By Tristan Clark, DVM
How many dogs have been relegated to living in the backyard because they jump all over family and guests whenever anyone walks through the door?
We encourage dogs to jump on us by petting them, starting when they are puppies, when they stand on their hind legs to get closer to our face and hands. This attention-seeking behavior is normal. Our pets don’t mean anything bad by jumping on us but very few people like being jumped on by a dog, plus as the dog gets bigger, he may scratch and knock people down. At this point, trying to push them away and saying no is actually rewarding your pet with attention, rather than being interrupted as a punishment.
Proper training starts when a dog is still a young puppy. Don’t let anyone pet your puppy unless all four feet are on the ground. If you teach your little puppy that all petting happens when four feet are on the ground, your big dog will not be jumping on people. For older dogs the same principle to training applies, only it will take longer.
Teach your dog to sit, even when excited. When the dog is sitting, pet, give praise, and treats. Do not praise after the dog has stood up, because that is not the desired behavior. Teaching the dog not to jump isn’t enough. We have to teach the dog that the petting will come when the dog is doing the right behavior. Teach your dog to sit when he or she comes to you or anyone else. People should ask her to sit every time she approaches them.
When you have guests arrive, keep your dog under leash or in a separate room for roughly fifteen minutes until everyone is settled. This is the time of wildest excitement for the dog, and it will be much easier for the dog to muster self-control after this initial period. The best remedy for jumping up is to withhold attention. For most dogs you can have guests keep your hands to themselves and turn their side toward the dog until they properly sit. People can be inconsistent about ignoring a jumping, excited dog and inadvertently reward bad behavior, so you may have to choose who your dog interacts with. If even one person encourages jumping, your dog will continue to perform the behavior.
Be consistent with this method of training and with time and love you can train your pet to be more gentle and less excitable, leading to more petting and proper attention. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to give us a call at Copper Hill Animal Clinic.