has written in with a question about her 5-month-old
boxer puppy, "Alexa." It seems she’s quite a
jumper, and Linda has tried everything from scolding to
spraying water to try to stop it, with little success. I’ve
addressed this behavior in this column in the past, but
it’s been awhile, so I’m happy to go over it again.
it’s a good idea to understand what Alexa wants when
she jumps on you, Linda — she wants your attention.
Human attention, from the dog’s perspective, comes in
three forms: eye contact, voice (happy or scolding) and
physical touch. So if Alexa jumps up on you, scolding in
any form reinforces the behavior to some degree, which
is why she continues to do it.
that you know what Alexa wants when she jumps on you, do
your very best to withhold it when she exhibits the
undesirable behavior. So instead of scolding her when
she jumps on you, bring your arms into your chest and
abruptly turn your back on her — this is the exact
opposite of giving her attention in any form. Of course
you will need to repeat this message, but give Alexa
time to figure out that jumping on you is no longer
going to get attention from you, in any form.
more important than how to address the undesirable
jumping behavior is you getting into the habit of
reinforcing the more desirable behavior you are looking
for. Although it probably seems like Alexa is jumping on
you a lot, I’m quite certain she spends a lot of time
not jumping on you as well, and this is the behavior you
want to encourage.
do this, be vigilant about offering your praising voice,
eye contact and touch when Alexa is in your space and
choosing to stand or sit. If she begins to jump, just
withdraw all of that good stuff. Dogs are experts at
figuring out how to get what they desire out of the
environment and the people in it. You can capitalize on
that knowledge and show Alexa, via lots of praise and
attention when she is not jumping, what it now takes to
earn some of that special stuff from you.
Alexa is a young dog, I’d also suggest taking
preventative measures at the front door to make sure she
doesn’t get into the habit of jumping on visitors.
Instead of setting her up to fail — by letting her go
to the door and jump on people, followed by you scolding
her — I’d suggest attaching her to a leash and
placing the handle under a heavy piece of furniture away
from the front door before your guests arrive. This way
they can enter your home without being jumped on, and
you can focus your attention on them.
may be jumping up or barking at this exciting new
development, but no one need pay any attention to, or
reinforce, that. When some time goes by, and she has
settled down, you can send your visitor into her space
armed with the information of giving attention when
Alexa is voluntarily standing or sitting, thereby
reinforcing calm behavior. If she begins to jump up,
your guest can simply turn and walk away, reinforcing