Does Muttsy jump up on you whenever you come home? Does he do the same thing when friends come to visit? Have you been telling him “Down!” or “Off!” with little or no results? There’s an easy answer, but first you should know that when Muttsy jumps up he’s expressing positive social feelings—feelings you wouldn’t want to quash or squelch. In fact, these are emotions you actually want to nurture in your dog, because they’re the same emotions that make Muttsy want to come when called and walk nicely next to you on the leash. These emotions make up his “social attraction”, which is one of the keys to dog training.
There are two simple rules about jumping up: the dog should never be rewarded for jumping up without being asked to do so first, and 2.) the dog should never be punished for the behavior, at least not overtly. To “enforce” the first rule, just make sure that whenever Muttsy jumps up without being asked to do so, simply twist sideways while saying, “Okay, off!” in a pleasant, inviting tone. His idea is to make contact; yours is to not let him.
As for teaching Muttsy to jump up on command, that’s pretty simple too. Just show him a treat or a toy, hold it in front of his nose, then move it up to your knee or thigh, or wherever Muttsy would naturally put his paws if he were to jump up. As he jumps up say “Hup!’ in an inviting tone. (When first teaching a new behavior it’s always a good idea to give the command after the dog has already obeyed it, not before—it sounds backwards, I know, but it works much better during the initial learning stages.)
Once the dog has taken the treat or toy from your hand, twist sideways while saying, “Okay, off!” in an inviting one. With most dogs you’ll only need to do this for a few days and he’ll have learned to jump up on command—no more need for treats or toys.
For XXL dogs, have them jump up to an outstretched arm, or just have them lean up against you. For dogs who are shy about jumping up, start from a sitting position or even by lying down on the floor. Gently encourage the dog to come make contact, starting with just one paw on your chest and building slowly and gently from there. Give yourself something like two weeks of short, two-minute sessions, several times a day to bring this type of dog along.
For dogs who are too energetic about jumping up, teach them that they only get rewarded when they make calm, steady contact. No “pogo-ing” allowed! After a few days add a twist: hold the dog’s collar as you give him the treat or toy. Don’t let him jump down (or if he’s an XXL dog, don’t let him stop leaning against you) on his own. If he tries to break contact, hold him in place for a fraction of a second, then let him go while saying, “Okay, off!”
Okay, now that the dog has learned the “Hup!” and the “Okay, off!” and will do it without a treat or other inducement, it’s time to trick him! Stand as you usually do, then pat your knee or thigh, but don’t say “Hup!” Just induce him to jump up without giving him the command. When he does, step back or twist sideways. Don’t let him make contact! Do this two or three times in a row, depending on how soon he starts to show uncertainty. On the third or fourth time, pat your knee or thigh and say, “Hup!” He’ll probably pause for a second, trying to determine what’s the most relevant part of the new pattern, then he’ll jump up. Praise and pet him when he obeys. (With really hard cases it’s okay to put the leash on, let it fall to the floor, stand on it so that Muttsy self-corrects when he tries to jump up—but that’s only for hard cases.)
Do these exercises for a few minutes each time, several times a day, for two or three days, and you’ll be surprised at how Muttsy no longer jumps up!
About the Author:
Lee Charles Kelley, http://www.leecharleskelley.com, is a successful New York dog trainer who uses methods that stimulate obedience through training games geared around a dog's natural prey drive. Kelley is also the author of six dog mysteries for Avon, featuring ex-cop turned dog trainer Jack Field. All of his novels have dog training tips artfully woven into the storylines.