Monday, 21 September 2009

Is your pup's jumping up getting you down?

One of the most common problems 4Paws Outdoors gets asked to address is that of over enthusiastic dogs jumping up when meeting people.

Of the many dog behaviors which have been unintentionally trained by owners, jumping up is probably the best example. Ever since your dog was a puppy he has learnt that jumping up to greet people is rewarded by attention. Even if you initially encouraged him to 'sit' to meet people you may well have given up after you realised that every un-briefed passerby dangled a hand temptingly for your dog to kiss.

But as with so many behaviours what is cute in a 3 month old pup is less so when fully grown. So over the years well meaning friends and trainers may have advocated some or all of the following; grabbing the dog's forepaws, squirting lemon juice/citronella/tabasco or more in your dog's face, kneeing him in the chest, hitting him on the head with a rolled up newspaper, stepping on his hind toes or pushing him over backwards. And why? Simply because your dog is doing something he has been 'trained' to do since puppyhood.

Not only is punishing the dog for this behavior confusing, what's more it usually exacerbates the problem.

Put yourself in your dog's paws for a second. What does jumping up mean in doggy language? Pawing, jumping up, play bowing, almost anything involving the forepaws is your dog saying "Hi, I'm trying to be friendly, can I get a little of your attention please?"
So here comes your dog trying his best to be friendly and what do we do? We tell him off. What will this achieve? Most likely your dog will start pogo-ing not only to show you his friendliness but also to apologise for whatever he has done to upset you.

So how do you teach your pup better doggy manners?

Firstly think of what your dog is motivated by, a squeaky toy, a ball, a treat or lots of kisses. By teaching your dog that saying 'hello' politely gets him one or more of these things, you will have a dog who sits nicely faster than you can say 'Good boy!"

One of the best ways of encouraging your dog to sit when he meets people training is to let him work out how to do it all by himself. It allows him to really use his brain, and it allows us the opportunity to see how quickly our canine friends can learn.

Show the dog you have some tasty treats in your pocket and then just stand there and don't interact with your dog at all. Simply ignore all the dog's inappropriate antics. The more excited the dog, the more he learns what doesn't work to get your attention or the treat. The dog will sit eventually and when he does say "good dog" immediately and offer a treat. Then take one step and repeat the procedure.

In just half a dozen or so repetitions you will find the dog will sit the second you stand still. The dog will learn that sitting is the best ploy to get people to offer treats and it will start to use this greeting with many people.

In order for your dog to generalize the concept of sitting to greet people (i.e. it is the best thing to do with everyone) the only way to get reliability is through repetition. So, let your dog meet lots of nice people, but be sure to be there to calmly and gently help him to choose the right option (sitting). For a few weeks carry around a little toy and/or a few pieces of your dog's dry food and use them to reward your dog for sitting. When you meet a nice person on the street ask them to be the one to give your dog the reward (be sure your dog is friendly with people). The more times your dog sits to greet people the more he will sit to greet people!

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