Dear Inquisitive Canine:
Our high-energy dog is about 1 year old, and has learned quite well not to jump on us adults when we come home. She does, however, continue to jump up on our 6-year-old daughter.
It’s difficult for our daughter to ignore this, as we did, especially when the dog scratches her to get her attention. Is there another trick a child can use to stop a dog from jumping and clawing? It’s hard for our little girl not to squeal and run when she gets gouged with the claws.
Dear Lulu’s mom:
Let’s go through what you’ve written, and determine what is known and what you have:
» A young, high-energy canine.
» An excited, happy-to-see-her-family canine.
» An animal that is genetically programmed to greet others (of any species) by jumping up.
» A young human child who inadvertently rewards the canine by squealing and behaving similarly to “prey,’’ or at least acts as excited and happy as the dog.
» An excited, exuberant, happy, young energetic dog that has learned to discriminate really well: She greets adult humans in a manner they like while approaching the little ones in a contrary fashion.
Now, allow me to identify what you would prefer:
For your dog, Lulu, to greet young children politely, as she does adults.
I have to say, there are no “tricks” or anything else magical that would stop your dog from jumping and clawing, but there are some definite training steps you could take to achieve your goals.
First and foremost: Decide what you want from your dog. You say “stop jumping.” OK, I know what you don’t want, but what is it you do want? You’ll need to choose the behavior you want from your dog — this way, you’ll know what to reward her for. You need to give her the “right choice” to make.
I myself, as both a certified dog trainer and regular “dog mom,” prefer to have dogs greet humans with either a “Sit to Greet,” or, if the dog is really excited, “Four on the Floor” (all four paws need to be on the ground). Both are simple behaviors that are easy to teach dogs. You just need to decide on which one would work best. I would say teach both. This way, depending on Lulu’s state of mind, you can set her up for success. Four paws on the floor is easier and more realistic during those times when she is super-excited!
Now that you’re able to focus in on what you want from Lulu, what is the best plan? The following steps should help guide you:
» You or any other adults start withsome “dress rehearsals” of sitting to greet (or four on the floor), when you come home. You enter the room, ask for the “right behavior,” reward with food, petting praise. Repeat this exercise enough times to where Lulu appears bored – or starts offering the behavior before you ask.
» Once Lulu is “getting it” with you, attach her to her leash (to help manage your environment), and practice having her sit-stay with your daughter alongside of you. Make sure there is enough distance so Lulu can’t pummel her, but close enough to help mimic the end position of “coming home and greeting.”
» You and your daughter can repeat the “sit-stay” exercise in a few locations indoors. (Fewer distractions make it easier for Lulu). Each time, follow it up with yummy food treats and attention. Lulu learns:
» “My tush on the floor makes the little human say, “Hi,,” scratch my chin, and give me treats.”
» Now, add this step: Have your daughter enter the house/room while you continue to manage her on leash. Once your daughter enters, she can ask Lulu to sit for greeting and food rewards.
» If Lulu decides she’d rather jump up to greet, you can give her a “Too bad,” and a “Time out!” Meaning, take her out of the room for about 20 seconds or so. This way, Lulu learns:
» “If I jump up, I get nothing! Plus, I get ignored and no attention whatsoever! Well, that downright stinks! I think I’ll do more sitting. It’s a better outcome.”
» Continue to practice having your daughter enter the house or a room, while changing locations within your house — back door, front door — and at different times of the day.
» Recruit “volunteers:’’ Ask if any of your daughter’s friends are willing to help Lulu learn, but obtain their parents’ permission first. They can help you by being the “greetee.” The more practice Lulu gets, the more she’ll be able to generalize amongst humans of all ages and sizes.
As a final note, it sounds like the adults have been consistent in teaching Lulu what is wanted, which is great — this proves she is paying attention and can learn what is asked of her. Your daughter, on the other hand, because of being young herself, hasn’t been able to refine her “ignoring” skills, or train Lulu to greet nicely. Because of the inconsistency, she has inadvertently made this undesired behavior stronger. So, when you’re not training or teaching, manage the situation by being around to help prevent Lulu from jumping up.
The more consistent and structured your training plan is now, the quicker Lulu will “get it,’’ which will result in polite greetings all around, long before your daughter heads off to college.
— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.