is the same feeling you get when you walk into a stiff wind and lean forward to keep from being pushed back. If your dog feels this constant pressure from you holding them back, down or pulling up on the leash they are very likely to pull against the pressure. When they overcome that leash pressure they reinforce the unwanted behavior that got them the relief of the leash pressure. The leash and pressure on the collar or a harness reinforces behavior when its pressure goes away or reduces. This means the things your dog does to relieve the pressure (pull, jump, bite the leash…) become trained habits that get harder to break every time they get practiced.
Consider asking the other person to not touch your dog unless they are sitting. It’s harder to train other people than it is to train your dog but practicing with friends and family will pay off. Puppy must keep its bum and all 4 paws on the floor to be pet. Simple reinforcement for a simple behavior but it is SO powerful.
There are dogs so entrenched in their ways that they will need professional intervention to eliminate jumping. If a dog has built this habit and gets enough enjoyment aka reinforcement from the behavior itself or if the dog is so powerful that its owner simply can not stop the dog please consult a professional. Most dogs will not require this level of intervention. Following these simple tips will bring a new level of peace to your home for you and your guests.