Having a dog that lunges on anybody that approaches is not only annoying, it can be dangerous; they could knock over or injure someone.
And actually it is not difficult to teach a dog to not jump in terms of the actual methods used—you don’t need any severe aversions or tools. The hard part is the patience and perseverance it takes on the part of all humans involved.
When it comes to the training, there are a couple steps you can use to teach your dog to keep “four on the floor.”
1. Teach a contradictory behavior. If your dog learns he has to sit for attention, then he can’t jump up—it’s not physically possible for him to do both at the same time. Or, you could teach our dog to go to his mat when people come through your front door. Whatever behavior you decide – STICK with it! It’s easier on your dog if the rules are always the same.
2. Ignore them. Your dog is jumping on people because he wants something – attention, food, play time, to sniff them, etc. Whatever the reason, the best way to get them to stop is to IGNORE THEM.
This is critical and difficult. Your dog doesn’t understand that you pushing them down and yelling no is something he shouldn’t want. He still got your attention. Your hands are still on him. As far as he is concerned, jumping worked.
So…when your dog jumps:
Look away from them
Turn your back on them
Fold your arms (so you don’t inadvertently pet them)
Stay quiet. Remember, even telling your dog no, stop, etc., is still attention to him!
As soon as your dog stops jumping, give him what he wants! Wait until he is keeping all four paws on the floor for a few seconds, then reward him with what he wanted (as long at is is something safe–if he was going for chocolate, obviously give him a dog treat instead). If you are going to teach a behavior, wait until he does that behavior before giving what he wanted. For example, if you want him to sit for attention, wait until your dog stops jumping and sits and then give him lots of praise and pets. Depending on your dog, you may have to break this step down. So, first you may just praise him for not jumping and keeping all four paws on the floor. Once he has that down, you can then up the criteria and see if he will offer a sit.
3. EVERYONE has to be on board. This is the kicker and the hard part. Every person that comes into contact with your dog has to follow these rules (even strangers on the street). Otherwise, the behavior ends up being on a variable reinforcement schedule (in other words, your dog gets rewarded when he jumps on people sometimes and sometimes he doesn’t). This will actually make the behavior will get stronger.
Jumping on Cue
If you want your dog to be able to jump up sometimes, but not others, you should put it on cue. This will teach your dog stimulus control – so he only does the behavior when asked. My dog know that when I pat my legs, for example, it’s okay to jump up and get attention.
Step 3 above probably has you sweating. You can’t possible control every person your dog comes into contact with. Especially those annoying people that say “it’s okay, I don’t mind if your dog jumps on me.” If you can’t reason with the people, then you will have to manage the situation so your dog does not get the chance to practice the bad behavior and, worse, possibly be rewarded for practicing the bad behavior.
Here are some ways to manage your dog’s behavior while he is learning good manners, or in a situation where you think the people will not respect your rules.
1. Block the entry area. At home, set up baby gates, close doors or put your dog in a crate when people are coming over so he cannot rush to the door and pummel them as soon as you open it. This gives you time to explain the new rules, get everyone settled and make sure your dog is not going to practice any bad behavior.
2. Keep a leash on your dog. If you know your friends can’t handle following the rules, maybe your dog does not get to greet them while he is in training. If he must say hi, you can keep a leash on your dog and step on it, so he can’t physical jump up on them. This also works great on walks when a complete strangers walks up too fast for you to explain the rules or get your dog to sit.
3. Prepare yourself to be forceful. You need to be vocal about your wishes with anyone that comes into contact with your dog. You wouldn’t let a stranger approach your child in any way they want—treat your dog with the same care. Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell people they cannot pet your dog, or that they need to wait until he is being appropriate before saying hi. You don’t have to say it rudely, but don’t back down, either.
Follow these simple rules and you will be on your way to a politer, calmer dog that is a model canine citizen.