Dogs jump for many reasons. One of the first sensations a puppy feels is warmth when his paws are placed on mum. The ‘paddling’ action when suckling stimulates milk production, so paw placement is rewarding. A puppy may jump to reach his mother’s face to stimulate her to regurgitate food. Because we are so much taller our dogs may jump to reach our faces to say hello, to get attention or with excitement. Some dogs may jump as a coping mechanism because they are worried, to avoid being leaned over or occasionally to assert themselves.
Puppies receive lots of attention for jumping up. Everyone wants to say “hi” to a puppy and jumping is reinforced many times. As the puppy grows the jumping continues to be rewarded by us with attention, often inadvertently. Even negative attention – especially when the paws are muddy – is rewarding! From the dog’s perspective, when he jumps up he is touched (pushed away), receives verbal attention (usually negative) and if he is particularly persistent he may eventually be rewarded with a walk or dinner.
How can we stop jumping up? Many dogs do not like being leaned over and patted on the head. They prefer to be greeted with an open palm and a scratch on the chest. Don’t give your dog any attention for jumping up – ignore the behaviour. Some dogs are quite persistent when a behaviour that has previously been rewarded suddenly doesn’t work and they can try harder for a short while. Don’t give in! Plan how you would like your dog to meet and greet people. If you aren’t able to control your dog and manage your visitors, put him in another room with a stuffed Kong.
Teach your dog a reliable sit. Lure this behaviour with a treat just in front of your dog’s nose and slowly move your hand back until your dog is sitting. Add the word “sit” when your dog is sitting or use your lure hand signal as a cue – dogs learn visual cues more easily than verbal. Feed your dog from your open palm. If your dog snatches, close your fist around the food – only good table manners get rewarded! Gradually fade the food from your hand and keep it in your pocket/treat bag. Use high value treats such as liver cake when out and about.
Next time someone wants to stroke your dog, think ahead. Be consistent with everyone you meet. Ensure your dog has four paws on the ground or is sitting, give him a treat and explain that he likes to be scratched on the chest. The more often you do this, the quicker your dog will learn that politeness gets him attention. And everyone loves a well-mannered dog!
This article, along with a selection of others about behaviour and training, is available in our Dog Blog booklet. This can be purchased for £2 and is available as a paper copy or downloadable e-book. All proceeds to Irish Retriever Rescue.
If you would like to sell any copies of the Dog Blog for your rescue organisation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.