It has been said many times, but it bears repeating. The more a behavior is rewarded, the more likely it is to occur and on the flip side, the more a behavior is ignored, the more likely it is to become extinct.
Never is that theory tested more than in the ongoing issues of our dogs jumping. Jumping on us, jumping on strangers in the park, jumping on friends in our home and even jumping at people while out for an evening stroll. While having a Maltese jumping up for attention can be annoying, the scenario changes when you have a dog with some body weight catapulting themselves off a body. This can not only be potential dangerous, but downright upsetting for someone who is not expecting it.
By looking at it from the dog’s viewpoint, we might start to understand just how things look. They wait by the door for it to open, and when it does, all heck breaks loose. They jump up on us, we push them down, they jump again, our annoyance increases and we push them down with more force, all the time repeating “down, get off, stop it”. The fact that we have put our hands onto their bodies and pushed them off, for most dogs, is a playful action. Even in our most annoying tone, it is still fun for them. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to take a look at our theories and put them to good use? Instead of telling our dogs what not to do, how about we tell them what we would prefer, and then reward them for it.
Now, when we come through that door, the first thing we need to do is ignore our dog if he is jumping up. Instead of calling out “off” (which I believe dogs think means jump up), ask them to sit. This is assuming your dog understands that word already. If not, it is time to get to training school. By asking your dog to sit, and rewarding him with a treat, a favorite toy or praise, you will soon notice that the good behavior will increase. And you will notice him offering a sit on a regular basis when he sees you. Always make sure to acknowledge his efforts and don’t take them for granted.
Of course, it is quite manageable to do this when you only have yourself to direct. It is another story when company arrives. Remember that it is your job to train your dog, and your job to direct your company if needed.
Using the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”, have your dog on a house line before your company arrives. If they are unexpected and there is a knock at your door, ask that they wait a moment and hook your dog up to a 6-foot line. This will enable you to assist your dog in his lessons, and in turn will enable him to gain a reward when he does the correct behavior.
When your company enters, ask them to bear with you while you get Sparky organized. Most of the time, our company will get a kick out of watching the action. The criterion for your dog to get a reward is to have 4 feet on the floor.
Ask for a sit, and reward for a sit only. Once Sparky has calmed down and is sitting nicely, he can greet your guests. The same rules apply, have 4 feet on the floor at all times. The interaction between your visitors and your dog should be initially quite structured with lots of supervision from you. This will give him time to understand what is expected of him.
It is also important that he behaves in an appropriate manner during the course of the visit. A stuffed chew toy on his mat should keep him occupied. Over time you can teach him the word “place” and that should mean he goes to his mat while you have guests. Before you know it, you will have a very well-mannered dog.
K9 COACH GILLIAN RIDGEWAY
is the Director of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario. She has been featured on many radio and television programs and penned a monthly column in Dogs in Canada Magazine for nine years. Gillian is also a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, using dogs to shed light on learning theory to psychology students. She shares her home with two dogs, and is involved in dog sports and canine performance teams.