How to Stop My Dog Jumping Up

Problem: Why does my dog jump up, demand my attention and follow me around?

Puppy jumping up

A dog jumping up is an all too common problem and one that owners seem to struggle to stop, in actual fact it is probably one of the most straight forward behaviours to correct, providing you understand the motivation and communicate the correct body language in response. Recognising the origin of a behaviour problem is essential for the application of a positive solution.

Many owners are told to ignore the problem, turn their back and walk away. In all cases this will not work with a dog who is determined to be a prolific offender and in many cases they will just try harder to illicit a response from you until you finally crack. Likewise, any reaction is positive so, pushing your dog off, verbally interacting or being physical will all result in a deterioration of the problem.

So let's examine why your dog repeatedly performs this behaviour.

Puppy bonding time

Dogs communicate with scent and body language and particularly as puppies they will engage in lots of facial contact both from the mother and siblings in the litter, this is all part of their development. It stands to reason that this behaviour will naturally transfer to the human owner. As we are much taller than the average dog they have to jump up to deliver this contact. Once this behaviour has received a response, it has been rewarded. Many clients overlook the early warning signs as the puppy is small and cute, owners will respond by picking the puppy up, talking to them or stroking them and immediately the behaviour is re-enforced.

Inevitably, the puppy enters the early stages of developing a negative habitual behaviour to receive attention.

As the puppy grows and becomes physically more challenging, this positive attention soon depreciates and a negative response begins to creep in - this is still attention and so the behaviour is still receiving a response but now it has taken on a negative form. As a result, the puppy becomes confused and frustrated at the owners anxiety/stress. So here we go, a young developing adolescent dog is now beginning to feel the effects of early social anxiety, simply due to a communication problem.

You must also be aware that puppies are demanding on time and energy, so, often their positive, calm and aloof behaviour is ignored. The puppy quickly realises that if they want attention then they need to go and get it themselves. Totally the wrong perception for them to have and one which will not just make them difficult to manage socially but may also be responsible for undesirable outbursts in other situations. I have treated a variety of cases focusing on owner attachment problems that manifest themselves as dog aggression, chasing issues, fears and even a few who are reluctant to leave the house. Sometimes the problem isn't always what it seems!

As your puppy establishes themselves in your home the motivation for unbalanced behaviour can reach extreme levels as they battle hormonal, developmental and fear phase life stages. Plus the longer the habit is allowed to progress the more challenging it will be to correct. Ensuring you are mindful of what behaviour you are embedding in your puppy from the day they arrive will ensure you are in a position to help them cope in social environments and remain calm and balanced.

Leadership cannot be given - it must be earned

Preventing Problem Dog Behaviours

To ensure you don't end up regretting the arrival of your small furry friend, you should just adopt a simple and clear approach to their management.

  • Establish good boundary control, utilising a properly conditioned crate or utility area with a baby gate.
  • Deliver a structured routine, set up around positive associations and calm reactions, this does not necessarily need to be to any particularly time and feeding and walk times can be variable.
  • DO NOT lavish your puppy with attention, teach them how to be around you without constantly interacting with or touching them.
  • If your puppy approaches you in a high energy manner, remove yourself first and then remove them if they are persistent, re-introduce when they calm.
  • Deliver attention in response to respectful, calm behaviour, don't just ignore your puppy!
  • When your puppy attempts to jump on you, you should stand up and walk away, reward with food when they deliver a positive response such as a sit or calm stand to begin.
  • Never enter into any high energy play or choose to physically or verbally reprimand your puppy, if you lose control, you should pacify an unbalanced situation and create some distance.

Correcting Dog Behaviour Problems

Before addressing a problem you need to be mindful that you may have rewarded or encouraged it. To suddenly expect to break a habit and re-train your dog in a short space of time and expect it to last forever without changing your relationship with them is unrealistic. However, you should expect that if you use the correct communication to convey your dislike for the negative behaviour and pleasure for the positive response then a desirable result is expected. Dogs who have become serious ‘space invaders’ will not respond to you ignoring it or removing yourself, they will just repeat when you re-enter.

I like to tackle this in two ways. Firstly, I would look to condition your dog to a ‘clicker’ away from the problem. I would then have this to hand as often as possible to reward a positive behaviour. However, I will also teach the dog that they should no longer invade my personal space without permission.

It is important you have basic leadership (see film 7) in place before you start but you can test the level of awareness your dog has of your personal space by following these guidelines:

  • Take a few steps towards your puppy, with your arms folded and head up.
  • Make no eye contact. A deferential dog will move from the owners path. This should never be done in an invasive or aggressive manner, it is just a conversation.
  • I am clear that this should never be a show of dominance on your part, this attitude may create a challenging scenario and should be avoided at all costs.
  • The dog requires guidance and leadership and this is achieved through balanced direction and authority not negative or harsh handling.
  • Once this procedure is understood, you will repeat it when your dog approaches you negatively, once they have averted their gaze, turned away from you or moved then you should request the “sit’ command and mark the correct behaviour with your clicker before delivering the treat.
  • Once the treat has been received, maintain calm by showing the dog the flat palm of your hand and then walking away. Repeat up to twice and them remove your dog to its down time area.
  • Remember, if you have relaxed the boundaries and control around your home and your dog runs to the front door, sits on your sofas, or goes upstairs in your home then your ability to provide guidance is significantly reduced and you will be setting your dog up to fail not succeed in a social environment!

Ultimately, you are always looking to set your dog up for success. Helping them to behave in an appropriate manner, rather than allowing them to make their own decisions and ultimately perform undesirable behaviours. Your dog is a dog and there is no place for human perception so keep things clear and simple and you will have many years of enjoyable dog ownership.

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