DEAR DIDI: We cannot seem to get our dog to stop jumping on people. She is a 55 lb. dog and although we keep her nails trimmed she just scratches everyone in her enthusiasm at the front door. She settles down in ten minutes or so. We are a very social family and enjoy entertaining but we fear people don’t want to come over because of our dog. Many suggestions have been offered such as kneeing her in the chest, electronic collars, etc. We don’t want to break her spirit though. Any suggestions? -Loving dog owner
DEAR LOVING: This is definitely something that all dog owners experience when they first come home. Jumping on people can ruin their clothing, cause someone to lose their balance, scratch skin (hopefully not grandma because she is on blood thinners), or terrify someone who is already unsure about dogs. Although this is a completely normal dog behavior it just doesn’t fit into our human lifestyle needs.
My key concept that I stick to in most dog behavior issues is, “Practice makes Perfect”. If you allow your dog to practice this behavior, she is going to become perfectly good at it! There is a multi-faceted approach to this issue that seems to work well in most cases. The first, and most important, step is to keep your dog on a leash. Yes, in the house. You cannot control a dog without a leash. Well, you can chase her down, yell at her, or grab her but those things just cause your dog to think you are unpredictable and scary. The old fashioned notion of kneeing the dog in the chest works because it hurts the dog. She is less likely to jump on you if she thinks she will get hurt in the process. Additionally, every person that comes in the house will have to knee her in the chest in order for her to learn to be scared of them enough not to jump up.
When your doorbell rings step on the six-foot leash your dog is dragging around. If you step on it right where it touches the floor your dog’s front feet won’t be able to leave the ground by far. Every time she attempts jumping your weight on the leash will stop her instantly. You will be absolved of all the yelling and be able to just praise your dog for keeping all four on the floor! Practice makes Perfect. The more she practices greeting people politely, the more it will become a habit to do so.
Prevention is important in this case. It may seem like a pain to have your dog on a leash but it will have untold benefits. You will be able to manage your dog better without having to scare her to death by physically grabbing her. She may, at first, step on her own leash but she will learn through trial and error how to avoid doing that. Some dogs may chew on this leash so keep an eye out and discourage her from chewing. I recommend inexpensive dollar store leashes to begin with so you are less angry when it gets dirty or chewed on. Like Didi’s Facebook page: California Canine.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. To ask your dog behavior question, email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.