I’m sure most of us who, over time, have had several dogs from puppies, forget what monkeys they can be when young. I have just been to see two wonderful friendly, gentle Standard Poodles – Asia is eleven years old and Sunny a large, adolescent six months.
Compared to the majority of dogs I have met of that age, Sunny is an angel! His only two ‘crimes’ are jumping up at everyone and jumping up at the sides to nick things – counter-surfing.
Inadvertently he has been taught to do both through reinforcement.
‘Get Down’ may make Sunny get back down again once up – he’s a very biddable young dog, but ‘Get Down’ doesn’t teach him not to jump up again the next time he feels like it.
Jumping up at people is his most trying habit. The lady herself had begun to ask Sunny to Sit before touching him, but the clever dog has merely learnt that, with her, the sequence is ‘to jump up, be told to sit possibly several times, to then sit down, to get fussed, then possibly to jump up again’!
If sitting is what she wants and sitting is incompatible with jumping up after all, he needs to learn to sit straight away without jumping up first. Having already on several occasions asked him to sit, if she now just waited and ignored the jumping, he would soon work it out for himself that sitting does the trick. Unfortunately there are quite a lot of people in Sunny’s life who all, unwittingly, encourage the jumping up.
Why does he do it? He is a lovely, gentle and friendly dog and it’s probably merely because dogs may greet face to face (if not face to bum!), and he wants to get to face level. He doesn’t jump at children who are already level with the tall dog’s face. Sunny merely needs to learn that to welcome humans there is one rule that may seem weird to him but is necessary if he wants his welcome to be reciprocated.
The rule is that his feet must be on the floor.
The attention he expects and gets is by way of being touched, looked at or spoken to. He usually gets all three! Dogs are experts at reading body language. Looking away and waiting usually gets the message across about what he should not be doing, but that’s only half the story. He also needs to know what he should be doing, so feet on floor needs to get him what he wants.
I am a great believer in dogs working things out for themselves rather than being constantly told or ‘commanded’, and Sunny will soon get the hang of what’s expected if everyone is consistent. Currently when he jumps up, one person puts his hand up above him as though to push his head down (ah – a hand to jump up at), and other people give him quite a wild or exciting welcome whilst he is jumping up, even though they may at the same time be saying Get Down!
I predict that if the humans can be trained (always the hardest bit) Sunny will soon politely keep his feet on the floor when people come in.
Jumping up at the sides is the other jumping problem, something all the lady’s Standard Poodles have done. They do it because the can – they are tall – and there is sometimes food up there so it’s reinforced. Sunny will actually nick anything so long as it’s on the side, food or not – stuff like paper that he would not be interested in anywhere else!
The easy solution is to remove all opportunity by shutting him out of the room when unsupervised and keeping the surfaces completely clear. It’s one of the things that becomes a habit and he will have seen Asia doing it too. Stop him doing it for long enough and the habit should become unlearned – along with more reinforcement for keeping his feet on the floor!
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sunny. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).