JUMPING UP – training for controlled greetings

There are three main treatment elements which alone, or in combination, work well to control unwanted jumping behaviour: withdrawal, control devices (leashes and head collars), and teaching an alternative behaviour such as “sit” or retrieve.

■ Withdrawal

Remove any inadvertent reinforcement for the behaviour by ignoring the dog and withholding all interactions until the dog is calm.
• The person should stand calmly, turn away from the dog with arms crossed with no eye contact until jumping ceases. In cases where the dog persistently jumps, the person may need to walk out of the area, closing a door, or the dog may need to be persistently (but only briefly) confined in another area until it learns to greet the person calmly.
• Once jumping has stopped, the person can return attention to the dog and calmly interact with the dog but should cease interaction if jumping begins again.
• People should avoid rewarding the jumping with interactive responses such as pushing the dog off or yelling. This response is giving the dog what it wants: attention!

■ Increasing control and using control devices:

• Head collars greatly facilitate owner control and the ability to restrict jumping by providing much improved control of the head. Pulling the head up and guiding the dog into a sit will help stop the dog from jumping up and encourage an alternate behaviour.
• Visitors can be greeted outside or inside with the dog on a leash and in a head collar, or the dog’s access to the situation can be restricted by placing it in another room until the visitor is seated, and then the head collar and lead will further assist control of the dog in greeting the visitor.

■ Teach “sit” and “stay” as an alternative method to greet people

• When the dog is calm and relaxed, practice sitting for a food reward in different areas of the house with the dog wearing a leash and head collar.
• Begin with short sessions of 3–5 minutes with 8–12 repetitions per session.
• Use highly palatable food rewards cut into small pieces.
• Add the word “stay” or “wait” when the duration of sitting is a few seconds; take a step away, return to the dog and give the food reward.
• Gradually build up the time away from the dog to 30 – 60 seconds.
• Repeat these exercises, getting nearer to the front door each session, and with the addition of leaving and returning to the dog placed in the sit-stay position.
• Next, ask the dog to sit for a food reward when entering the home following a brief absence – start with only a second or two, and build it up to several minutes, then to fifteen minutes, then when returning from work or other absences of a few hours’ duration. This must be done very gradually and only increase the time after many successes (e.g. 9 out of 10)
• Repeat the process by enlisting familiar visitors – ask them to enter, ask the dog to sit, and give a food reward.
• Alternatively, the owner can reward the dog for remaining seated as people enter also using the head collar and leash for control.
• Eventually the food rewards can be reduced to intermittent use.

■ Some hyperactive dogs remain too excitable to achieve a sit-stay when visitors or even the owners enter the home. These dogs may do better if a ball is tossed in another area as a visitor enters. This is more beneficial if a dog has been taught to sit prior to an item being
tossed again.

■ In all situations, the owner/visitor should avoid increasing the dog’s excitement. Always enter calmly, maintain no contact until the dog is calm/indifferent/sitting, and then introduce only gently, slow contact, speaking in a quiet voice.

■ Stepping on the dog’s toes, kneeing it in the chest or squeezing the paws should never be done; activities like these are cruel, are ineffective at diminishing the jumping behaviour, and can lead to more problematic behaviours, including fear and aggression.

Comments are closed.