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Stop Your Dog from Jumping

By Robin Tierney

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Jumping: Strategies to Ground Your Dog

If your dog jumps up to greet you and your visitors, it's time to teach him that NOT jumping is more rewarding. Here are jump-stopping strategies from the pros. Be sure to read them all. Some of the experts offer overlapping advice, but you'll find gain insight and improve your skills by reading each section.

1. Liz Marsden's approach starts with the question: "What do you want your dog to do instead?"

How about "sit"? Teach your dog "sit," using treats or a toy for motivation and reward. Start in a teaching environment free of distractions. After your dog really gets the cue, introduce distractions one at a time. For example, have several guests visit your home. Have the leash and treats ready.

Liz, who is a DC-area Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), suggests this smart stop-the-jumping strategy: Leash your dog. Hold the leash. Stand 6 feet back from the door. Step firmly on the leash 18-24 inches from the dog's collar – about where it naturally hits the floor as it hangs from the collar. Treat every time he sits ... but eventually transition to an intermittent reward schedule.

Call your guest to come in. If your dog attempts to jump, he can't because you're stepping on the leash. If you dog is focused on your guest, your guest can ask for a sit -- but ust once. If the dog is jumping, the guest should say nothing. Ignore. After a few minutes, your dog will likely settle down because he realizes the jumping isn't getting him what he wants. As soon as his butt hits the floor, reward him. Your guest should say Yes! and quickly feed your dog several tidbits. Next, repeat this exercise. "End the training session when the dog is sitting fairly quickly, or start with a new ‘guest' and repeat the process. If your dog barks at your guest, he or she should immediately walk out the door and try again in 30 seconds (during the lull, you can remind your dog about sitting).

Next, transition to trials without the leash. If your dog reverts to jumping, go back a step. During this training, talk with household members so that everyone understands NOT to allow your dog a chance to regress to his old habit of jumping. Use baby gates to keep your dog away from guests unless you are in training mode.

The final step is fading out the treats. Most dogs will learn that if they skit, it will pay off, just not with treats every time. Have someone treat your dog once in awhile. Also, offer the verbal praise as reinforcement.

Liz is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer and owner of The Logical Dog in Takoma Park. Website: logicaldog.com. Email: thelogicaldog@yahoo.com.

2. Colleen Pelar, CPDT, explains how to discourage jumping on approaching kids and adults in her great book "Living with Kids and Dogs ... Without Losing Your Mind."

Hook two leashes to your dog's collar. When kids approach, drop the extra leash on the ground, and step on it while holding your better leash in your hands.

Standing on the extra leash prevents the dog from jumping up. As your dog gets better at sitting, you can begin leaving the extra leash on the ground without stepping on it. And when you have two leashes attached to the collar, your child can help walk the dog.

Note: Have everyone in your household, children included, use the same "Sit" cue. Everyone benefits when everyone is involved in proper training.

"Living with Kids and Dogs ... Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent's Guide to Controlling the Chaos" by Colleen Pelar, CPDT. Details at http://www.LivingwithKidsandDogs.com

3. In the February issue of "Your Dog" newsletter, national canine expert Pat Miller explained "How to keep four politely on the floor."

Jumping up is a natural greeting behavior among canines, but can be stopped if you resolve not to reward and reinforce it.

But so often, owners reinforce it unintentionally. Holding and cuddling puppies teaches them that "up" is a rewarding place to be. When they jump up, someone often pets them or otherwise pays attention to them, rewarding the ultimately undesired behavior. Rewarding jumping or any behavior usually guarantees it will be repeated. In fact, dogs may find the coercive attempts to punish jumping as rewarding.

With exercises and management, you can teach that four-on-the-floor is far more rewarding than aerial maneuvers. Consistency is key: never allow yourself, family members or guests reward jumping, since random rewards can strengthen behavior.

Exercise 1: The On-Leash Jump.

Hold the dog on leash next to you. Have a helper appproach and stop just out of leash-range, holding a tasty treat high against his chest. The dog will get frustrated that he can't jump and will eventually sit. The instant he sits, have your helper say YES! and pop a treat in the dog's mouth. Repeat 6 times; this is usually enough to get a dog to start sitting as the helper approaches. Vary the exercise: sometimes you pop treat in the dog's mouth. Repeat with as many different "helpers" as possible, which helps socialization.

Exercise 2: The Off-Leash Jump.

When you arrive home, turn your back on your jumping dog. Continue to turn and step away as he tries to jump on you. Soon he will sit to think why he's not getting attention anymore. The instant he sits, say "YES!" in a happy voice and turn and feed him the treat. Be sure to keep treats on you when you enter home. Keep secure jar of treats at your front door and/or in your pocket all the time. If your dog starts to jump again, turn and step away. Keep repeating this until he realizes that sitting gets attention, not jumping.

Exercise 3: Ask for an Incompatible Behavior.

The dog first needs to understand and how to respond reliably to the verbal cue for "Sit" or "Down". When your dog approaches, ask for a Sit or Down before he has chance to jump. Reward with a "Yes!" and a treat. Eventually he'll start to offer Sit or Down on his own.

Exercise 4: Put the Jump on Cue.

After you teach your dog polite greeting behavior, then teach him to jump on a cue, such as the word "Hugs!" But don't pat his chest or else you'll invite unwanted behvaior.

Tether for Management:

Use a 4- to 6-foot plastic-coated cable with snaps at both ends. (Example at www.baddogsinc.com/newpettethers.html). Note: Do not use this as long-term restraint.

The technique: Secure one end of the tether to a heavy piece of furniture or attach it to a strategically placed eyebolt. Alternately, slip a cable under a door and close the door to hold the tether in place.

Put a comfy rug or bed at the tether station. Then when your dog starts jumping on visitors, give him a cheerful "Too bad, time out," and a few minutes on the tether.

You can clip the dog to the tether before you open the door, then release the instant he settles down. If he revs up again upon release, do another "Too bad, time out!" Stay cheerful; this is not a forceful punishment. He will learn to control his own behavior to avoid time-outs. No need to yell.

You can use the tether to train polite greetings as well as manage jumping behavior. You can attach your dog preemptively when someone comes to door. Hand guests treats and instruct them to greet your dog and treat him only if he's sitting. Be consistent and your dog will eventually run to his tether station without promptly when the doorbell rings in anticipation of greets and treats.

"Your Dog" newsletter is a terrific resource. It's published by Tufts University, which also offers VETFAX and PETFAX customized long-distance counseling for pet behavior problems. Visit www.tufts.edu/vet/behavior.

4. Dr. Emily Levine works from the smart, simple premise that people must teach their dogs in a manner they can learn. The Cornell University vet's practical solutions to common behavior problems start with this step:

Free yourself from notions that usually, and needlessly, lead to failure: "My dog is dumb" ... "my dog is trying to be dominant" ... "My dog is being spiteful" ... "My dog already gets plenty of exercise." And that time-worn response that sends canine care experts' eyes a-rolling: "Oh, I tried that and it didn't work."

As for the jumping, put yourself in the dog's paws: What if your mouth were duct-taped; how would you get my attention? Probably by touching me. And what if, when you touched me, I knee'd you?

Instead, follow this proven strategy: Ignore unwanted behavior, reward desired behavior. "Didn't work"? That's because most people, and their family members, don't understand that "ignore" means "ignore." No eye contact, no touching, no talking – these are reinforcing behaviors. Far from dumb, dogs are exquisitely tuned to any signals of acknowledgment from humans. How do you think they won status as "man's best friend"?

Here's what TO do: Stand like a tree and look up. And expect that the dog's still going to jump up, because jumping up worked before. There will be an "extinction burst" – a flurry of the unwanted behavior before the dog realizes, "Hey, even when I make it obvious I want attention, my person now ignores me, so I'll try something different."

It's critical not to give in at that point. People usually do – which teaches the dog "Oh, I need to jump MORE!" Expect extinguishing a behavior to take many repetitions before the dog catches on. But believe that he will.

Then, immediately when the dog does something in the right direction, such as standing relatively still with all 4 feet on the ground, reward with verbal praise and a treat. Dr. Levine has to sometimes remind her clients to reward their dogs at the right moment to properly reinforce the good behavior.

Tips: Practice exercises daily in sessions that are separate from your actual arrivals home. Be consistent and persistent. Expect behavioral change to take awhile. Be prepared for backslides and start again.

Begin practicing in one room, then in other places, and then with other distractions such as other people, to generalize the new behavior. Make sure other family members do the same – and don't let others undo your progress.

5. Tap the power of ignoring, suggests Los Angeles behavior specialist Cinimon Clark. Recruit a helper whose job is to simply ignore the dog. No eye contact, no touching and no voice. The dog jumps and jumps. When the dog realizes no one is paying any attention to him, he will try another way to get what he wants. This is what mammals do; after all, how many times do you try to open a locked door if the key doesn't work?

Be warned: This may take a few minutes or quite a while depending on how many years the dog was allowed to perform this behavior.

The dog will start trying other things to get attention, such as whining, circling and barking. Once the dog learns these tactics don't work, he usually tries the "sit" behavior. As soon as the dog sits, Jackpot! Give the dog treats, love, attention, kisses.

If the owner isn't fast enough to praise when the dog settles on the ground, the method will not seem to work. It does work, but the owner needs to learn how to ignore as well as praise in the dog's time frame. Which means really, really fast!

The next time this scenario presents itself, will this dog jump? Not likely. The dog has truly "learned how to learn." He knows that jumping does not work anymore. Dogs use only what works for them.

6. More Tips.

* Charge the clicker:

That means: Develop an association between click and food treat. When a click raises ears, that's a signed it's charged. Click and treat each time your dog has 4 feet on ground, and in just days your dog will work to earn that click.

* Exercise before guests arrive.

To tire the dog but not you, play "fetch up the stairs." Throw the toy up the steps and let your dog retrieve it.

* Train using your doorbell.

Teach your dog that the doorbell is a signal for playing fetch, and not jumping. Keep a basket of toys by the door, and when bell rings, go to door with your dog and toss a toy. While he's off fetching, invite your guest in. When your dog returns with the toy, ask the visitor to take it from the dog and toss it again. You can add a requirement that your dog sit before the toy is thrown.

* Head halter help:

To prevent jumping on passersby when on a walk, a head halter provides added control.

* Help your dog cool down:

PAW volunteer Karen Malone used this plan to cure a foster dog of jumping. When arriving home, she ignored Maggie, who was placed in a crate. She let her other dogs outside, then spent 10 minutes in the room with Maggie, still ignoring her – which gave Maggie the chance to settle down. After the 10 minutes is up, Karen let Maggie out of the crate, without speaking or touching Maggie and making no eye contact. After a few minutes of Maggie being uncrated, Karen said "Maggie sit" (still no eye contact or touching), and then pet Maggie after she sat.

7. Teach Yourself and Your Dog Patience.

Behave calmly when getting ready for a walk. And stay calm whenever your dog gets excited or pulls while on walks.

Jumping while you both get ready for a walk? Put the leash down, sit down and read. Don't look at dog. Repeat until she does not bark or act excited when you get the leash before a walk.

Put the leash down if she gets excited again.

Put on the leash. If the dog gets excited, remove leash and sit and read. Repeat until she is calm.

Reach for the door knob. If she's not calm, sit down and read. Try again when dog seems calm. Repeat these steps until she stays calm.

8. A Reminder: Don't just tell your dog what not to do, but what TO do. Sit or Down ... give her something acceptable to do with her energy, and something that can result in her getting a reward in the form of praise, petting, playing, a treat, a click and treat. Substitute positive behavior for negative. Offer her a new toy to which she can redirect energy and anxiety. Then she will relax. Another tactic: Channel energy peaks into positive games, such as find the treat or toy.

9. Off! Nationally syndicated canine behavior expert Sarah Wilson describes "Off" as a command that every dog needs to learn. It means four feet on the ground pronto! "Off" the counter, the couch, your lap, a visitor, etc. "Off" is also a command we tend not to practice enough and then get frustrated when our dog does not know it well. If your dog is unresponsive to a command, the cure is practice, not anger or blame.

It may seem impossible that your dog will ever control himself when excited, but he can – if you put in the time, match the method you choose with your dog and reward him for the right choices. He'll learn.

"Off" means the dog voluntarily removes himself from whatever he is on. "Off" does not mean that you push, pull or shove the dog away.

Here are two "Off" basics:

Setting Up the Situation:

How often do you get yourself ready and work on this behavior? Since many dogs need dozens (even hundreds) of repetitions in different situations to really get the hang of a command/behavior, most of us have some work to do!

It's no real surprise, is it, that your dog jumps when you come in? He does it each and every time you open the door. Given this consistency on his part there is no reason for you not to be prepared.

Giving the Right Answer:

What is it that you want from the dog? In this case, it is to sit when greeting you. Do you tell him that? Do you reward him for sitting instead of jumping? Developing the desired behavior is much quicker and more fun than trying to eliminate the unwanted. If your dog sits when you come home, the jumping is solved. And your dog will get what he wants - your attention.

Different Approaches to "Off"

Guide into Correct Behavior:

If your dog is a food hound or toy lover, use that to your advantage. Keep a favorite toy or treat outside the door. When you enter and your dog jumps tell him "Off" and then "Sit" and as you hold the toy or treat a few inches above his head. When he sits, give him the treat or toss the toy a short distance. Do not reward him for jumping at it. Since a dog HAS to obey "off" in order to "sit" he will be learning both at the same time.

Ignore the Dog:

In some cases, simply crossing your arms and looking at the ceiling will cause the dog to stop. He is trying to get your attention; if he isn't getting it, some dogs will sit down in puzzlement. The moment he looks like he is about to stop jumping, tell him "Off" calmly, then praise him calmly. If he jumps, ignore him again. This may take a few minutes, but he may well get the idea quickly. Clearly this is not the technique to use with a large, powerful dog – after all, training is not supposed to be painful for either of you.

Step on the Lead:

This method allows the dog to learn at his own speed. It prevents jumping without you having to put much energy into it. Simply leave the lead on the pup. When he looks like he's about to jump, step on the lead and say "Off." The best place to step is at the point where it hits the floor when the pup is standing. He will correct himself. Wait for him to stop jumping, tell him to "Sit", and make sure he does. Now praise him for being so brilliant. If he goes to jump again, repeat as before. He'll soon figure out that jumping gets him nothing worthwhile, whereas sitting gets him love and attention. An easy choice for a dog.

Leash Correction:

When your dog jumps, grasp the leash two feet away from your dog's collar, say "Off" calmly and give a quick snap off to one side. You do not have to use a lot of force! Give yourself plenty of slack and be quick. Tugging hard, or yanking at the collar won't work well. A dog on two legs is poorly balanced; even a small sideways pressure will force him on to all fours. Be sure to praise your dog for getting off, then direct him to "Sit" and praise him more.

Noise Correction:

For many dogs, the proper use of a startling sound can make an excellent training tool. Like all training tools, it is not appropriate for all dogs, nor is it effective if misused. Many sporting breeds are not impressed by sound corrections, having been selected for generations to tolerate the noise of gunfire without a blink. Do not use these techniques on shy or sound-sensitive dogs.

Noise correction techniques: Leave a shake can outside your door or keep a throw chain in your pocket. When your dog starts to jump, tell him "Off," then "Sit." If he complies, great! Praise him.

If he does not, give the can a brisk shake behind your back or toss the throw chain down at the floor near his hind feet. Never shake the can at the dog or throw anything at the dog. The moment he gets off, praise him calmly and direct him to sit. After a few days of practice, he'll get the idea.

What Are Some Common "Off" Problems?


Maybe the truth is that you actually like the jumping, some of the time. Maybe on the weekends, when you are wrestling or when you come home from a hard day, the jumping seems like love, play and fun. Or perhaps you are the picture of consistency, but the rest of your family rewards the dog's hind leg hopping. If you and your family aren't consistent, how can you expect your dog to be consistent?

Creating Pain, Not Understanding:

Avoid blaming the dog. Instead of teaching him what he should be doing or controlling ourselves, too often people blame the dog and then use "hurt him till he stops" methods based on hurting the animal. These unacceptable methods advocate kneeing, stepping on toes, or squeezing paws. Since we have better methods, let's use those.

10. "Off" for Puppies. Sarah's partner Brian Kilcommons outlines the steps:

"Off" means the dog voluntarily removes himself from whatever he is on. "Off" does not mean that you push, pull or shove the pup away. You're not supposed to be doing the work, that's the pup's job.

Your job is to make sure you don't encourage jumping in play and then get frustrated by it later. You also need to stay calm and remember that this is a young being who means no harm. He just does not know any better until you take the time to teach him how you want him to behave. His behavior is up to you.

This method for teaching a pup "Off" allows the pup to learn at his own speed. It prevents jumping without requiring you to put much energy into it. Simply leave the lead on the pup (who is wearing a flat, buckle, non-tightening collar). When he looks like he's about to jump, just step on the lead. The best place to step is at the point where the lead hits the floor while the pup is standing . He will correct himself.

Wait for him to stop jumping, tell him to "Sit," and make sure he does. Now praise him for being so brilliant.

If he jumps again, keep your foot on the lead and ignore him. He'll soon figure out that jumping gets him nowhere, whereas sitting gets him love and attention. An easy choice for a dog.

For more wisdom from Sarah Wilson and Brian Kilcommons, visit www.greatpets.com.


For more Dog Tips about pet care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our website at:

Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768