Q: How can I stop my normally well-behaved dogs from jumping on visitors when they come to the door?
— Asked by several readers
A: Almost every dog, at some point, will jump up on someone. The most common time for a dog to jump is when greeting someone, especially if it is the owner coming home.
Dogs are naturally social creatures. Ask anyone who has a multiple-dog household what they do when they come back together after being apart for any period of time: They greet one another by licking one another’s face. Totally acceptable canine etiquette. Thus when a dog jumps up on someone, they are doing what is acceptable and desired in the canine social structure.
Unfortunately, it’s not as acceptable to us. If someone comes to the door and the dog does not have a collar on, the owner has no way of controlling the dog, so it becomes a free-for-all. The more one yells, the more excited the dog often gets.
We teach a “sit for exam,” or teaching the dog to sit politely to get petted. We start with the dog having a collar and leash on, and we are armed with lots of food. As someone approaches, we put the food in the dog’s face, having it sit as someone comes and pets the dog. With my first Lab, I actually taught the command “four on the floor.” That means each time someone comes to the door you will have your dog’s collar and leash on, and have lots of treats; I recommend something soft so the dog can nibble on the treat while getting petted.
The dog will quickly learn if four feet are on the ground, it will get petted. It is not a stay command. Most people are more than willing to cooperate if you tell them you are training your dog. That also means you should not allow the dog to jump up on someone, even if the person does not mind.
I also train my dogs to sit each time I open my front door. Again, when training I have the leash and collar on, and carry food. I have the dog sit when I open the door so it is not allowed to rush out the door to visit whoever is there. This takes time and patience, but you can have a dog that will not bolt out the door.
When the owner gets home, I recommend ignoring the dog for the first few minutes you are home. Change out of your work clothes. Go to the restroom. Then, calmly let the dog out of the crate. I do not put a collar on my dogs when they are in a crate or even when they are loose in the house by themselves, so the first thing I do is put the collar back on. Then I will loop my thumbs in the collar with my hands spread on the shoulders, get down on the dog’s level and pet the dog.
Determine the command you want to signify for the dog not to jump, and be consistent. I personally use “off” for jumping up. “Down” is for the dog to lie down on the ground. Being consistent with commands is very important.
Most people with small dogs want the dogs to jump up so they can be picked up easily. This is not a problem. Pat your legs, and use a command such as “Hup” or something similar and when the dog jumps, pick it up. The key is that they are allowed to jump up only when they are invited. If they jump up uninvited, it is “Off! Thank you very much.”
It does take repetition. Do not get discouraged if the dog, especially if it is a young dog, does not appear to catch on right away. They are very social creatures and most want to have interaction with us. I try not to get upset with them. They are happy to see us. Also remember, it takes a minimum of six weeks to begin to develop a new behavior in a dog.
— Susan Jenkins, owner of Papp’s Dog Services and a member of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors and the International Association of Canine Professionals. 330-867-9188; www.pappsdogservices.com.
Send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.