Dog Training E-mail

Down Boy

So your otherwise wonderful pet has a bad habit of jumping up on anybody and everybody who walks through your front door - you’ve tried scolding and you’ve tried pushing Fido down each time he jumps. These tactics seem to work at the time, since the dog does stop jumping, yet he’s right back in over-excited jumping mode the very next time the front door opens. What’s really going on here?

What’s going on is that most dog owners don’t realize that their own reaction to Fido’s behavior is what’s encouraging him to keep on jumping. Next to food, the one thing your dog loves best is attention from you. But communication is difficult between species, and your dog will accept any kind of attention – good or bad – as proof that he still matters to you. So every time you scold him or push him off your lap, in his mind that counts as attention. Underneath it all he really wants to please you because he just wants to be loved. But he’s gotten confused along the way about what pleases you, and about what good attention is. He looks to you to help him understand.

So if you seriously want Fido to change his behavior, then you’ve seriously got to change yours. Don’t reward his antics with any attention at all. Ignore all jumping, and ask all your guests to do the same. Don’t scold, don’t push him down – don’t even acknowledge Fido at all. Just look away and pretend he’s not there. Like a naughty child, he’ll probably intensify his jumping behavior for awhile as he tries harder to get your attention using the only method he knows. Keep ignoring him; it’s critical that you don’t give in once you’ve started ignoring him. If you do break down and scold him or speak to him, it’ll only teach him that he should go on jumping for longer periods of time in order to get noticed. Only if he is completely ignored each time will Fido abandon his tried and true attention-getter and start looking for other ways to win your approval.

He needn’t look far; at the same time that you begin his ‘ignoring therapy’, you should start rewarding him for calm and appropriate behavior. Whenever you see him sitting nicely, make it a point to interrupt what you’re doing to praise him and pet him. Every time you see Fido calm down and stop his jumping (or when he comes to the front door without jumping) reward him lavishly with praise, petting and even the occasional crunchy snack. If he responds to your praise by jumping, go back to completely ignoring him. If you and your guests are consistent and immediate in your reactions to him – lavish praise for calm behavior, total cold shoulder for jumping behavior – it won’t be long before Fido gets the message and stops his jumping altogether.