What to do about jumping dogs!

Dogs jumping up on owners, their families or their guests is one of the most common issues that clients present to dog trainers to have fixed.

Traditionally balanced trainers have always recommended that you push the dog away, growl at it, use something it hates to make it understand that it is a undesirable behaviour. In so doing that will make the dog stop doing it. To some degree this works but positive reward based trainers know there is a much kinder solution that works just as effectively, just as fast and is kinder to your dog.

Here is the sort of advice that you commonly hear from balanced trainers who subscribe to the idea that to fix behaviour you need to punish your dog:

“Method 1 (slowest) – totally ignoring the dog and assertively standing your ground and pushing the dog away with your knee (NOT kicking), and offering no eye contact, no talk and no touch. If we are persistent and consistent with this method, eventually the dog will learn that this attention seeking behaviour receives absolutely no interaction from us. If there is no payoff for a behaviour, then the behaviour eventually dies. 

Method 2 (Quickest and most effective) – Give a firm correction/aversive at a level the dog finds unpleasant. If you need to administer the correction more than 3 times, then you are not being firm enough. Many will say, but won’t my dog be afraid to come near me? I can guarantee, the first time your dog goes to jump up and you administer the correction, your dog will do one of 2 things, submit to the correction and calm down, hence you can then calmly praise your dog. Or yes your dog will back right off and avoid, as it is confused. If this happens crouch down and encourage your dog over, and if your dog is calm when entering your space, then reward with calm pets and energy. Your dog will very quickly learn to avoid the overly exuberant behaviour when you come home or you go outside to be with your dog. It’s about teaching your dog to respect your space.”

Here is what Method 1 looks like but using hands to push away not feet.

The important points to note are that it is not working, the dog’s jumping is getting more and more agitated and stressed (shake off, lip licks) the dogs in the background are picking up on his stress and the dog is moving further and further away from the trainer and  being less interested in approaching. When it does approach it is tentative. At this point under the instructions above you would be told to find a way to punish the dog more to stop the behaviour. I treat dogs with kindness and respect and do not believe in punishment so I will never subject any dog to that.

Let’s look at the positive alternative used on this same dog.

He spends the first 15 seconds moving around in a much less agitated way than in the previous video then automatically sits with no cue from the trainer. The trainer has stayed still, not touched the dog, not made eye contact and not attempted to punish the dog.  The only thing they do is say “Yes” a marker word to indicate that the sit was a good thing. Note the absence of any clicker or food being used to obtain this behaviour. The trainer pats the dog and then stands back up again. This time it only takes 5 seconds for the dog to offer a sit. Then on a third trial it takes 6 seconds. Notice to that the dog is happy to make eye contact and stay very close to the trainer, unlike in the previous video.  The reward being used in this case was a good dog and pat, and then having the lead attached and going in the car for a car ride (this is called a life reward).This dog is one that does not have a very well educated automatic sit.

Let’s look now at a dog that does have a stronger automatic sit response and see how effective this technique can be.

A normal very excitable miniature poodle and he sits within 6 seconds using the same technique. Then he does the same thing three more times to show it is a reliable technique. The same marker work “yes” and the same reward “good boy” pat and go into the car for a trip is used. Three automatic sits in the space of 30 seconds, no yelling, no punishment needed.

Not all dogs however will do an automatic sit. Some like this dog prefer to be able to touch the person but it needs to be done in a way that is acceptable to both parties.

This dog has some separation anxiety and really hurts when he jumps up as he is concerned about being left behind. Same marker word “yes” but this time he is being asked to touch a hand held away from the body. The trainer is required to push away somewhat from the body contact as it does hurt. However they still continue not to yell or punish. A gentle “no” is used as this dog needs that sort of guidance to succeed in any task. As  you can see he is anxious and this anxiety is stopping him from being able to learn. By giving him a hand to touch it helps he come back into the part of his brain that allows learning to occur. When dogs are fearful and anxious, as they are if being punished,  they are not able to learn effectively. This demonstrates the flexibility of positive training.

These videos demonstrate a number of things:

1) Punishment is not needed to teach behaviours they were traditionally used to teach

2) You do not always need a clicker to achieve positive reward based training

3) Food is not always the reward given, life rewards can be just as effective.


Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Talk to me about Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Australian Pet Professionals | Dogs, Horses, Cats, Pocket Pets +Animal Businesses (Mid Nth Coast NSW) 

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.

About Me 


Posted on September 19, 2013, in Behaviour, Dog Training, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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