Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ground Control--How To Stop Unwanted Jumping Up

Puppies (and many untrained adult dogs) jump-up to greet. Facial contact is an integral part of the greeting ritual and that’s why they jump, to get to your face. Behaviorally, it is the right thing for them to do when greeting and the truth is most of us reinforce it when Puppy is small and adorable and we are tolerant of anything Puppy is doing. Then, pup gets a bit older and stronger and jumps and tears our dress or pants or skin or jumps on the kids or a stranger on the street and we want it to stop, immediately. So, the training challenge is formidable, obliterate a normal, appropriate (for dog-dog greetings), compulsive behavior that has a history of being reinforced. And it can be done. Read on!

Ignore It
This means don’t look at, talk to, or give a dog that doesn’t have 4 paws on the floor, any attention. Remember the Jack Benny posture? (Upright, stiff stance, arms folded and looking away) When pup has placed all 4 paws on the floor, immediately lavish her with praise and a reward such as food, a toss of the ball, access to other dogs or the beginning of a walk. Teach her that all the good stuff happens only when she assumes the four on the floor position.

Rules to live and train by
Dogs in the air are invisible. They don’t exist. They get nothing. Dogs on the ground are beloved creatures worthy of attention, praise and rewards. Dogs on the ground go for walks, get to visit and socialize with other dogs, get to greet people, get fed, get petted, get new toys, etc.

Silent Until Sit
This means that upon arriving home after a period of separation you will remain silent and more or less disinterested in your pup until he sits for you.   Instruct friends and visitors that you are training pup and ask them to wait for a sit from pup before saying hello to him.   Once sitting reward  your pup with praise and attention.

Sit Set-ups
Recruit everyone you know (family members, friends, neighbors) to play the “sit to greet game” First, tell them the rules: Puppy only gets attention, petting or a food treat if he sits to say Hi. If he does sit, instruct them to kneel down to his level and reward him. If he doesn’t, ask them to simply ignore him and quietly move off without giving any attention. You can set this up so the people you have recruited move clockwise in a large circle and you with the puppy move counter-clockwise. Each person encountered becomes a lesson in correct greeting response. If he sits and allows the person to initiate the contact, he gets the pay-off. If he does not, he gets ignored, but always provide another chance for him to succeed with the next person.

Make Pup Sit Happy
This means that your training will emphasize Sit until it is rock solid. Sit should become your pups default position. To accomplish this, you must teach sit everywhere and always. Pup learns sit at home in all parts of the house, then in the yard, then in the neighbor’s yard, at the sidewalk, at the park, at grandmas….. you get the idea. Also, you request sit and pup must comply before you set down his dinner. Pup must sit at the door before you open it to let him out. Pup must sit to be leashed prior to going for a walk. Pup must sit before you give a new chew toy or you toss the ball or Frisbee. We’re teaching pup that sit is the switch that triggers all the good stuff in his life. Work on sit at least 20% more than other behaviors being trained.

Reward The Absence of the Unwanted Behavior
This requires self-training and is something you can always do with any behavior you don’t want. You must train yourself to notice, praise and reward pup when they are on the ground. Eventually, these bits of learning will form a clear picture of what you want from Pup and what is rewardable. Eventually, pup will begin to spend more time on the ground and less time airborne.

Don’t move for Pup
This is, as Pup barrels down on you to say hello, don’t back up for puppy. This is called ‘giving space.” The dog made you move. He has trained you that his approach is a signal for you to yield your position and that he may move you about as he pleases. Without getting into all the (mostly silly and unfounded dominance theories) it just is not a good idea to let a young, entirely dependent animal who must learn the rules of our social order push us around. We need to be the teacher in this relationship. So, DON’T GIVE UP YOUR SPACE. As Pup approaches, stand firm with your knees slightly bent and hold your position. No kicking or rough stuff. Your feet should not leave the floor. Pup will most likely gently deflect of your shins and usually after a few rounds of this pup will begin to get the idea that he can’t just have his way with you and your space. This also applies to walks. If pup cuts you off, shuffle him out of your path. Don’t get in the habit of moving for and around pup. Make him make it his business to know where you are and to stay out of your path.

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