Jumping up is a behaviour often seen in dogs, and can be the cause of much frustration and even injury when, for example, they jump up on small children or older people. But why do dogs do this? “Dogs exhibit this behaviour for various reasons; for example, greeting the family, wanting attention, feeling frustrated or being overexcited,” says animal behaviour practitioner, Anlè Allison. Jumping up is unacceptable in both large and small breed dogs, as it can get out of control if it’s not handled in the correct way. So what is the correct way?
Realise that your dog does not know he is doing something wrong when he jumps up, and he will not know it unless you teach him from the start. If you are going to expect certain behaviours from him when he’s older, you have to start teaching him early. Puppy socialisation classes, taken at a properly qualified academy, is a must for all new owners. There you will be taught how to handle your pup through all of the basic obedience actions, and he will learn human-appropriate rules. If you missed puppy classes, it is very possible to still train your dog to refrain from jumping up, again by using the services of a qualified trainer, and not advice from family and friends. The older the dog, the more difficult it is to change the behaviour, because it will have become habitual and rewarding for him.
Follow these steps
First you need to teach your dog to sit on command. This is done by keeping a treat in your closed hand, taking it to your dog’s nose, and slowly moving your hand just barely over your dog’s head. If your hand is held too high, he will jump. Reward him as soon as he sits.
Once your dog knows the ‘sit’ command, you can start play-teaching him not to jump up. Two people can stand opposite from each other, each with treats in their hand. Person A calls the dog, and when he is about 1m away from that person, they can ask him to sit. Make it very clear to the dog by using the same upward hand signal as taught for the ‘sit’ command. Immediately when the dog sits, say a resounding “YES!” and reward him with the treat. Person B can call the dog and do the exact same exercise.
Many different people can be included in the ‘game’ once the dog knows what it’s about. Then you need to get into the habit, whenever you call your dog (for whatever reason), to always get him to sit when he gets to you. It is the best way to train a dog to exhibit a calm approach to people. When the behaviour is nicely reinforced, you can use only the hand signal and verbal praise or a nice scratch behind his ear.
Always remember that training and working with your dog should be fun – for you and him – so be patient!
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Text: Anle Allison, animal behaviour practitioner