By Diana Logan
What would you do if your young kid had a supply of permanent markers and was clearly set on turning your wall into his personal canvas? Would you wait until he has marked it up, or would you anticipate his imminent, unwelcome artwork and interrupt him before he has a chance to put pen to wall?
I’m betting that you would get in between him and your wall in no time at all.
Interrupt Intention, not Action
Just as we need to interrupt the kid intent on marking up the wall, we need to interrupt the want-to- jump dog before he has a chance to connect with his target.
Dogs jump on people because it works.
Dogs are attention-seeking and quickly learn that jumping is a great strategy by which to get it. At the same time, we often unwittingly reward them for jumping and end up sabotaging our own efforts to curtail this most common... and most annoying... habit. Jumping can also be self-rewarding for some dogs, so thrilling it is to get airborne and make body contact with people!
Growing out of it.
Don’t count on puppy behaviors such as mouthing, jumping, chasing, etc. to magically go away as your puppy matures. Sometimes unaddressed puppy behaviors can sprout into full-fledged adult dog bad habits. They can be extremely difficult to modify if they’ve been going on for a while, so don't wait.
Very few people like a dog to jump on them. If you have a dog who tends to jump, do a favor for your friends and family and any person he might encounter and help him learn some manners. Keep in mind that it’s not his fault; he just lacks the proper skills, and it’s up to you to help him. First, though, you need the skills to teach him.
Typical Unintentional Rewards for Jumping:
- Saying “down” or “off”... or anything - this is attention
- Waving your hands around
- Making eye contact with your dog
- Allowing/inviting paw contact with your body during greetings and interactions
- Moving away (movement will likely elicit more jumping)
- Giving him something he likes such as petting, a toy, food, a game
If you own a jumping dog:
It is your responsibility to protect people from being jumped on, not theirs. Don't be the dog owner who finds himself saying, "don't let him jump on you" to the people he encounters.
- Prevent your dog from accessing his victims by leashing him or otherwise restricting his movements
- Condition the dog to focus on the ground when he gets to you. Many repetitions of searching for treats at your feet the moment he arrives is a simple and effective way to achieve this for the food-loving dog.
- Train, train, train: skills such as targeting, perch, etc. are all good skills for any dog to have.
If jumping is imminent:
Use a Shield. Carry something and keep it between you and the dog. Example: a cane or sick, a cooler, an umbrella, etc. At PupStart, we use sections of pens, plastic saucers, large piece of cardboard, etc. These items are not to be used as weapons but as shields. It’s often during the first few seconds of an interaction that a dog wants to jump; if you can interrupt that, you are more likely to be spared.
Move INTO the dog, abruptly, before he gets to you so that he has to yield space. Keep your hands and arms against your body. NOTE: do not do this if you aren’t familiar with the dog; an aggressive dog may be triggered by this move and aggress.
Unfortunately, jumping on people can become quite addictive for some dogs. The longer they’ve enjoyed their signature jumping move, the harder it is to change it. It takes a dedicated effort to make sure there is no reward available for jumping but instead there is ample payment for a more acceptable behavior.