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My Dog Jumps on Everyone

Dear WOOF:

I have a question regarding a problem I've been having for quite some time. I have a 1-year-old chocolate lab that is a wonderful dog, with one major problem: his jumping. He has a problem jumping on people when the come into my home, or when he walks into theirs, and jumping on me when he firsts gets out of his crate or anytime he wants something. The larger he gets, the larger this problem has become, and now it's to the point where he can literally knock the wind right out of me! He went through puppy training when he was a pup, and nothing seems to work to get him to stop. Any suggestions?

Thank you!

Hi:

This is a problem many owners have with their dogs. Often it starts when they're pups, but it is often not considered a problem until the dog becomes a big.

Our first reaction is to say "no" or push the dog down. But we have to remember the Number 1 rule of dog behavior, which is: Anything a dog is doing is rewarding to him, otherwise he wouldn't waste his time doing it.

In this case, what type of pay off is your dog looking for? He is clearly seeking attention. Any type of attention. That means, saying no, or pushing him down is actually growing the behavior (and the
behavior is getting worse instead of better, right?).

So your goal should be to set up situations where he is not reinforced for this inappropriate behavior. We have to teach him the behavior that we would prefer, because he honestly does not know. In his eyes, his jumping is working just fine.

You need to set up training sessions for him, with people he knows well. When there are new guests over, he is so over stimulated, he cannot learn and absorb at that time. So if you attempt to "train" him when he is over stimulated, you will both be frustrated!

During your training sessions, instruct your guests (or shall I say guinea pig!) that they cannot pay any attention to him unless he has "four on the floor." It is even better if he is sitting (it is much harder for him to jump on people from a sit than from a stand position). When he is sitting, they can talk to him, and pet him, but if he gets up, they need to ignore him, and turn around.

You can do the same exercise with him. If he starts to jump on you, turn around. If he is still knocking you down, when he starts to jump, leave the room. If he is seeing attention, and we take that attention away, he will start to seek new avenues! We will then replace the jumping with our desired behavior (sitting).

For now, when people come over, he needs to be confined (to a crate of dog-proofed room) until he has calmed down enough that you can bring him out on lead. Every time he takes the opportunity to jump on
someone, he is practicing a very rewarding behavior. And practice makes perfect! So the behavior just becomes stronger.

Also, it may be time to think about additional training. For some dogs, it is very hard to focus on commands in high stimulus situations (such as when mom comes home, or when guests come over).
By enrolling him in a training class he learns to listen to you around other dogs and people. Training a dog is a lifelong endeavor. Even after class, you should do short training sessions with him often. In our Intermediate Class we do weekly greetings so dogs learn to sit when people approach. This also helps owners learn the proper way to handle their dog when they have visitors over.

Good luck!

Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

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