By Steve Dale
It seems so cute: Granny comes over to the house to meet puppy for the first time, and puppy is a little jumping machine. Everyone laughs, puppy gets attention, it’s all great fun.
Fast-forward the clock just six months, and now a boisterous, happy-go-lucky, much larger and more powerful Labrador is jumping on Granny. Now, it’s not so cute. Inadvertently, however, the family actually trained the Lab to jump.
“Dogs jump up because they want to say hello,” says dog trainer Rendy Schuchat. “Dogs often greet each other nose to nose or face to face, and the only way to get to our faces is to jump.”
While it seems to have caught on, the idea that dogs jump up to somehow rule us is totally made up and without any scientific backing. Drs. Lore Haug and Jeannine Berger, who are also members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and co-authors, say that, “Jumping is never about a dog bidding to be dominant.” Dogs are simply happy to see us. It’s that simple.
Haug and Berger suggest that responses like kneeing or putting on an electric collar on the dog only potentially serve to damage the human-animal bond, and may also actually hurt the dog.
What if you arrived home and every time your significant other goes to give you a kiss, you offer a knee in the chest or an electric shock? Soon, your partner would likely stop offering kisses and probably wouldn’t like you so much anymore.
There are many good solutions to the jumping problem, however, depending on the family makeup and the individual dog involved. One rule, though, is everyone must be consistent.
Here are some of those humane solutions:
- Offer an incompatible behavior. Whenever someone walks in the door, have that person toss treats, such as Vita Bone® Trainers, on the ground. If the puppy is busy vacuuming treats, it’s impossible to also be jumping. Or, offer treats stuffed inside toys. Similarly, if the puppy is busy working on getting those treats, there’s no simultaneous jumping.
- Tell people to ignore. And I mean totally ignore puppy until the jumping subsides, and only then greet and pet the dog. If the jumping resumes, quit until the puppy quits. The puppy will learn that in order to receive attention (which is all they really want), jumping is not accepted.
- Clicker-train the dog to sit whenever people walk into the house. Using a little box that makes a unique sound (called a clicker), first feed treats and click the clicker repeatedly. Then, you can mark the behaviors you desire using the clicker, or essentially tell the dog, “That’s right!” by utilizing the clicker. Of course, if the dog has his rear end on the ground in a “sit,” the dog can’t possibly be simultaneously jumping.
What we don’t want to do is to use an aversive training method. There’s no need for punishment, and there’s also potential to damage the family’s relationship with the dog. We like dogs because they are always happy to see us. We just want to limit the jumping, and we can.