All four paws on the floor, please!
February 26, 2008 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Dog-gone-paws-filter: I adopted a dog, and she's can't keep her paws to herself. She paws people to get their attention, and constantly jumps on people for the first few minutes of interaction. I've tried the tricks I used to train my other dog (ignoring them when they behave badly, grabbing their paws and scolding "no"), but it doesn't seem to work. Even the "a tired dog is a good dog" method doesn't decrease the pawsy-ness. My friends and family won't have anything to do with her cuz they have muddy-paw-print-on-clothes-phobia. Help! Aside from this one bad habit, she's a Good Dog (TM), and oh-so-eager to meet people.
posted by jytsai to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are you in an obedience training class? This is likely something you will need to work with someone to solve. In the meantime, keep a leash on the dog when people are over, and step on it when the dog goes to greet someone - the point is not to jerk or hurt the dog, but simply to make it physically impossible for the dog to jump up. Also, teach an incompatible behaviour (down or stand are harder to jump up from than sit for most dogs) and reward it like crazy, while continuing to both ignore the behaviour you don't want AND preventing it physically.
posted by biscotti at 4:40 PM on February 26, 2008

1. People are going to tell you to keep ignoring her. I'm always uneasy about that method because its like you are punishing her happiness to see you as well as the jumping up. A dog's greeting is one of the best moments of each day. I would try distraction. Have toys and rags and random things you can throw to her around and tell her excitedly to get it. If she does, reward her with a pat and some nice words.
2. If you wan't to use the positive reinforcement techniques, don't grab her paws. Fold your arms over your chest and keep your back towards her and do not look at her. Touching and looking can reinforce the behaviour. Instead, wait for her to calm down and then reinforce by patting her when she doesn't jump up.
3. Use a water bottle as you get in the door and squirt her when she jumps but be sure to reward her after she calms down.
4. Clips her nails and keep her paws from being muddy. In my house, anybody who can't tolerate an excited, loving dog who wants to make friends isn't usually on my guest list.
posted by vizsla at 4:46 PM on February 26, 2008

and oh-so-eager to meet people.

I think she's still auditioning for the role. Once it sinks in that she's already got it and it's hers to keep, I bet she settles down.
posted by jamjam at 4:47 PM on February 26, 2008

One thing you can do is that when the dog jumps up, she stays up. Hold her in that standing position by both paws until she wants to get down and tries to pull away from you -- hold a bit longer, then release. She will eventually be more cautious about jumping up since its an unpleasant experience.

This works when you the owner are being jumped on, but is more difficult with guests. In that case, I recommend a squirt bottle and scolding-- gets the message across nice and clear and dogs really do appreciate clarity.
posted by bluenausea at 5:08 PM on February 26, 2008

My dog knows that unless she sits on the couch she will be ignored. For a long time she would jump and run to the door but then one day she finally got it, she figured out that wasn't ever going to work. So now when I come home she runs to the couch and goes belly up with her tail wagging, all primed for belly rubbing goodness. And she gets it.

Moral of the story, be consistent and stick with your training and eventually it will kick in and the dog will learn. Change your training method or be inconsistent about reward and the dog will think it can get away with what it wants to do.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:24 PM on February 26, 2008

Something that worked extremely well (and astonishingly quickly) on my girlfriends over-excitable (huge) dog was grabbing the paws as it jumps up, saying "no" (or "off", I don't remember which) and tipping the dog over backwards by lifting the paws up and away. It fell over and landed on its back and was completely unharmed (obviously), but very much was flustered by the experience (in the same way as the holding of the paws a bit long). It then rushed back at you just as excitedly after a few seconds, with zero loss of enthusiasm, but with its bum firmly planted on the floor...

This only needed to be done a few times before the dog got the message, with a reminder every now and then. The guy that suggested it ran a dog training school under the name of 'Doctor Dog', but don't let that put you off. It was very effective and showed no signs of ill effects to the dog.
posted by Brockles at 5:32 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Change your training method or be inconsistent about reward and the dog will think it can get away with what it wants to do.

I can't emphasise that nugget of advice enough. You have to be consistent, or all your work will be undone.
posted by Brockles at 5:33 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've got a very jumpy dog and what works for her is to make her sit to get greeted. Before she even gets a chance to jump, we say "sit!" and the second her bum hits the floor we love her to death. She gets it all right--now she channels all her enthusiasm for jumping into planting as much surface area of her bottom as possible on the floor and would wiggle it straight through the floor if she could. It's pretty hilarious.
posted by Enroute at 5:57 PM on February 26, 2008

My shelter dog was very pawsy with me when I first brought him home. "No" and the fold-your-arms-turn-your-back approaches didn't work, so I dealt with it the same way I handled his mouthiness: I reacted to it as if he were hurting me. Anytime he pawed me, I let out a high-pitched yelp like a puppy that had been nipped. Once he stopped pawing me, he got the attention he was seeking.

Stopping the jumping up on others is going to require the help of a friend who will play the role of "guest" coming in the door. If you can get 2 people to help you--one to be guest and one to play host while you hold the dog several feet away from the door--so much the better. Keep the dog on a very short leash, have her sit, and prevent her from jumping, crotch-sniffing, pawing, and other undesirable behaviors. Reward desired behaviors immediately. Once the guest is in the house, you've greeted the guest and he is acclimated to the point you want (coat off? bags down?), have him greet the dog and reward her. She still gets acknowledged and greeted, but in her appropriate place in the pecking order. It takes time, but your dog will learn.
posted by weebil at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2008

i will soon begin training my growing boxer puppy on this as well.

i read something interesting regarding how to stop a dog from barking: you teach it to speak on command first, then it'll be easier to make her stop.

could this work in this situation? teach the dog how to jump on command, "Up!", then teach it and reward it the opposite, "Down!". Maybe then it'll translate into jumping on the couch, on people, etc.

meantime, i think i'll go with Brockles' advice.
posted by blastrid at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2008

For the jumping up, in a standard sized dog, raising your knee to hip level straight in front of you so you're basically making an h shape with your body, will rebuff the dog. You're defending your space, putting distance between you and the dog, and repelling him with your knee to his chest or paws, depending on his height.

Hands are a positive reinforcement in my book, so I prefer this no-hands method.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2008

I strongly recommend Clicker Training ... look up Karen Pryor, clicker training, click and treat. I specifically suggest the "train to command, then don't command" technique for this kind of behavior.

Basically, the idea is that you train her to reliably paw you on command and then stop commanding her to do it, substituting some other behavior (like sit) to which she has also been trained. This works wonderfully for excitment-induced-idiocy in dogs.

Now, if only people were as easy to train.
posted by driley at 6:34 PM on February 26, 2008

When my pup jumps up, I very gently nudge or even tap her back feet with my foot. She immediately backs down and looks at her back feet with this "what the hell just happened" look. Of course, when we're lying in bed and I stop petting her, she still smacks me around, but she doesn't jump :)
posted by dogmom at 7:33 PM on February 26, 2008

For the jumping, something that works even better than the knee-jerk reaction (which can be regarded as play) is to take a step towards them right as they go to jump up on you, throwing them off balance. Dogs hate that. A few times of that really cut down on my dog's jumping. As for the general pawing, though, I'm afraid I don't have much to offer.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:52 PM on February 26, 2008

I've seen a lot of people who try to use some sort of negative reinforcement to keep dogs from jumping on people, but I've personally found that negative reinforcement for excitement-induced behavior doesn't work very well. I have found that folding your arms and turning away and telling your dog to sit can be very effective provided you do two things. First, you have to reward them when they do sit by actually giving them the attention they want. Second, you have to get everyone who comes to visit you to do the same thing. This is a lot harder than you might think because you generally won't think of it until the guest is already in the door. Often I have guests who say things like "Oh, I don't mind," so I have to explain to them that I'm trying to train the dog and that I have to be consistent. People are understanding, but if this explanation gets to them after they've already pat the dog on the head, it's often too late.

This probably won't work if you have a dog that doesn't have a really good grasp of the sit command. It's worked fairly well on my beagle mix, and he keeps from jumping on us ~95% of the time and on guests ~75%. We can't get him to sit while we're opening the door for guests (he always has to at least sniff their legs while they're coming in the door), but at least he doesn't jump as much as he used to.
posted by ErWenn at 8:48 PM on February 26, 2008

Brockles is referring to advice from this guy: Doctor Dog.

He taught us a few things, and that solution to jumping was one of the best. If you do it right, and quickly enough, the dog sees it not as something you did but just a natural consequence. "Oh. If I jump up on this human, I fall backwards." After a few times she would refuse to jump on us, no matter how much we fawned over her. Such a simple thing, but it worked wonders on that 76 pound stubborn creature.

Unfortunately my roommate (and the dog's owner) was not consistent, and other behaviours were never trained away. Consistency is absolutely key.
posted by routergirl at 9:05 PM on February 26, 2008

Please do not tip the dog over backwards, this can absolutely cause a serious back/neck/head injury no matter what this "Doctor Dog" says.

As others have said, ignoring absolutely (which means that the dog gets no attention whatsoever unless it has four on the floor, fold arms, turn away, etc.), physically preventing the jumping, and clicker training are the ways to go.
posted by biscotti at 5:02 AM on February 27, 2008

Mod note: a few back and forth comments removed - if you can't talk about this without calling other people names, please take it to Metatalk or email, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2008

The dog, like most dogs, would catch herself and never actually fell on her back. I think you may have misunderstood the process, biscotti. Of course "doctor dog" was not a doctor. Just a half crazy dog trainer with a radio show and a penchant for scotch. We can argue forever about the merits of different dog training, as there are more schools of it than there are religions. What remains is that our vets (I had a different one from my roommate) both agreed this would not injure our dog, and it worked amazingly well.

Obviously if you have a smaller dog you would want to be more gentle, but I was going on the presumption that we all have common sense, and know when something will cause injury.
posted by routergirl at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2008

I have two adopted dogs, both were very anxious for the first year and would freak out about me coming home. The first, boston terrier, wasn't a big deal - but the boxer jumping up was horrible. I actually got a black eye once.

My method was to ignore him for a few minutes and walk around, then bend down and give him a solid hug with all four of his feet on the ground. It has worked well, and stays grounded when I get home now. With guests, I get him to sit and stay until they've had time to take off their shoes and situate himself, by which point he has lost the inclination to jump up/punch them in the face.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 11:03 AM on March 4, 2008

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