Wednesday, January 13, 2010
A few weeks ago, Melissa jumped up on my friend Lessa and grabbed her scarf. A few days later she jumped up again. Was Melissa a bad dog? Not at all. Dogs and puppies jump up for several reasons. They want our attention, they want to be close to our face. When they are puppies how many times have we picked them up and brought them close to our face? Now that they are 50 plus pounds we no longer pick them up, nor do we want them to jump up. But our dogs do not understand that the rules have changed. It is our job to teach them what is acceptable behavior especially when we change our expectations.
If you want your dog to be near your face, get down to her level, or put jumping up on cue. My adult dogs know the cue 'give a hug', and that is permission for them to jump up on me.
All dogs and puppies will continue to do a behavior that is reinforcing to them. Reinforcement comes in many forms. Telling your dog to get off after she has jumped up is reinforcing to your dog...she got your attention. Unless you have taken the time to teach your dog specific cues, telling them over and over again to do something is meaningless to them. Dogs don't come knowing English. It is our job to teach them what certain words mean.
Pushing your dog off is giving her attention, it is reinforcing. Your touch is reinforcing. The jumping will most likely continue.
Was it reinforcing for Melissa to jump up? It sure was. She grabbed the fringe on the scarf and had a game of tug, it was fun. It was rewarding to her. She would do it again if she got the chance. So what to do?
First, I managed things to help Melissa be successful for doing the correct behavior ...keeping 4 feet on the ground. I did not let Melissa have the opportunity to jump up again for the next several weeks. I set up training sessions with my friends. As Melissa and I approached, I put my hand in Melissa's collar. People were then allowed to pet her. This was simple management. If I prevented her from jumping she couldn't reinforce herself for doing so. Was it teaching Melissa specifically what to do...no. But one step at a time. Manage first, teach second.
I like to teach my dogs to do an automatic sit when they greet people. It is part of the pet therapy dog test, it is also nice manners. Melissa is growing in leaps and bounds! Sitting is not easy for her. Imagine folding those long legs! For now I am opting to allow Melissa to stand nicely to be petted. If she goes to leap up, my friend will move back, taking away the opportunity for Melissa to jump. If Melissa offers to sit on her own, great! But that is not priority for me right now. Melissa caught on after about a week of practicing in many different situations.
If Melissa does happen to sit on her own, I am marking that behavior and giving her a reward. I have been capturing Melissa sitting in a separate training session. If I see her moving into a sit, I will click and treat. We have practiced greeting people and keeping all 4 feet on the ground in a different training session. Today, with the help of my friend Barbara, not only did Melissa not jump up but she also sat. Lots of reinforcement from Barbara for that. Reinforcement in the form of petting and a few treats! Melissa got a jackpot!!
Practice does pay off.