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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: OFF

A recent FaceBook post from Teacher's Pet:
Training tip: to get a dog to stop jumping, turn your back to ignore him and reward him (with praise or a treat) when all four paws are on the floor.  Dogs jump for attention so even negative attention (yelling, pushing, scolding) is attention.  Ignore the negative behavior and reward the desired behavior!
(Teacher's Pet is a non-profit group that works with at-risk youth by teaching them to train hard-to-adopt rescue dogs.  The dogs learn basic obedience so they become more adoptable, and the kids learn compassion and gain self-esteem.  Everyone wins!  Teacher's Pet also puts on "Kamp K9,"  two week-long summer camps for dog-lovers in 6th through 9th grades.  Last July FLD Mike and I made presentations at the camps--it was great!)


Jumping onto people can be a means for your dog to get attention, just at Teacher's Pet's post suggests, or it can mean more.  Sometimes jumping up on people, especially when they enter your home, can be a dog's tactic to take over the space and challenge authority.

Ignoring this unwanted behavior (and subsequently rewarding the desired behavior) is one approach.  Another approach is to "take back" the space and show the dog that he is NOT in charge.  
  • Don't use hands or arms to remove the dog.
  • Say nothing, avoid eye contact, hold your shoulders back and extend your torso while forcing yourself forward; push back against the dog with your entire body until he is off-balance and drops to all fours.
  • When the dog has "four-on-the-floor," turn and ignore.
  • After a few times the dog should avoid the confrontation--praise and reward the dog when he or she does the right thing!


Jumping onto other things might just be a dog trying to get what he wants--the freshly baked cookies cooling on the counter; the deliciously smelly trash; or a soft lying-down place on the living room sofa.

FLD Gus is starting to jump onto things.  When Gypsy gets onto the couch, he tries to jump up after her, but she won't have it.  "GRRRR" she bares her teeth and Gus backs off.  Other times he tries to jump up when Andy and I are relaxing at the end of the day.  

This is when we work on the command:  OFF.

Gypsy, keeping puppies off the couch.

Do not confuse the OFF command with the DOWN  command.  (I'll leave "down" for another Tuesday.)  DOWN means "lie down with your belly on the floor!"  OFF means "get your four feet on the floor!"


The OFF command is useful in the car when your puppy should be on the floor of the passenger seat and NOT ON the passenger seat; when your puppy jumps up to sniff the counter in the kitchen; when your puppy dirties your guest's pants with his paws upon your guest's arrival (although you should coach your guests to reclaim their space as described above; if you've done this yourself it might not even be an issue with guests); when your puppy stands in his pen (the next step is leaping out); well, you get the idea.

Anytime your puppy tries to get on something he shouldn't, use the OFF command.



To begin, stage situations that you know will tempt your puppy to jump up.  For example, sit on the edge of the couch and talk to him, or place a temptation on the edge of the kitchen counter.


When your puppy jumps up, do NOT say NO or yell at him.  Simply "help" your dog "off" of you, or the couch, or the counter, and say "OFF" at the same time in a low-key, but assertive voice.


Praise your puppy as soon as he or she has all four feet on the floor.  Be careful not to over-praise your puppy to the point that he goes bonkers and starts jumping around!  If you have an excite-able puppy, merely say "Good boy!"  You can even divert his attention and ask for a SIT once he has four feet on the floor.  Praise again, or reward the sit with a treat.

  • Teaching the OFF command is very simple if you are CONSISTENT and can ENFORCE the command.
  • If your puppy is exceptionally "jumpy" even after working through the steps above, stage the situation while you have a leash clipped to his collar.  When your puppy jumps up, say OFF and give a quick snap of the leash.
  • Say the OFF command ONE TIME ONLY, or it will become meaningless to your puppy.
  • Reserve your LOUD, commanding voice for later when your dog understands the command and you are not close to your dog to reinforce it.  
  • If you are not close enough, say your puppy's name first to get his attention towards you.  (This implies that you've done some work on NAME RECOGNITION.)

Hey Gus!  Good boy!
FLD Gus, lying calmly ON THE FLOOR.

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