There’s a popular saying among dog trainers: “There’s no such thing as a bad dog.” While that may be true, any trainer will admit that there are dogs with very bad habits.
Simply put, behavior is a way of acting and reacting. When a dog acts or reacts to a situation in a way that has a negative impact on her owner or others, the behavior is considered to be “bad.” Yet, to the dog, it’s just what she does.
Eliminating a bad behavior requires training to give the dog a new behavior, or habit.
One of the most common bad behaviors is jumping up on people. This habit is established when a dog is a puppy. Puppies jump at their mother to get her attention so she will feed them. Dog owners find it adorable that their puppy works so hard to get their attention as she jumps. The naive owners come down to the dog’s level or pick the puppy up, not realizing they have just rewarded the dog for jumping and barking. Unfortunately, behavior that is cute in a puppy often becomes annoying in an adult dog.
Large dogs that jump on people for attention easily knock down and accidentally injure children and older people. Small dogs have less ability to injure someone, but usually dirty clothes and snag stockings. In both cases, while you might not mind your dog jumping up on you, other people probably don’t feel the same way.
Training your dog to sit to be petted is the easiest way to break the jumping habit. To help her develop the “sit for attention” habit, you must ignore her when she jumps on you. You might turn your back or simply walk away. If she follows you, turn quickly and tell her to sit. If she does, pet and praise her. You can reinforce this behavior by having her sit before you put her food bowl down. Every time she sits, she gets a reward of either attention or food. Every time she jumps she gets nothing.
Never pet or coddle a dog to stop the bad behavior. You are only reinforcing the bad behavior.