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Dog Jumping

Question

My 11-month-old Golden Retriever, Sunny, always jumps on people while we are out on walks. The other day, he jumped on an elderly man who had stopped to pet him. He knocked the man down, sending him to the hospital with a broken arm!! What can I do to change this behavior?

-Sara from Gloucester

Response

Although often it is our dogs' exuberance that endears them to us, an overly exuberant dog can definitely be a problem.

So how can you convey to Sunny the rules for getting attention from people when you are out walking? Every time you anticipate that someone is going to stop to talk or to pet Sunny, put him into a sit-stay. (If your dog does not sit and stay on command, then first you need to be practicing this at home without the distractions.)

Whenever someone goes to pet Sunny, he must be sitting. If he gets up, the person walks away and Sunny doesn't get petted.

You can practice this with family, friends, and neighbors first. Then you can take your show on the road. Let people who approach you know that your pet is in training and that he cannot get petted if he is not staying in a sit.

Your Golden may not get petted for some weeks. However, soon he will get the idea and will sit still while he is being petted and getting the attention he so desperately wants.


Question

How can I train my 9-month-old puppy not to jump on us? I want to stop this behavior now before he gets much bigger.

-Sam from Hamilton

Response

One of the most effective ways we have found to train puppies not to jump on people employs the worst punishment you can mete out to your pup ­ withdrawing your attention!!

Start by putting a leash on your dog and tying the leash to some immovable object (make sure it definitely is immovable, as we have known rambunctious pups to drag what seemed like immovable objects ­ a 9-foot sofa, for example ­ clear across a room!!). A tether board works well for this. Essentially, a tether board is a 3'X4' or so piece of plywood with an eye bolt attached in the middle of the board. The dog's leash is attached to the eye bolt; the dog's weight keeps the dog in place on the board and prevents him or her from following you.

Come into his jumping range. If he does, indeed, jump up at or on you, step back out of his range. When all four paws are on the ground, praise him profusely.

Go back into range again. If he jumps again, turn without a word and walk at least 6 inches out of his jumping range.

Now comes the tour de force. Turn your back and totally ignore him. You can sit and read or involve yourself in some other activity but stay within visual range.

When he has settled down and is at ground zero, wait another 2 minutes. Then, put him into a sit/stay and go back into range again. If he jumps, turn and walk away and withdraw your attention again.

Over the next days/weeks, whenever he starts getting excited and jumpy, you should put him on the leash and proceed as above.

Make sure everyone in the household agrees to the new rules. Your pup may not get much attention for a few weeks!!! But soon he will learn that whenever he jumps, he will not get what he wants most ­ your attention.

It may take some time and patience on your part, but the days or weeks spent working with him to change this behavior now will hopefully mean many years of peaceful coexistence.


Question

My 11-month-old Golden Retriever gets very excited and jumps on us. He jumps on us when we arrive home from work and school or when our boys are playing with their friends. Sometimes he just seems to jump up on one of us to get our attention. Someone suggested using a spray bottle and squirting water in his face. We tried that, and it worked for a while. But now he just ignores it. How should we react when he jumps on us?

-Dawna from Beverly Farms

Response

Let's think about it. When you see that your dog is ready to leap, what do you usually do?

Probably, you take some steps back to get away from him then raise your arms up or toward your chest. If you watch children, I am sure you will see that this is exactly what they do, their arms up-stretched all the while screaming something like, "Mom, he's jumping on meeeee.Maaahhhhh!!!"

Not only do the up-stretched arms give your dog the perfect target (you might as well paint a bull's eye on your chest), but also the high-pitched screams sound like those of squeaky toys and just wind your dog up even more.

So what should you do? One reaction you might consider is the following.

When you anticipate that your Golden is going to jump, ­ and I am sure you know fairly well by now the times when your pup is likely to make that leap ­ when he crouches slightly for that split second before jumping, give the "OFF" command, in a low, slow voice.

At that point, rather than backing away from him, take a step or two toward him. This will shorten his launching distance.

As you step forward, bring both hands down in front of you, as if you were going to push him away, catching him with one hand on either side of the scruff of his neck. If you can, hook your fingers through his collar and scratch his neck.

When all four paws are on the ground, praise him (even though he did it with your help), letting him know that having all four paws on the ground is the desired behavior.

If he continues to jump after you have done this 2 or 3 times, then give him a time out.

If you do this often enough, he will probably get the message.