Every month, I will select one question to answer from a local reader about dog training or behavior. Post your questions to me below, or e-mail them to AskDrWan@westportdogs.com. Here is this month's question:
Q: My dog jumps up on visitors. What should I do? – TL, Westport, CT
A: In order to fix this very common problem, we need to first understand why dogs jump up: for attention! So, in order to stop this behavior, your dog needs to learn that jumping-up results in withdrawal of attention. Remember that looking at your dog, scolding him, and pushing him count as attention in your dog’s eyes, so be careful that you are not accidentally rewarding him with these types of attention.
In order to facilitate your dog’s learning, you should first practice with your dog alone, rather than with visitors. When you come home, peek in the door, and as long as all four of his paws are on the floor, enter and greet your dog. If your dog already knows “sit,” you could also ask him to sit before petting him. If he jumps up on you, turn your back or walk back out the door. Repeat until he keeps all four of his paws on the floor.
In the early stages of training, I recommend keeping your dog on leash when you know visitors are coming. If your visitors are up for it (friends and family are often willing to help with training), ask them to turn their backs and ignore your dog until he has all four paws on the floor. Alternatively, you could also walk your dog away from visitors if he jumps up on them. Eventually, you will not need to keep your dog leashed when visitors come, as he will learn that keeping his paws on the floor gets him the attention that he wants!
As with any behavior that you are training, it’s important to be very consistent. Make sure that all members of your family are on-board and will assist with training efforts. If you have a very young child who is unable to help with the training, or you do not want to deal with training when certain visitors arrive, it is perfectly okay to keep your dog away from the door (e.g. in another room, crated, or behind a baby gate) in these situations until your dog has learned polite greeting behavior.
Best of luck and warm woofs until next month!