Posts Tagged ‘how to stop dogs jumping up; training; positive reinforcement;’

I’ve blogged before about how sometimes it’s easy to miss what’s right under our noses. Changes happen so slowly that we sometimes fail to see the process. Trees are a good one – you drive down the same stretch of road each day and then WHAM! One day you notice that the bare branches are now chock-full of bright spring leaves.

Dog training can be a lot like that. Walking the dogs the other day Annie kicked off at the sight of another dog on the other side of the road. Little Bear woofed a few times, but with a seriously lack of commitment which in no way matched her level of arousal. I walked him away calmly and despite her lunging and barking, he remained quiet and kept glancing up at me – which of course got him a lot of praise, clicks and treats.

Just like the tree, I’d missed the bud stage, but was pleased I’d at least spotted the unfurling leaf so that I could reward and encourage it. I took a lesson from that.  Even when you think nothing’s happening, the time we all, if we’re honest feel like giving up, it’s good to remember that there’s progress being made that we just can’t see.  Little buds of progress waiting to burst forth and surprise us.

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I’ve said before what a great teacher Little Bear is.  I believe that all dogs have something to teach us – if only we look for the lesson of course.  LB and I have had our fair share of problems and so I’ve become an avid reader of dog websites, magazines and books. I’ve also sought help from trainers and behaviourists – some great, some not so.

Until recently, when I finally made the decision to follow my instincts, my head would regularly be swimming with competing theories, techniques and opinions to the point of total confusion. But what’s always been helpful has been reading about what’s worked for other ‘normal’ people.  Not trainers or behaviourists, but real people with day jobs and mortgages and the other baggage of normal life.  So, with this in mind I’m going to share a couple of ‘What worked for me’ lessons.  I’m no expert and I certainly know that what works for one dog and carer may not work for the next, but hopefully in the act of sharing it’ll prove useful.

Lesson 1 – How to stop a dog jumping up

Firstly, a confession. LB hasn’t learnt this because I actually like him jumping up.  Shock, horror, I know, but he’s little and its cute and so off the list of ‘things to worked on.’

Annie on the other hand weighs three times as much LB and at her most enthusiastic, has all the grace (and control) of a hippo on roller skates.  After almost knocking me off my feet and then nearly squashing LB flat, ‘not jumping up’ shot to the top of our list for her.

Why Annie jumps

As far as I can make out, Annie jumps out of enthusiasm. She’s thrilled to see you and wants to look you in the eye and get your attention. A typical scenario would be first thing in the morning – one large Lab, front feet over baby gate, wiggling for all she’s worth.  Step over the baby gate and she’s like Tigger, jumping all over you.

How she learnt to keep four paws on the floor

Step one was to not step over the baby gate until she was calm.

Teaching her to sit was a big help here and once we had ‘sit’ we could quickly make her realise that she’d only get our attention if she was sitting down. As long as she continued to bounce, she was ignored. So I hovered near the date but didn’t look at her or turned my back. A couple of times she got so frustrated she barked at me.  This resulted in me walking away out of sight. So hopefully that served to make her realise that barking made what she wanted (me) go away  – so barking doesn’t pay.

Step two happened almost by accident.  After a couple of days, although still bouncing when she first saw me, she quickly sat down for her morning cuddle – result!  As with most things though, new habits take a while to set in, and one morning she caught me off guard with a well-aimed bounce that almost knocked me over while raking her claws down my leg.  I squealed loudly and she shot back, mortified.  I called her back and she came over looking extremely sheepish. I calmly asked for a sit and then cuddled her and praised her like mad when she did it.

So, by accident she’d learnt that jumping on people hurt them and from her reaction, she obviously doesn’t like hurting people. So we now work with that natural tendency now; if she forgets herself and jumps on or near us, we yelp. But, and this is really important, we always give her the opportunity to get it right straight after.

So, she jumps, we yelp, then we immediately call her back and ask her to sit or sit and give a paw – anything that allows her to learn a calmer, more controlled way of greeting us. In doing this we also end on a positive note so that she feels good about the whole thing – and that will increase the likelihood of her doing the right thing again.

We started doing this about three weeks ago and we’ve been really consistent (the key to everything!)  but I honestly can’t remember the last time she jumped up.

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