Updated: Mar 14
Written by Naomi White
Owning a dog who jumps up at people can be one of the most embarrassing and frustrating challenges in dog ownership. It’s such a common behaviour, but it can seem impossible to change.
Sometimes it feels like you’ve tried everything, maybe you’ve started out by gently saying ‘get down’ or ‘off’ but unfortunately dogs don’t understand English so these words
rarely make a difference. Then we tend to get a little firmer, maybe pushing the dog away, shouting more words at him or even attempting the old classic ‘knee him in the chest’. You may have resorted to other interventions like a spray of water, a pet corrector or a rattle bottle. But did any of these work? Probably not. At least, not long-term.
Often what we consider to be a telling off or a punishment for jumping, is merely another reinforcer to our dogs. When you’re saying ‘no, get down, get off, OFF!!’ and pushing him away, he is most likely going to think ‘this works great to get your attention’. What we perceive to be telling our dog off, is actually doing the opposite. There is also a risk that by choosing more aversive methods you do little to stop jumping up but instead change how your dog feels in certain situations. For example, if you spray a pet corrector at him every time he goes to jump up at a guest at the front door, soon he may start associating the doorbell and guests with an unpleasant experience. You haven’t changed the jumping up, you have simply changed how he feels about guests entering the house.
In one case I had, a lovely friendly Terrier had been ‘corrected’ for jumping at guests with a spray of pet corrector, designed to ‘interrupt and discourage unwanted behaviour’. While it did work to stop his jumping, it also made him fearful of guests entering or leaving the house and inadvertently triggered a new response to chase and bite people who entered or left the house. He was terrified of people walking t