Whole Dog Journal Tips December 9, 2013

(Train Your Dog Like a Pro Tip#2) - Types of Visitors

Visitors and guests fall into two groups:  those who will be happy to pitch in and help you train your dog, and those who you can’t afford to have the dog jump on even once or twice.  The former group is the one you want to help you train your dog’s behavior.  For the latter group, put the dog away when they come over until she has done a few rounds with “helper” people. Once she’s proofed, the dog will sit politely for everybody, including people who would have been distressed or offended by your dog jumping on them.  

Another reason not to risk letting your dog make a mistake with people who aren’t in on the training is that they may inadvertently react in a way that undermines the cause.  Many dogs find it rewarding when people make physical contact with them, so pushing them off may not read as a negative consequence.  Any bending or squealing could likewise reward the jumping. This could culminate in a selective jumper, a dog who jumps on the worst possible people! Even if you then time the dog out, or even get violent with her, the person’s reaction may be the most powerful consequence in this context.  

An important principle of dog training is not to ever let the dog discover any circumstances in which the cause and affects you want do not exist.  In other words, if you prematurely give your dog the opportunity to jump on certain people without any “too bads” or exits by them, she could think something like, “Hmm.  Sometimes that rule must not be in effect.  Oh, I see! It’s those people who wear silk!”   Dogs are very good at discriminating specific cases, remember, and your dog could very well use this ability to learn that the best way to get facial proximity with a certain group is to jump, whereas with others it is to sit.  For this reason, we’re going to use only people who are “in on it” until the dog has a strong default sit.      

For more training tips and ideas, purchase Jean Donaldson’s Train Your Dog Like a Pro from Whole Dog Journal.