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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jumping Up. Part V. Setting Your Dog Up For Failure

We have already discussed several methods to help with a dog's jumping behavior. In our last post on this subject, I mentioned how much I liked the first half of a video where the trainer encourages four feet on the floor using treats.

The second half of the video shows the pet guardian restraining the dog on leash as the dog tries to jump on the trainer. And it shows the trainer walking off as the dog is trying to jump.
A lot of people like this method and have used it successfully. We don't want to reward jumping. And the idea is that we take away attention by leaving if the dog jumps upon our approach. But here are some concerns.

1. Analyze why the dog is jumping. If the dog is jumping up because she is excited and happy and wants to be close to us, then walking away might work (but there are better ways to address this).
But what if the dog is jumping out of deference or fear or curiosity but not affection? If we walk away from the dog, that might be seen as relief for the dog - especially a scared, nervous or shy dog. So the dog might soon learn, if I jump, the scary person goes away. Which means we increase the jumping behavior.
And if we continue practicing in this manner, we stress a scared dog even further.
Additionally, some people practice this by setting the dog up for failure. They walk towards the dog expecting the dog to jump so they can walk away to punish the jumping. It's less stressful for the dog to reward four on the floor rather than set the dog up to jump then punish jumping.
Additionally, the more a dog is allowed to practice jumping, the harder it will be to fix jumping.

And walking straight towards a leashed (trapped) dog can be quite intimidating - even for a friendly dog.
Normally when a stranger wants to socialize with a dog, we wait for the dog to approach. We don't walk directly towards a dog.

2. Tight leashes can cause frustration, even reactivity. If a dog experiences a tight leash every time a stranger approaches, we can set the dog up to dislike approaching strangers.

3. As much as possible, leashes should be safety devices instead of tools. If we often use the leash as a restraint item, we might invoke the dog's opposition reflex -- which could eventually hamper our dogs' loose leash walking skills.

4. Pet parents who do decide to use the leash as a tool should strongly consider using a harness instead of a collar. So the dog won't choke himself. Not only could the dog injure herself, but also tightness around the neck can contribute to reactivity.

Also, if the dog is wearing a harness, the pet parent might be able to bend down and hold the harness instead of restraining with the leash.

5. Some pet guardians like to step on a leash to keep a dog from jumping. This might also be injurious especially for a dog who might be prone to structural issues or a dog who already has some joint issues like arthritis.

6. Some people practice this walking towards and walking away over and over. Eventually the dog might sit or lay down simply because he/she is tired.  Not because we are teaching anything.

So what do we do when a dog tries to jump? We don't want the dog to practice the behavior and get worse at it; and we certainly don't want the dog jumping on strangers who don't appreciate muddy paws on their business suites. We have several options:

a. Keep the dog away from strangers until we have proofed proper greetings with well-coached individuals (those who won't hinder our training by rewarding jumping)
Our pups can still get treats for looking at strangers from a comfortable distance (to maintain positive associations)
b. Use treats to keep "four on the floor" as in my last post on jumping up
c. Distract the dog with a toy or anything interesting
d. Put jumping up on cue in order to better control the behavior
e. Use baby gates or exercise pens or crates to prevent the behavior
f. If physically possible, have greeters get down low so the dog doesn't need to jump to greet (only if the dog wants greeting and only if this is safe to do so and if the greeter agrees. Also make sure the greeter doesn't put his/face in the dog's face.

What are some non frustrating ways that you use to keep your dog from jumping on people? Tell us about it in the comments section below

See all posts on jumping up here

Tell us about your jumpy dog in the comments section below.

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