My chocolate lab, Max weighs in at about 80-pounds … a big boy, nothing to sneer at. He’s fast, he’s strong and worst of all: he knows it. He can knock you down pretty easily. So how to stop your dog from jumping… I tested his training (or lack thereof) with a yes/no checklist before I really buckled down to make a change. The test looked something like this:
- Has he pulled me down on a walk? Yes.
- Has he caused me to go over the handle bars on a bike ride? Ouch, terrible memory: yes.
- Has he cut my lip open with his big paws while jumping up on me? Beaten by my dog: check.
- Has he knocked over my mom with his incessant jumping? Difficult to swallow, but yes.
- Does he engage in the jumping drive-by around complete strangers? Absolutely.
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions — you have a menace at home. It’s time to make a change.
My biggest pet peeve? Jumping up on me and everyone else, constantly. I was getting punched in the face every day by my overly playful companion, and it had to stop. If it were just me, I’d be less motivated; however, Max was not picky – if you were in the area, he could be found attempting to knock you over.
Just like there are two kinds of diggers, there are also two kinds of jumpers. I call them:
(a) Attention Getters — these dogs jump on you for one thing and one thing only: your attention.
(b) Recreational Jumpers — these dogs jump because they have springs in their legs … and they like it.
Here’s the secret to dogs: everything has a motivation; if it doesn’t, it isn’t worth doing. The same can be said of human beings. If you don’t get something good out of it, you don’t feel the need to continue the behavior. Dogs are more primal in their costs/benefits analysis, which makes it a harder habit to break.
Recreational Jumpers are difficult to correct because they don’t need anything from you to continue jumping. This type of dog loves to jump; it becomes a sport and the more they engage in it, the stronger it becomes. To the Recreational Jumper, there is no feeling like being on two legs, bouncing off of an unsuspecting stranger or boxing their owner in the face.
Attention Getters jump because they want to have your attention. Though we want to discourage jumping up (especially in larger breed dogs), our behavior typically says otherwise. Dogs who jump for attention are not necessarily attached to the behavior itself, just the reactions that they receive. If you take away the reactions, you take away the motivation to jump.
How to Stop Your Dog From Jumping
The truth of the matter is: there is no quick fix to jumping. It takes a good deal of patience, dedication and consistency to properly discourage a jumper and make it stick. Before even attempting to correct your jumper, think about what you are using as a consequence. I can guarantee that you do three things:
- make eye contact
- make physical contact
You may believe that you are doing these three things in a negative, discouraging way. For instance, you put on the disciplinarian face, stare into their eyes, give them a firm talking to and push them away. What you probably don’t understand is that any form of interaction is seen as positive to our dogs. Let me explain:
- Eye contact may not seem it, but it is a reinforcer for dogs. They like to be the center of your attention and they understand eye contact to be a representation of that. It doesn’t matter if it is accompanied by a furrowed brow and pursed lip. Attention is attention, any way that they can get it.
- Remember Charlie Brown’s teacher? That is what you sound like to your dog. They don’t know or understand English, making the phrase “no, Fido! Bad jumping, you are not supposed to jump,” very difficult to comprehend. Although, they do recognize their name and it is usually a positive. Not to mention, being talked to is always a motivator and is definitely the attention they are looking for.
- Ever pushed your dog down just to have them come bounce right back at you? How long did that process go on for? What you are using as a deterrent is more like an invitation to play. Makes sense, right? Every time you push the dog off of you they seem more motivated than ever! It’s a game … and you don’t want to play.
Take all of the attention that you are giving them (even if you believe it to be negative) and throw it out the window. If they are jumping up on you, pretend that they don’t even exist; look away, talk to someone in the room, turn your back to them or simply walk away. They will wonder where the attention has gone and try it again. Repeat the process until the dog looks utterly confused and puts all four on the floor. When that happens, praise excessively and give all of that bottled up attention back … for the right behavior. If they get excited and jump up again, completely ignore. When all paws are on the floor, the attention comes back. This really is the best way how to stop your dog from jumping.
Dogs are smart animals and will put two and two together quickly. If you stay dedicated to it and are aware of what you are actually rewarding, you will have a polite dog in no time!
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