It’s easy to dismiss our dogs’ love of jumping up on us — and other people — as friendly boisterousness, but it's a sign that all is not well. Ben Randall explains how to ensure your dog keeps all paws firmly on the ground.
Friendliness? Excitement? Yes, in some ways, but over-exuberant dogs can be a problem. Your dog jumping up on you is a sign that your four-legged friend is not as calm and well-trained as he or she should be.
Dog training isn’t just about positive things — as you’ll see on my dog training app (and this link will let you get a free trial), there are times when you have to end a negative behaviour, and that’s what this week’s query is about.
‘When we go to the park, my six-month-old Romanian rescue puppy jumps up at people and barks at other dogs and also jumps up at me, while nipping and spinning around on his lead,’ writes N.G. from south London. ‘Do you have any tips as to how I can try to stop this behaviour?’
For me, this dog is not yet well trained or mentally mature enough to be in a really exciting environment like the park — where there are lots of distractions, from people and dogs to wildlife, such as squirrels and ducks — hence why it’s acting in this way.
This behaviour can be motivated by anxiety or over-excitement, but either way it shows a lack of patience — and that the dog is trying to dominate you. It’s a big issue that we really need to curb as soon as possible. Here’s how to go about it.
Seven steps to stop your dog jumping up on people
1. Go right back to basics
In the early months of dog ownership, your new companion should be spending most of its time at home and you need to be focussing on teaching him the foundation commands for life. In other words, going right back to basics and removing areas where things can go wrong.
Begin with correctly establishing clear commands at home, both inside and outside in the garden, and teaching vital instructions such as the ‘leave’ command, which will help your dog to regulate itself and make life easier and safer — especially if you’re trying to stop him jumping up, nipping or eating that discarded chicken bone off the pavement.
2. Find an outdoor space that’s free of distractions
If your dog jumps up at people in the park, then there’s a real danger that every time you take him there, you’re compounding the problem. In my view, it’s way too early to take your dog to such a busy place with so many distractions where he cannot focus on or listen to you.
But I do understand. You live in an urban area, and you need to take your dog somewhere with open space to exercise and let him go to the loo. I would recommend, though, that you try to find a smaller, more restricted, area — either within the park or elsewhere — where there are fewer distractions for a dog of this young age.
3. Always treat walks as training sessions — no matter how short
Of course, we all need to take our dogs out for some exercise. However, I’m pretty sure if I had a six-month-old puppy, I could not go for a two- to three-mile walk and keep its focus on me for the entire time. It’s always best to treat any outing as a training walk.
Start with small/short walks, while practising your training, incorporating good heel work and getting your dog to sit every time you cross the road, to get him tuned in and looking to you for guidance. Gradually increase the length of these walks each week, but only when you are happy that your pup’s training is progressing well.
4. Use meal times to build up your dog’s patience
Focus on establishing the ‘sit’ command and patience at each meal time (link to the ‘how to teach your dog to sit’ article). By encouraging your dog to sit patiently for its food each day, you’ll also be able to use that food as a distraction if your dog reacts and jumps up when someone rings the doorbell or visitors come into your home, etc (see barking at the door article). However, first, you need to establish these vital commands in a calm, positive and rewarding way, whereby the dog sits, ‘leaves’ things and walks nicely to heel, each and every time when you ask it to.
5. Focus on perfecting your pup’s heel work
You urgently need to re-teach your dog to walk nicely to heel — first in the house or garden, then on quiet streets around your home — as per my article on how to successfully introduce the lead, or reintroduce it to an older dog (link to how to introduce the lead article). A young dog of this age will only have a limited amount of concentration, so taking him into an environment with lots of dogs, smells and exciting wildlife and expecting him to walk perfectly to heel for a long duration of time is too much of a challenge at this stage.
6. Be ready to act quickly when your dog misbehaves
As soon as you see your dog is about to commit a crime — such as barking at other dogs, jumping up on people or nipping at you and spinning around on his lead — you need to be ready to respond. When he starts to jump up and come towards you, step forward towards the dog and, with a slightly raised tone of voice to suit the severity of the behaviour, give the ‘leave’ command and continue to walk towards him.
Once he’s stopped what he’s doing and has been calm for at least 10-20 seconds, reward him with a piece of kibble or praise. However, please note that you must be careful not to reward him too quickly, because we don’t want your pup to start thinking: ‘If I jump up, leave and sit, I get some kibble or praise, so I’ll keep jumping up!’
7. Reward your pup for good behaviour when he least expects it
Once your dog has begun to realise that, if he does go to jump up, but leaves you and the area correctly, he’s doing the right thing; every so often — if you’re walking around the kitchen and notice that he’s not displaying this unwanted behaviour — be sure to spontaneously reward him with calm, relaxed praise or some kibble. Ultimately, we want the dog to think: ‘If I don’t jump up, nip or bark at my family, or random people in the park, then I will always be rewarded for my good behaviour.’
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk
For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial
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