03 Jan 2017

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Jumping Into the New Year

By Bonny King-Taylor, the doggy lama, pet coach

As we start a fresh new year, it is a great time to take stock of things we’d like to improve in our lives. That includes behaviors we would like to change with our pets, like problem jumping.

If your dog likes to play tackle, or demands attention on tiptoes, you can go back to basic rules and extinguish that behavior in a matter of days!

The most important thing to know is that your dog’s mind works on the principle of ‘always and never’.

If she can excitedly jump on you when you come home from work, she can also jump on the person on the street who might sue you. Right?

So, how can you help your dog understand that jumping is only acceptable when you ask for it?

Well, first, you need to extinguish problem jumping altogether. In a later column, we’ll talk about making jumping a fun game for burning off excited energy. But for now…

When a dog jumps up, even if you glare at him, yell at him and shove him away, you are stimulating the behavior by looking at him, talking and touching.

He craves a connect to you and jumping makes that happen. It works! 

It is important to know that jumping is a perfectly natural and instinctive behavior. Puppies jump and shove their snouts into their mother’s mouth to get fed during weaning, and licking is a bonding behavior.

Before a dog can learn not to jump, s/he must first, learn to sit for petting. If you have problem jumping, you should never pet your dog when he is standing on his hind legs, whether he’s put his muddy mitts directly on you or has them propped on the couch or the arm of a chair. Pet your dog only when he has 5 on the floor, all four feet and his bottom. When he starts to jump up, tell him “OFF!” in an abrupt, “I can’t believe you did that!” tone of voice. Now tell him “Sit!” and praise warmly. Bend down and slightly over him to help him remain seated.


When you arrive home and your dog goes ballistic, jumping all over you, withdraw all attention. Fold your arms, look at the ceiling. Ignore the dog completely and pretend there is no dog – no looking, talking or touching. I call this, “Being a tree”. If necessary, stand facing a corner and do not come out until the dog is quiet and calm. If the frenzy begins again as you come out of the corner, go back. The dog will soon discover that the only way to get you out of the corner is to stop jumping and demanding attention. If you reach to pet him and he jumps up – withhold the petting until you get the sit. If he gets obnoxious, go back in the corner or leave the room!

Practice, practice, practice. Calmly practice “sit for petting” daily, slowly raising your excitement level. Imitate the actions of people who will greet your dog like waving, patting, goofy voices, squatting or looming. Praise extravagantly when your dog successfully resists the temptation to jump. Next, practice with family and friends of all ages, at the door by ringing the doorbell and asking for the ‘sit.’

If this is problematic, drop me a line and I can come help you teach your dog the “On Your Spot” command.

To reinforce the desired sitting behavior, try standing on the leash with enough slack that there is no tension but not enough slack that the dog can move away. Reach down for a pet and, if your dog tries to jump up for the attention, he will correct himself when the leash restricts his range.

Remember to praise for the calm sitting behavior and ignore jumping or anxious behavior.

Remember: Punishment does not work in the long run. Fear based behaviors like kneeing in the chest, stomping on his feet, yelling or pinching his toes will not teach him what you would prefer. Help him to succeed!

It is unfair to apply a correction when your dog doesn’t know what he should have done instead. TRAIN DON’T RESTRAIN!!


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