Johnnie’s Jumping: Training the Humans

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.

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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!

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To adopt your very own Johnnie Cash, a dog that you’ll have a lot of fun training together with, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Progress Makes “Perfect”

I’ve really driven home on this blog the point that Otis can be a bit co-dependent. That’s what I remembered him being from over the summer, and what was confirmed by his last owner when I took him back. After an independent Baxter, I was wondering what it would be like to have a shadow dog again. I had visions of him whimpering outside the bathroom door while I showered, getting stuck under my feet at every step, and showing separation anxiety when left alone.

What I wasn’t accounting for was adjustment, relaxation, and a mind at ease. These ingredients have brought out an entire new side of Otis from when he came to me six weeks ago.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate progress with Baxter every day, but for some reason I’ve been totally blind to how far Otis has come.  So I want to take an entry to celebrate Otis’ victories like he deserves.

While Otis still loves to hang out with me, he no longer needs to be attached to my hip. A big milestone he recently started enjoying is relaxing in the living room by himself while everyone is in the kitchen. He’ll also leave my room and walk upstairs to hang out with my parents if I’m not doing something entertaining enough for him. He’ll be that companion dog who will follow you from room to room and keep you company, but who won’t let the whole neighborhood know when you’re separated from each other in the house.

In the same vein, another thing that makes him a great dog is how well he does when alone. He just stays on the couch the whole time he is by himself. No chewing, no whining, no destruction. Just calm and patience, waiting for our return. It’s so relieving! It is especially nice to know that he can stay home all day while I’m at work and not bug my parents. In fact, they barely even realize he is around.

Otis has also become a “normal” eater – he gobbles his meals down, he is enticed by treats, and sometimes he even comes over to have a sniff of what we’re eating. For the first while, Honey barely touched his food, let alone treats. I was worried about him, but he has proven to be just as eager as the rest of the food motivated pups out there. Along with the food motivation has come basic obedience. His butt is on the floor as soon as he sees a treat in my hand; a scene much like the photo below. “I did it, now where is my reward??”

Finally, one of the biggest things I realized when I stopped to reflect on Otie’s first month was that the jumping has almost completely stopped. It was always Otis’ go to –  he would get excited, then hop his front paws on whatever was in front of him: a human, a couch, a bed. He was always bopping around. Now it seems he doesn’t even think about jumping up (with a few exceptions of over excitement, of course).

So no, he is not perfect – but every day he is becoming more calm, comfortable, and happy – and what else can we ask for? So many dogs get bumped from home to home because they are not given the chance to settle in.  Otis, just like Baxter, is a prime example of a dog who needs a little time and TLC before he becomes the best that he can be. But once they come out of their shell and show you their goofy and loving personality, you’ll be so glad you gave them that chance.

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