Whole Dog Journal Tips November 24, 2014

(The Culture Clash Tip #4) Jumping Up

A classic culture clash example is greeting rituals: in most human cultures, we shake hands or bow. In dog culture, they buzz around excitedly, lick and sniff each other. The origin of jumping up is in infancy. Wolf pups will jump up to lick the corners of adults' mouths, triggering the latter to regurgitate food that the puppies can eat. This jumping up and licking is retained into adulthood as a greeting ritual. It's extremely common in dogs though its root has faded: only a minority of adults regurgitate. Greeting may become exaggerated when dogs live with humans because the social group is continually being fractured, then reunited: we leave and come back a lot, necessitating constant broad rituals. We're also vertical: the dog wants to get at our face. We also tend to let tiny puppies get away with it and then change the rules when they grow larger.

The main reason dogs jump is that no one has taught them to do otherwise. I'm not talking about punishments like kneeing dogs, pinching their feet or cutting off their air with a strangle collar. This sort of abuse has been the prevailing “treatment” but is inhumane and laden with side-effects. Imagine yourself being kneed in the diaphragm or pushed over backwards for smiling or extending your hand in friendship. It's not the fault of dogs that their cultural norm is at odds with our greeting preferences.

The key to training dogs not to jump up is to strongly train an alternative behavior that is mutually exclusive to jumping. The dog cannot jump up and sit at the same time. Nor can he dig through walls while working on a chew toy, lie on a mat and annoy dinner guests, or hold eye contact while chasing cars. The applications of this technique - DRI (differential reinforcement of an in compatible behavior, or “operant counterconditioning”) - are limitless.

From Jean Donaldson's thought-provoking book, The Culture Clash, dog owners will learn and get a better understanding of the relationship between dogs and humans, including ways to control jumping up. Purchase The Culture Clash from Whole Dog Journal today