How can I train dogs not to jump up on people?
December 7, 2008 6:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I train two dogs not to jump up onto people?

The dogs are very excitable and any time the doorbell rings they run to the door, and jump all over whoever walks in, for as much as ten minutes.

One is a 3 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the other is a 3 year old Cockapoo. I am house-sitting for about 17 days and I'll have all the time in the world to spend on them. I'd like to have these dogs be a little better behaved by the time I'm through with them, as I see them pretty often. The only thing I can think of is that they aren't getting enough exercise. I'm planning on taking them on a run every morning to wear them out a bit. Other than that, though I'm a big dog fan I've never actually owned one (let alone two), so I don't know how to do it.
posted by tumbleweedjack to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Do they know sit? What we were told when we had our dog in puppy class was that you teach sit, then when the dog is presented with a new person and would normally jump, you immediately do "sit" (or "lie down") and give a treat. You can set up situations with an accomplice, too.

This did not work at all with our dog, who isn't all that food-motivated and goes stone deaf when faced with any excitement such as a new human.
posted by dilettante at 6:30 PM on December 7, 2008

This is something any good dog training class will go over. Here's the basic techniques I remember from when we did it with our dogs (who are jumpers)

Enlist a friend to come to your door. The process starts before the door even opens. Get your dog to sit. Put your hand on the knob and start to open the door. If he gets up, close the door (starting over) and get him to sit again. Repeat until you can get the door open without him getting up.

When the person actually comes in, you need them to help you. If the dog starts to jump on them, the person needs to turn away from the dog and ignore it. As the owner, you try to get the dog back into a sit. If they won't, the door closes, rinse and repeat.

Every success, they get a treat, little pieces of dried liver are good. In the beginning you'll be rewarding any little success, like sitting for 2 seconds, then 5 etc. Then it'll be getting the door open with no problem, treat, and so forth. Be lavish with the treats at any successes. You basically never stop giving them treats, it just gets less frequent.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:07 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, seconding dilettante's suggestion. It's more difficult to get a dog to not do something than it is to get them to do something.

We have a golden retriever (photo here) who is more than a little bit rambunctious. He gets crazy excited whenever he sees somebody new - he jumps up all over them, and he runs around their legs maniacally until they're all tangled up in his leash. We would tell him "No" and "Down", but he would be so over-excited that he wouldn't listen. What we found worked was to give him something to do instead of jumping up. We got him to sit, and offer "Shake" or "High-five", and when he'd do it, immediately reward him with a treat, and lots of extra attention.

Something similar would probably be a good idea to try with the dogs you're looking after, but if their owner doesn't continue the practice, the dogs will probably lose the habit eventually.

(On preview, what RustyBrooks said).
posted by spockette at 7:10 PM on December 7, 2008

My dog used to jump up, I learned the knee technique and it has helped tremendously. Basically, they jump up, you bring your knee up into their chest and either knock them backwards or flip them backwards. Either way, they get the point. The hard part is transferring the experience from you to everyone else (my dog will still occasionally jump up on people who don't know how to prevent it).

But the technique RustyBrooks mentions will work well too, presuming your dogs are into treats.
posted by fenriq at 7:14 PM on December 7, 2008

Watch "The Dog Whisperer" on National Geographics Channel on Friday night. You will learn how to determine which of the two dogs is the pack leader. And go from there. He suggests some amazing techniques for a variety of pet problems. Usually all the problems with dogs are related to the owner, not the dog.
posted by JayRwv at 8:22 PM on December 7, 2008

As has been pointed out, you need to enlist the help of your friends to do this. It was astonishingly easy to train our dog to not jump on us (we used the turn-away-and-ignore technique), but he still jumps a little on everybody else. He's small enough that he never overwhelms anyone, which is why we haven't yet put in the not-insignificant effort to get him to jump on nobody, but having read plenty, I know how it will have to go. We will have to explain things very carefully to our friends before they get into the house exactly what they have to do (turn away and ignore him when he runs up to them and jumps). We have to be very insistent about it because almost everybody says "it's okay, I don't mind". I used to say this too, not realizing that every time I petted, talked to, or otherwise gave attention to a dog that jumps on me, I was training it to jump on me. The other problem we have is that he runs to the door. We need to get him to sit down and wait for people to come in so that we can shut the door, but unfortunately, this requires having guests who are very patient and willing to wait outside in the cold for as long as it takes. We'll probably get back to working on that once it gets warm enough to be feasible.

In any case, I don't think that adding a punishment (lifting your knee, pushing them over, grabbing their paws, etc.) to the activity is anywhere near as effective as simply removing the incentive. My personal anecdotal evidence is that our current dog learned not to jump on us very quickly in this manner, and in the past, I've tried the knee on other dogs and essentially ended up doing that until the dogs got too old to be jumping up on people. Of course, anecdotes are not very strong evidence, so I'll point out that every dog trainer or vet that I've heard speak about it (a couple in person, but most in published pamphlets, on the web, or on television (my girlfriend watches a lot of Animal Planet)) recommends ignoring (or leaving the room) instead of the negative reinforcements. (For the record, I don't find these particular kinds of negative reinforcement cruel, I just think they don't work.)
posted by ErWenn at 8:29 PM on December 7, 2008

The turn-away-and-ignore thing works with our dog, both when is is jumping up (and crotch sniffing) and when he is bothering people sitting down. Unfortunately sometimes our friends are not very good at it. Ex-- last night we had friends over and the dog was bothering one of them and he kept patting the dog on the head and saying good dog every time!

So not only do you need to train the dog, you need to train your friends.
posted by miss tea at 4:52 AM on December 8, 2008

Keep in mind, as spockette said, if the owner doesn't keep up the training then your progress won't last.
I've had dogs my whole life - they always listen to my dad and not to me. So my dogs *can/could* be trained. I have come to firmly believe that "dog training" is in large part training the owner, more so than training the pet.
posted by KAS at 8:20 AM on December 8, 2008

Teach the dogs not to jump on anyone at anytime first, then worry about the ritual at the door. I have 5 dogs, 3 of them Labradors and they are just too big to be allowed to jump up on anyone. Try not to create to much excitement going in or out of the door for example coming home and greeting them right at the door or when it's time for walking making the opening of the door the portal to fun time.
posted by pianomover at 11:32 AM on December 8, 2008

You have lots of advice here, but let me tell you about a technique I learned in obedience classes that solved this problem for my beagle when none of the above worked.

1. Come in. Let the dog jump up on you.

2. Immediately say "Off!," in a low, snappy tone of voice. Grab the dog by his collar/scruff.

3. Quickly walk toward the dog. Take small, shuffling steps so that you don't step on his back paws. The dog will backpedal to stay upright.

4. Say "Sit!" and push the dog down onto his haunches. Let go.

5. If the dog tries to get up, correct him and get him to sit again. Once he's held the sit for a few seconds, praise him.

The entire maneuver should take less than three seconds. I started doing this and within three days my previously insane jumper had begun to greet people by running up to them and sitting. Needless to say, you have to praise this behaviour or it'll stop. Now I just completely ignore him until he sits, and then I give him lots of praise. He understands how it works.

Once you have a few friends do this as well, your dogs will think every human does it and never jump again.
posted by hayvac at 6:42 AM on December 9, 2008

Okay, first, never get aggressive with your dog. Ignore all advice to show "dominance" which requires grabbing collars, hitting or other physical acts. Dogs see this as signs of play and this will only encourage rowdy behavior.

Here's what you do -- this is from my wonderful dog trainer:

Get a towel, blanket, dog bed or any other surface you know your dogs are able to sit on without chewing on it.

Stand with your back to it and throw a few pieces of dog biscuit or smelly, chewy treat onto the surface while still standing in front of it with your back turned, and say, "PLACE!" They will likely run to it and eventually learn to stay there, anticipating treats every time you say the command. Do this when people come over.
posted by bondgirl53001 at 10:18 AM on December 9, 2008

Looks like folks have given the whole range of advice so far, I can only tell you what my trainer suggested and which worked well for me:

Dogs learn by repetition - because we can only communicate with noises, some hand signals, and distributing treats, these are your tools and they must be used again and again, often together.

If you're like me you respond to you dog jumping on you (when you get home probably) by making some noises, putting your hands on him to brush him off, and telling him what a putz he was for jumping on you as soon as he gets down. If that's so, then you're also finding that this technique doesn't work.

My trainer suggested that the above method was actually discouraging my dog when he finally did follow my command: I would use a mean tone to tell him he made a mistake when I should have been encouraging him immediately upon him following my "off" command. Instead of waiting for him to jump up then encourage him when he followed the "off" command, he told me to train with a sit command before the dog jumped. Here's what that looked like:

Go to door and touch knob while telling dog to sit, give treat and lots of positive attention (petting, happy noises, etc). Repeat 10 times in the morning, 10 in the evening, and randomly throughout the day as you have time. If you dog is getting it, then move past the door knob.

Open the door while telling dog to sit, repeat treat and positive attention, repeat 10 times morning and night, randomly through the day.

Open and close the door but immediately open it again and enter the house and say "sit" upon opening. Whoa! Not working yet? Go back to an earlier step, create a "half" step with the door only open so much, etc.

Then expand the time of your being outside, leave the house for 10 seconds, then 30, than 1 minute, etc. In my situation this was to deal with my pet's separation anxiety, but most dogs are a bit concerned about being separated from the pack, especially younger dogs, so there may be a bit of that going on with your pup - he's happy the pack is reunited because, well, prior to domestication being separated from the pack meant he would die.

Someone suggested forcing a dog onto his haunches with your hands, that goes against everything I learned about teaching sit, it changes it from a verbal command (and/or a hand signal, usually arm at your side with palm facing forward, then bend at the elbow bringing your hand up toward your shoulder). Teach sit with a treat in your hand, making the before mentioned motion while holding the treat just above the dog's head/mouth. To reach up slowly your dog will naturally sit, then immediately reward him with the treat. You may even need to let him lick the treat while you're pulling it up over him just a bit so he'll sit on his own. If he's jumping, the treat is too high.

Best luck! Check out Ian Dunbar for more on dog training.
posted by unclezeb at 6:12 AM on December 12, 2008

I start housesitting tonight! Hopefully with lots of exercise and these tips I'll get them to behave, and then I'll show their owners (who will be VERY happy for these dogs to simmer down) so they keep up with the training. Wish me luck!
posted by tumbleweedjack at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2008

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