It’s been three weeks since Johnnie’s come into our home. She has improved on a remarkable amount of behaviors, but still has a ways to go in one category in particular: jumping up on people during greetings.
It is not uncommon for dogs that are easily excitable and/or love people to have a problem with jumping up. Johnnie’s excitement often gets the best of her and she springs her dainty little paws onto your belly in an attempt to show you just how happy she is to see you! While she’s improved significantly over the past three weeks with just management and some redirecting techniques, five months of having the behavior reinforced at the shelter is proving difficult to undo. Our biggest problem? Inconsistent reinforcement.
It’s sort of like those “My dog is friendly!”s you meet out on walks with your reactive dog: when Johnnie meets a new person and before I get a chance to say anything like, “Can you please wait, I’d like to get her to sit first” they’ve ran up to her and she’s already jumped up on them. Her new friend can then be found coo-ing at her, saying, “It’s okay, my dogs do it all the time. She’s sooo cute!” (similar to the below photo, except probably with more bouncing). This is all fine and dandy, except that now Johnnie has gotten significant attention for jumping up.
There are two issues here, both with one thing in common: it’s the humans who need training. I need to figure out a way to let Johnnie meet new people without practicing her bad behavior of jumping, which means stepping in before she gets the opportunity to jump on them, but without making it seem like she’s not friendly. This is something I will need to get creative with and practice, because I’m not always very direct with people I don’t know – but I need to be an advocate for my dog! The second thing is getting greeters to understand that if she does jump up, don’t reinforce it. This is hard for people to wrap their head around, like I stated above. So many people don’t have a problem with it, especially since she’s so little and adorable, but it leads to an insane amount of inconsistency in her training, making it very difficult to break her of the habit.
So now that J Cash has had three weeks to settle in, it’s time for a four-on-the-floor boot camp to help her with her urge to jump. I am going to try my best to teach her an alternative to bouncing her little front paws off the ground when she meets new people – hopefully finding a way to make it her idea to stay calm during greetings instead of making it something she’s forced into, which might not be as reliable of a long-term solution. I will keep you all updated about how it goes, with the end goal for introductions being something like the below photo. Stay tuned!
To adopt your very own Johnnie Cash, a dog that you’ll have a lot of fun training together with, email firstname.lastname@example.org.