You finally finish getting ready for work and you’re running late. With much excitement, your teenage puppy comes bouncing in from outside and leaps up on you. A torn shirt, muddy pawprints, and another outfit change. These situations are all too common for many of our clients and can leave you feeling extremely frustrated! Jumping up on people is one of the main "problem" behaviors that pet people experience. While this behavior can occur in dogs of all ages – we get the most complaints from owners of dogs in the 6-month to 18-month time range. Why is this?
Puppies are often small. Their sweet beady eyes melt our souls and their small feet don’t cause much damage. But as our puppies age into teenagers it is more than just their bodies that change. As they develop, their excitability increases and ability to control their impulses hasn't fully developed. Our sweet puppy grows to a big slobbery adolescent who has big emotions and little control. So, what can we do? Starting from the Beginning From the moment you bring your puppy home it is always important to communicate clearly. If there is a behavior we do not want our dog to rehearse as an adult, we should not let our puppy rehearse it either. One day our puppy won’t be so small! From the beginning, you can help show your puppy what you want from greetings, whether this is a sit, a down, or simply four on the floor, you can decide. Begin to carry treats (or kibble) in your pockets with you. Offer rewards when you greet your puppy, and he/she remains on the ground. The food reward and praise will help teach your puppy that staying on the ground is a rewarding endeavor. If your puppy gets excited and jumps up you can stand still and ignore them (to avoid being too interesting) and wait for your puppy to go back to the ground. Bingo! Then the calm attention and food begins again! Taming the Teenager As your puppy grows into a teenager, you can continue to use the same methods. We want to ignore all jumping. Since jumping up is an attention-seeking behavior – you cut off all potential reinforcement for the behavior by ignoring it! But remember, this alone is not enough. You need to show your dog what you DO want – four on the floor! If there has been some reinforcement given for this behavior by you or others, it is possible that your dog will go through an extinction burst. This behavior of jumping up used to fruitful. How come it isn’t working now? – the dog may think. Maybe I should jump higher, or bark? While this is speaking for the dog a bit, this is what can happen. This behavior that used to be rewarded isn’t anymore and that can lead to frustration and bigger behaviors. In essence, it gets worse before it gets better. Be consistent – your efforts will soon be rewarded by the lack of jumping! Helping to Reduce Frustration- Training Exercises
Many times as our teenagers (or even older dogs) go through this extinction burst ( the whole- it gets worse before it gets better), our dogs can become frustrated. Our dogs can display signals like barking, showing teeth, jumping more, biting, grabbing clothes, running around or spinning, or even humping. While these big bouts of frustration can be hard to handle (and ignore) as a human – just think about how the dog feels! This should always be a signal to you that your dog needs more help! So, in comes structured training sessions where you can provide more reinforcement to show your dog what we want.
Polite Greeting Routine: One exercise that is simple to rehearse is a structured greeting routine and you don’t need any helpers to get started. By utilizing a tether (or baby gate or x-pen) to keep your dog still, you can approach and reward four on the floor. This helps your dog learn that as a human approaches to say hello, four on the floor gets them what they want. As your dog does well, you can slowly increase your energy level by talking in a higher pitched voice or moving with more animation - to challenge the dog! As your dog advances you can recruit the help of family members, children, and even friends to help your dog generalize! This way they learn that four on the floor is best for ALL greetings with ALL humans!
⭐Structured routines to help you AND friends get four on the floor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipc7PlOvlhg
Training Through Play: Dogs also thrive in play and happy engagement with their owners. While engaging in play, we can also see our dogs become overly excited and they often have trouble controlling those impulses. So, since we see jumping during play as well as greetings, this gives us one more opportunity to strengthen the concept that four on the floor (even when exciting things are happening around) is rewarded.
⭐Taming jumping through PLAY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMlely3X5S0
Putting the Pieces Together While this behavior is certainly frustrating for us to deal with and can present safety concerns for children and the elderly, it is important that we remember that all behavior change takes time. Time for the previously reinforced jumping to become extinguished and time for four on the floor to be so rewarded that the dog understands this is the right path. Often times when our dog learns a new skill, they often pick it up quickest with the primary trainer. This is normal, but for this behavior we need our dogs to generalize. This means that no matter who approaches, no matter where we are, and no matter how exciting something might be – four on the floor is the offered and rewarded. So, how can we accomplish this? Once your dog can remain on the ground for your approaches with excitement, find some friends to play along. You can demonstrate the activity yourself and then hand over some treats for them to practice. You can also hold your dog on leash and reward attention to you and four on the floor as they approach- giving them instructions to back away if your dog jumps. As your dog continues to expand his/her knowledge with new friends remember that management is your friend. Utilizing a leash when outside and a baby gate or x-pen inside can help prevent the jumping from being rehearsed. This makes is easier for your guests to ignore this behavior and prevents it from getting rehearsed! When It Becomes Too Much
There are times when this behavior, despite your best efforts, can increase in intensity. The biting or humping may be breaking skin. The jumping may be happening beyond greetings and you might be experiencing it on walks. Sometimes you just cannot get away. This is when it is time to seek out additional assistance. Why? Because something more is going on that needs to be addressed. Certain ages, certain breeds, certain routines or arousal can all contribute to these changes in behavior. By assisting you in an in-person or virtual session we can evaluate your dog to give you the tools you need to succeed. Contact us today.