Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump Up!
One of the most common problems people seek my help for is dogs which jump up. Most of these dogs are really loving and friendly but just get over excited. Often with the excitement they bark and can even nip too! This isn’t aggression as their intention is to lick and smother the person with love! Unfortunately this over exuberant form of greeting or excitement can be dangerous and someone can easily be injured.
To teach a dog how to greet people in a more appropriate and non dangerous way I developed a programme integrating the clicker. I am a strong believer in allowing a dog to problem solve and figure out what is an appropriate behaviour and what is not, i.e. what results in a reward and what doesn’t. This enables me to educate the dog in a very clear way and reduce confusion , something which will have a major detrimental affect on both the dog and owner leading ultimately to frustration. By adopting this strategy the rate of learning is accelerated and the success rate high.
I have found that many owners with dogs that jump up are unsuccessful as they have been advised to ignore the unwanted behaviour of jumping up and reward the dog when calm with all four paws on the ground. In the vast majority of cases this is totally ineffective and owners become despondent, give up, become cross with the dog and resort to aversives.
To retrain a jumper upper safely and in a fair way you have to communicate effectively what you want so the dog understands. I find using a clicker really helpful as it allows you to clearly mark then reward the desired behaviour.
I spend time teaching appropriate greeting behaviour just as I would spend time teaching any other exercise such as a sit or recall. I use a simple technique where I teach the dog to present an alternative behaviour, normally to sit. I click and reward the dog for the sitting calmly. Whilst sitting the dog isn’t jumping up!
To start with it is Important that the person greeting the dog is very calm and gives little attention. As training progresses I like to build in excitement and actions which create excitement in the dog. With particularly boisterous dogs who are committed jumpers I start the training with them on lead.
If the dog makes a mistake at any stage of the training ,don’t worry its not the end of the world simply go back a step and lower any excitement. View mistakes as learning opportunities, by not being clicked and rewarded your dog is learning what works and what doesn’t. Patience, consistency together with lots of repetitions during short training sessions ( 10-15 minutes max) prove to be most effective. Clicker training works as it marks an action which is then rewarded so the dog is more likely to perform the action again , you are therefore aiming to click and reward as much as possible so don’t be mean with the clicks!