Jumping up is one of the most common problems owners have with their dogs. Dogs jump up because they want to get near to your face; dogs greet each other nose to nose first. They also do it more frequently when they are excited and in a reactive state of mind (we will discuss this in a later class). When they are puppies it can seem quite sweet and we often inadvertently reinforce it by fussing or otherwise giving them attention when they do it. When they are full grown adult dogs covered in mud it is not so sweet anymore but they don’t understand why we are not still thrilled! An important rule of training is: What you attend to or reward you will get more of. This means that each time your dog has any attention for jumping up, it is reinforced and therefore likely to happen again. It is important to make sure you do not reinforce jumping up in any way (accidentally or otherwise) and this also goes for any other behaviour you don’t want.
To stop your dog from jumping up you need to teach them that they will not get anything out of it and at the same time teach them that they will get lots of fuss and attention when all four paws are on the floor. To do this you simply turn your back without saying a word when your dog jumps up at you. The moment their paws are on the floor, reward them with fuss and praise. Try to give this praise with a calm voice to avoid encouraging their excited state of mind as this makes it harder for them to resist jumping. If they do jump again, just turn your back once more and repeat.. An alternative approach is to ask your dog to sit, ideally before they jump if you are able to anticipate it. Sitting is not compatible with jumping. If they do not sit but continue jumping, instead of repeatedly asking, turn your back for a moment then turn back round and ask again. Keep doing this until they sit and then reward them calmly.
If your dog has had lots of experience of jumping up, it can take some time for them to learn that it is not rewarding, they will continue to try it as it has worked for them in the past. You need to be patient and consistent to extinguish the behaviour. Often when you are trying to stop a behaviour you can get what is called an “extinction burst” where the unwanted behaviour gets much worse. If you remember the vending machine analogy in relation to reward schedules, it’s the same as if you are going to give up on the vending machine ever giving you what you wanted and are about to walk away but then decide to give it one last go and really push those buttons hard and shake the machine. This is the time to hold your nerve, if you can get past the extinction burst you are unlikely to see the behaviour again, if you give in, you have a lot more work ahead of you. The other important part of stopping this behaviour is making sure other people do the same as you, which can be very difficult but if you don’t you might get your dog to stop jumping up at you but they will continue to do it with other people as it still gets rewarded. Explain to them how important it is to you and what you need them to do to help you with this.