Image above: Thinking about jumping up but choosing to sit instead
Guest blog by Jennifer Billot
Jennifer Billot, MSc CPDT-KA is a professional dog trainer and the founder and owner of Bone Ball Bark, a force-free dog training company based in Chiswick. Over a series of blogs she explores the most common problems she encounters when clients first get in touch.
Whether you have had your dog for many years, acquired a lockdown puppy within the last two, or just picked up a new bundle of fluff, complete with a set of sharp teeth, hopefully this series will provide some helpful tips.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Jumping Up?
There are a few different contexts and situations in which a dog jumping up can be a problem. The three I want to mention here are when you or guests come through the front door, when you are out and about on leash and your dog wants to jump on strangers, and the high energy jumping up at you during play.
1. Greeting you and guests at the front door
We can be pretty inconsistent when it comes to our greeting of dogs when we come into the house. Sometimes we welcome them with open arms and let them jump all over us in excitement, other times we are not in the mood or have lots of bags so we yell and push them away.
- Move greetings and highly emotional interactions away from doorways, giving your dog a proper greeting once you’re the kitchen
- Many of my clients say “DOWN” when their dog is jumping up, but most dogs have been taught that the word ‘down’ means to lay down on the floor. This is a completely different behaviour when they want to greet you and can diminish the association made with the command “down”.
- Pushing them away can start a game. Keep your hands off your dog at all times and turn your back on them when they jump. Better still, teach a new behaviour before they get to you for a jump, but for now, try to avoid engaging with them when they jump.
- Try to turn your shout of “NO” into a cue to do something else. Waiting and anticipating them to jump up, then saying “no” is being reactive instead of proactive. Set up as many management strategies before you need them:
- Install a baby gate near the front door, or have a toy to give to the dog as a lot of dogs have a hard time jumping with a toy in their mouth
- Place a pot of treats near the door to use for training – the moment you enter the house, grab a handful of treats, and scatter a few on the ground as your dog comes towards you to prevent the habit of jumping by distracting. Repeat every time you come into the house. If the dog starts to associate someone entering the house as a cue to look to the floor for treats, we have taught an incompatible behaviour to the jump.
2. Jumping up when walking on leash
When walking down the road with your dog on leash, we want to be rewarding them for focusing on you.
- Capture as many moments your dog looks at you on a walk. A lot of jumping up at people happens because the stranger is more enticing, engaging and stimulating than you. Using a marker word of “Yes”, or a click if you are clicker training, mark the moment your dog turns their eyes in your general direction. To begin with, it’s alright if they aren’t making eye contact, just acknowledgement that you exist is enough for now. The moment you have said “yes” or clicked, place a tasty treat down on the floor by your feet.
- Teach the cue “WATCH” to grab your dog’s attention and eye contact. If they are looking at us, they can’t also be focusing on the stranger walking towards them. Ideally, the verbal cue alone swings their eyes up to ours without the need for bringing up food to your face.
- Advocate for your dog. Even if your dog is friendly, it’s perfectly alright to not greet every single person on the street. Our furry friends are cute and adorable, and members of the public can’t be blamed for wanting to come up for some love. However, if you are training your dog not to jump, a stranger who permits jumping might send the wrong message of what is acceptable. You can purchase an “In-Training” bandana to put on your dog’s leash or around their neck to keep strangers at bay, and don’t be afraid to say no if someone asks to pet them.
3. Preventing jumping during play
Pups and young dogs (and some older dogs) get very stimulated playing with us. This is alright as long as it is safe and you are able to lower their arousal quickly.
- Small toys and balls that we hold close to us up high entices them to jump. Reduce jumping by keeping toys close to the ground. Use long tug toys or flirt poles, to keep them a good distance away from your body and control the direction of the play.
- Have two toys of equal value to the dog that can be quickly swapped out, thrown away from us to chase, and to keep their focus on something other than you.
- Practice being able to lower the level of arousal by playing calmly for 20 seconds, then ask for a sit. The moment they sit, resume the game. Once they learn play starts up again if they are able to sit calmly when you stop a game, you can raise the intensity of your play gradually.
Jennifer Billot has a Masters Degree in Canine Sciences from Bergin University in California. She is a certified professional dog trainer, CPDT-KA qualified, and spent five years as an Assistance Dog trainer for an organization specializing in mobility assistance dogs in both Seattle and Hawaii. She offers in-person training sessions in London and virtual consultations worldwide.
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