Four on the Floor, Please

Many of you with energetic, happy dogs know what it’s like when you come home and they are just SO EXCITED to see you. It can often involve (and this list, of course, is for the ones lacking suitable manners – aka many of my dogs at some point or another) jumping, trying to lick your face, happy tails knocking over anything within reach, paws on work clothes, etc. You get the idea? For a lot of dogs, jumping is the first reaction when excited and Otis was no exception.

Otis is really great at home all day by himself because he just sleeps on the couch, but then all of his saved up energy seems to be let out in an excitable explosion of happy dog, happy tail, and happy feet when I arrive home.  Please see Exhibit A from Paws in the Park when Otis saw me for the first time that day:

When Honey Bunches first came to my house, his previous owner warned me of his big hefty paws and the damage his claws could innocently do. My solution? Teach him not to jump! Now there are many different opinions out there about what is the best method to fix this (just like with everything else). I want to take a minute to remind you I’m not a professional anything, so what I’m going to talk about is mostly just from my own experiences.

The approach that I of course wanted to steer very clear of was using any sort of physical means to stop him: kneeing, kicking, shoving, whatever. The problem with this is that – among other things – the dog will slowly get used to this force, and you will have to increase what you do over time. Soon you will end up booting your dog in the face! Not really, but you get the point. Negative attention for a dog is still attention, so this method doesn’t work well because technically they’re still getting what they want. Plus, the idea of hurting Otis in the name of obedience totally irks me, so I went a different route.

What Otis is craving the most when I come home is acknowledgement and attention, which makes it pretty easy to show him what I want and don’t want. When I walk in and he starts jumping up to say hi, I completely ignore him. He is bouncing off the walls around me, but I don’t look at him, I don’t talk to him, and I even turn my body away from him. I walk in the door and put my things down and pretend he is not there, then as soon as he calms down with four feet on the floor, I give him calm praise. No big, “Yay, good job! Good boy!” because that just sets him off again. Just a calm, “Hi Otie,” and a pat on the head. It’s acknowledgement, so it’s good enough for him.  Soon he learns that in order to get my attention, he has to calm down. He has (for the most part) stopped jumping up on me when I get home.

This took a few days of trial and error of Otis still jumping up when I got home, but when he picked up on what I wanted, he caught on quick.  Like I’ve mentioned before, positive reinforcement training – so ignoring the bad and praising the good – has worked very well with Otis and his sensitive little soul.  It’s tough to remember in every day life though. As you can see in the video, I still say hi to him when he is jumping up, therefore reinforcing the behavior, so we’re still working on things – but we’ve made progress in this area and others. When he first tried to jump up on the bed I did the same thing: he put his paws on the bed to get up and I immediately turned away and ignored him, and as soon as he hopped back down I gave him a lot of praise. He caught on quickly that the bed was not somewhere he was welcome, and definitely not somewhere he was going to get attention.

It’s tough on these blogs to highlight dogs in their best light as great adoptable pets without making them out to be flawless dogs. All dogs (except those of you with perfect ones :-)) have things they need to work on. While foster homes aren’t responsible for creating the perfect pet, it is important to tell potential adopters what they should expect from an animal. For Otis, I will do as much as I can to tell them about his excitement and how to handle it. For Baxter, it was telling them about his need for space. Every dog has their “quirks”, and adopters are allowed to have a threshold of what they’re comfortable dealing with or not – which is why it is important to disclose as much information about a dog as you can.  If they really love the dog, they’ll be willing to put in the effort – if they’re not, they’re probably a better match for someone else. That’s the beauty of setting up animals with the perfect family.

Channeling his inner Sir Chick.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to check out more about him and how to get in touch.