There are many “rules” on writing a blog article.
I never knew there were so many things I needed to learn just to talk to people about dogs. One of the big ones is to hold off on giving the important information until later in the article to make sure people keep reading.
Rules were meant to be broken right?!
The name of the article is pretty direct. I’m going to tell you why your dog is jumping and how to stop it. Rather than write about 1500 words stringing you along before I get to it, i’ll come right out and tell you right now, no further delay. If you feel the desire to keep reading after I give away the big answer, by all means, I encourage you to do so.
Your dog jumps because you trained him/her to do exactly that, jump on you.
You can stop this by discontinuing your habit of telling the dog to keep jumping on you.
Easy enough right. Now you can stop reading if that is all you were looking for. Or……
How Did I Train My Dog To Jump On Me?
By choosing to keep on reading, you are demonstrating a willingness to not just fix the problem that motivated you to click on this article, but also a desire to learn more about your dog.
If this is your first experience on my blog, then I strongly urge you to do some digging around and read some of my articles on Operant Conditioning and how dogs learn. The problem you are experiencing with jumping is directly related to some of this fundamental information.
As is the case with any thinking creature, dogs don’t do things unless they get something out of it. I’m sure we all can relate! With any behavior that any dog or human chooses to exhibit, there are consequences. Some consequences are pleasant or simply put, will result in the behavior happening again. Others will decrease the likelihood it will happen again.
A dog jumping is no different.
Dog’s generally jump on people initially because they want attention and interaction. It usually starts during puppihood and people find it cute. So what do they do?
They pet the puppy.
That is the first lesson the puppy gets on jumping. When the puppy put its front paws up and on you, it got attention. This then happens countless times until the puppy reaches a size where it no longer is fun or “cute”. Then the human suddenly wants it to stop and gets frustrated at why its happening and why its so difficult to address.
Every time you touch, talk to, even look at a dog immediately as they jump on you or after, you are reinforcing the behavior and making it stronger, and more difficult to stop.
You have trained your dog to jump on you.
Its Time To Teach Them To Stop Jumping
Now that you realize jumping, like all of your dog’s behaviors, is a result of YOUR actions, it’s time to make the necessary adjustments to fix the problem.
There are several ways to approach this issue. This is often the case in the world of dog training with “experts” from the various polarized schools of training thought arguing back and forth over which approach is better. There are those from the “positive only” school of thought who never tell their dogs “no” or claim to never use any type of punishment (they DO use punishment they just change the words). Then there is the other side who say all problems like this must be solved with physical “corrections”, which is technically the use of positive punishment (read my super short and easy to understand article on Operant Conditioning HERE to learn what those words mean).
They both are so busy disagreeing with each other and trying to prove the other side wrong, that they miss out on the logical and scientifically sound middle ground. This is often the case as it is no different than partisan politics.
Personally, I started out training dogs in a very “old school’ way. That means I was pretty rough and I didn’t use too many treats or “good boys”. Over the course of 20 years, I have learned that there are MUCH better ways to TEACH dogs what I want from them and how to behave. That does not mean however I do not ever punish a dog or “correct’ them. I most certainly do. I just do it much much LESS than I used to. In fact, I will use the word “rarely”.
In situations such as jumping, where there is a behavior that we want to decrease, and eventually eliminate, the best approach is to start with the LEAST intrusive intervention possible. This is called the Humane Hierarchy and is recognized by the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers, one of the most respected certification bodies in a field that is totally unregulated. Step one is to look at environmental issues that might be making behavior occur. Then after several more steps, the LAST resort is positive punishment, which most people refer to as a “correction”.
START SIMPLE, GO FROM THERE
With puppies it almost never gets to the point of having to use positive punishment, or “correcting” the dog. They are so little we can use far less hands on methods that will be very effective. The best thing about a puppy is they are clean slates. They will do whatever we reinforce and they will NOT do things that are NOT reinforced.
Never reinforce your puppy putting their front paws on you.
You can understand easier by looking at a game that I use for teaching young children how to interact with puppies. I call it the “Play Nice” game. It is simple, which is ideal because communication with dogs is just that, simple. We mess it up because we talk too much and confuse the shit out of our dogs to the point that they just say to hell with it and do what they want!
The rules of the game are simple. Get down on your knees with the puppy and calmly interact with them. The moment they bite OR jump on you, stand straight up quickly, cross your arms and stare up at the ceiling. You can say “no” if you want but its not necessary as at this point the puppy has no idea what that word even means.
The moment the puppy settles and stops jumping, you immediately go back down to the puppy’s level. This is a combination of two powerful tools of behavior modification, negative punishment and positive reinforcement.
I mentioned earlier in the article that you have probably been teaching your dog to jump and didn’t realize it. Negative punishment means the same as saying “don’t reinforce the behavior you want to end”. That means making sure that as a response to the dog jumping, the human does nothing in return that the dog could find reinforcing or (enjoyable). For many dogs touching them, pushing them, looking at them, talking to them, are all reinforcing. That is why for the “Play Nice” game, we simply stand up, cross our arms, and stare at the ceiling.
The puppy or dog wants your attention. If you give even the smallest amount of attention to a dog who is jumping, you are telling the dog that it should jump in order to receive attention. I can’t stress how important it is to think about this and implement the concept. By removing our attention when the puppy jumps, and giving our attention when the puppy settles and is calm, we are very clearly communicating what we want from the puppy or the dog.
As puppies grow into adults, this behavior becomes more difficult to manage and stop especially if it has been reinforced since being a young puppy. Some adult dogs can learn simply by a couple days of ignoring them when they jump. Others have been doing this for so long, and have so much dysfunctional energy, that this will not effectively work to stop the behavior.
Another very important consideration is that an adult dog who jumps can seriously hurt a small child or an elderly person. The elderly also have much thinner and delicate skin that can tear easily from a dogs claw. In cases where the dog is a severe jumper you might need to use positive punishment and issue “corrections” for the dog to stop. Every dog is different, and when human safety is concerned sometimes alternate methods can speed up training.
When discussing the use of corrections or positive punishment, I want to be very clear in saying SEEK PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE. The reality is pet owners should not be using positive punishment without first being taught how to do so from an experienced trainer or behaviorist. It is too easy to screw up. For that reason, you need help.
IT’S A TEAM EFFORT
Using negative punishment by ignoring the dog while he is jumping is where we are going to start. You MUST practice this and you must recruit the help of some friends. Anybody who is not willing to help you must not interact with the dog. Seriously. Put the dog away when somebody comes over who you know won’t help you because all it will do is confuse the dog and slow the training up.
If somebody comes over after you have started working on this, and they start petting the dog or talking to the dog when he is jumping on them, all your work has been for nothing. Behaviors will continue as long as they are reinforced. It really is that simple, although I fully understand that simple and easy are two very different words.
When everybody the dog comes into contact with ignore the undesirable behavior, and subsequently reward the alternative, in this case sitting politely, you will begin to see a change in the behavior.
Corrections, Collars, and Ninja Knees To The Chest
Like I mentioned earlier, we always start with the least intrusive method or the technique with the least amount of potential conflict FIRST. That does not mean the first attempt is going to work. Not at all. Some dogs have been doing this for so long, more advanced and possibly more involved techniques will need to used.
I need to make one thing perfectly clear however when beginning a discussion about “corrections” for jumping. One of the most common suggestions that I have heard and see regularly on the internet is to knee the offending dog in the chest when they jump to discourage jumping.
Don’t do this.
It simply doesn’t work for most owners on most dogs. I chose my words very carefully there. There are always going to be some people who are able to have some results with some techniques on some dogs. We aren’t interested in exceptions and outliers.
We want results.
The truth is that the fabled “knee to the chest” will actually EXCITE a great deal of dogs. They find it more fun and playful than they do unpleasant which means……you guessed it….
THE KNEE WILL ENCOURAGE MORE JUMPING!!!
For some dogs however, simple negative punishment will not be enough. When the behavior is so severe that somebody could be hurt, more interactive methods must be considered. I like to use the gauge of imagining a small child or an elderly person. If the dog is jumping with such intensity that your grandmother would not be able withstand the jumping long enough to reinforce the dog “not jumping”, then that method simply won’t be ideal.
If you are in a situation where negative punishment and ignoring the jumping is not yielding results, do not attempt using corrective measures on your own.
Time to call a trainer.
Using positive punishment, commonly known as a “correction”, should ONLY be used AFTER working with an experienced trainer. I am not against using corrections at all. The law of behavior is valid, and positive punishment and corrections DO have a place, it is just that I have found that place to be far smaller than many people think. Using corrections properly is difficult. It takes incredible observation skills, and even more incredible timing.
Ask for help.
*special thanks to Jason Browning for sharing a pic of his pup that made it the cover photo spot!