Puppies are adorable… but jumping puppies are just downright precious, and most of us can’t resist picking them up when they’re that small. Unfortunately, one single pickup is all it takes for a puppy to learn that jumping is an awesome way to get someone’s attention. [See also: puppies are no dummies.]
Let’s fast forward a few months. Little Jack is now Giant Jack, and Giant Jack’s favorite thing to do is put his muddy paws on your white shirt. It’s getting pretty irritating and he won’t stop until he gets your attention.
So how do you teach him to keep his feet on the ground?!
- Apply Marker Training. The first step to teaching any behavior is for you (the human) to have a solid understanding of clicker-based or marker-based training. For the uninitiated, there’s an article about that here. As an aside, we prefer a verbal marker instead of carrying a clicker around.
- Establish Clarity in Communication. Not to state the obvious, but dogs aren’t people. In other words, they don’t understand English in the exact same way we don’t understand Dog. In order to develop a good relationship with your dog, use marker training to teach him to sit, lie down, wait or stay, watch, up, etc. This does three things: 1) builds a foundation of communication and respect between you, 2) rewards your dog for good/desired behavior (like sitting down, for example), and 3) eliminates the possibility of a jumping dog, because a dog that is sitting cannot be jumping at the same time [see also: mutually exclusive behaviors].
- Keep the Excitement Down. Dogs jump when they’re excited and emotionally charged. While this can happen anytime, the commotion typically presents itself if you’ve been away from the house for awhile (like at work, or getting the mail, lol). The best thing to do upon coming home is to ignore your dog if he jumps on you in excitement. Turn your body away if you have to, so he can’t look you in the eye. I know, I know, so mean. But seriously, do it. Don’t say “no!” or “down!” either because in Dogish, negative attention is still attention, and any attention is good! The lack of emotional and physical contact will encourage him to keep his paws on the floor, and once he’s able to contain himself, then you invite him up for a hug (using a verbal cue of “up!”), if that’s what you wish to do. Alternatively, you can just go sit down and welcome his head into your lap to get some reunion lovin’.
- Proof the Communication. Dogs don’t generalize their behaviors very well, so the only way to ensure that your dog won’t jump on you, your family, house guests, the mailman down the street, kids at the park, etc. is to practice (or “proof”) good behavior everywhere you can. If I’m training a puppy to sit, for example, that puppy needs to sit when asked at home, in the backyard, in the parking at Tractor Supply, in the garden center at Home Depot, the checkout line at Petsmart, and anywhere else I ask her to. And to complicate matters, I may increase difficulty, distraction, or duration by making her do this in the rain, on top of a tree stump, on the sidewalk at a busy intersection, in front of a pond of geese, etc. Get your friends involved and ask them to ask your dog to sit before they pet him. Bonus: the process of proofing a behavior creates many, many repetitions where your dog gets rewarded for doing the right thing, and if he’s doing the right thing, he can’t also be doing the wrong thing. And the more they do the right thing, the less they’ll think about doing the wrong thing.
A few final words.
Training is ongoing. Any skill you wish your dog to exhibit should be rehearsed at regular intervals.
Training is repetitious. Exponential rehearsals for doing something correctly is required to diffuse the desire to do something incorrectly. If your dog backslides, step up the repetitions.
Training takes time. Dogs need ample opportunities to practice good behavior. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut to the level of effort required… but when you reach your goal, it will be worth it. And a well trained dog can do a lot of party tricks!
Training is fun. It’s not supposed to be work. That’s what our day jobs are for! Training, for us, is a few moments of every day that builds on our relationship with our dogs. Weimaraners are food motivated, so we use mid- to high-level treats to teach new behaviors, and low-level treats to reinforce learned behaviors. There’s a jar of cookies in every room of the house that we tap into everyday to reward our dogs when we need to. Think of it as bonding time, and you’ll be well on your way to fixing any irritating behavior your dog exhibits.
And finally, if you have any questions about the content shared here, please send an email to email@example.com and I’ll respond as fast as I can! – Kim