June 3, 2014
A common problem our dog owners frequently mention they have with their pup is jumping up. It’s a pretty usual canine behavior across all breeds, sizes, and ages but Carey wrote in about her small dog, Dion, who is like a little jumping bean. Lynda replies to her questions about how to manage the habit, good or bad.
I adopted my dog, Dion, a couple years ago. I knew he was “the one” when I saw his single floppy ear. Dion is a Pomeranian/terrier mix and he’s now 9 years old.
Dion has a bit of separation anxiety and is extremely attached to me – which is mostly adorable, but also a little frustrating at times.
One, issue I’m still trying to figure out is his incessant jumping. He’s fairly shy around new people, so he doesn’t jump much on other people. Instead, he’s like a bouncing ball at my feet, wanting to be picked up. He basically lives in my lap or in my arms. He loves laying like a baby.
I’m head over heels for him and I know he’s had a tough life, so I indulge him when I can. On the other hand, sometimes I need to get work done or I need my arms for other things. I know I’m sending him mixed messages considering sometimes I pick him up and dote on him, then sometimes I tell him no. I try to set boundaries for him because I hear that’s what I’m “supposed to do”.
What if I don’t mind Dion jumping on me for affection? Should I feel guilty for treating him like a baby? Or should I do more to manage his jumping?
How hard is it to “train” that out of a senior dog? Is jumping a small dog thing?
Befuddled by bouncing,
It sounds like you found a great little furry match in Dion and you’re giving him a loving, supportive home!
Any dog can form a habit of jumping on people, and even older dogs can learn new habits! Generally, jumping up is related to attention-seeking, so when a dog receives attention for it, the behavior is reinforced. Remember, any attention – positive or negative – can be reinforcing. Pushing a jumping dog off you can quickly turn into a fun game for your pup!
We often focus on what we don’t want our dogs to do, leaving them wondering, “well, what am I supposed to do then?” With jumping up, the solution lies in three simple steps: ignore the unwanted behavior, reward the behavior you like, and be consistent. This is the foundation of positive reinforcement, and a scientifically proven way to change behavior.
Since Dion is a small springy thing (not a giant mastiff) ignoring the jumping shouldn’t be too painful. Reward him with attention when he stops jumping. You can also turn around or let him sort of gently fall off your leg. Be aware though, that when you ignore a behavior in this way, you might see a temporary worsening of the behavior as he tries harder to use the tool that’s always worked for him in the past. At the same time, we need to teach Dion a new way to ask for attention. Sitting is a great alternative to jumping. Let Dion see that jumping doesn’t get him attention, but also ask him to sit before you pick him up for some loving. The more you practice this, the more the sitting will become more automatic, but you must be consistent.
If you’re not interested in giving attention at the moment even if he is polite, you can ask Dion to do something else for a little while. Ask him to sit and stay patiently, give him a bone or food puzzle to work on, or send him in search of his favorite toy. Then spoil him like crazy when you’re ready to!
Our dogs can’t understand why we would be receptive to their cute and sometimes annoying behavior, and when it’s not welcome. This confusion can be really frustrating for your dog too. Similarly to kids, dogs do best when they have some boundaries, as in they know what’s expected of them. However, every human/pet relationship is different. You’re the one who has to live with your fuzzy baby, so it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s best for you and your dog, especially if you don’t mind the jumping and it’s the only issue you’re having. Still, teaching your pet polite behavior can be rewarding for both of you, and can actually strengthen your bond!
Lynda, Rover-Time’s Team Manager
Do you have a question about your pet that our Team Manager could answer? Email Lynda at firstname.lastname@example.org. If she selects your question, we’ll feature it on our blog with a photo of your pet and we’ll surprise you with a little something in return as a thank you for participating! Win, win!