Training Tip: Dog Jumps Up When He/She Wants Something (e.g. food bowl, treat, toy)

This is fairly easy to address if you understand a couple concepts in training. Dogs learn a lot by trial and error.  Let your dog learn that his/her behaviour can make A) “good” things happen, and B) “good” things stop or go away.*

Setting up the learning situation can look like this:

Food Bowl:  lower the bowl when the dog is doing a behaviour you like, and if the dog starts to do a behaviour you don’t like (e.g. jumping up), immediately stop raising the bowl and, if necessary, put the bowl back on the counter out of the dog’s reach. Wait for the dog to self-correct and immediately begin again to lower the bowl. When beginning this, don’t expect perfection. Start with waiting for the slightest improvement in the behaviour then lower the bowl. You can gradually raise your expectations in small increments. For example, you might wait for the dog to have four paws on the ground as the criteria that makes you lower the bowl. You might increase the criteria by waiting for the dog to sit for split second before you start to lower the bowl, but later you might wait for the dog to sit for a full second or two, then begin to lower the bowl. You might give permission for the dog to eat after just a split second of the bowl being on the floor. Later, you might expect the dog to wait a full second and then maybe two seconds. (NOTE: be sure to be fair to your dog and not expect too long of a wait for the food dish that is sitting right in front of the dog. This can be interpreted as teasing the dog depending on the situation.)

Toy: Pick up the toy the dog desires when the dog is doing a behaviour you like. If the dog begins to do a behaviour you don’t like (e.g. jumping up, barking, nipping at your hand to get the toy), immediately put the toy down, or out of sight, or out of reach on a counter/cupboard, or walk away from it if it’s a toy that the dog needs a partner for (e.g. tug, fetch).  Don’t raise it up and dangle it out of reach since this will likely teach the dog to try to jump for it. Wait for your dog to self-correct (e.g. sit, back off from the toy, bring the toy to you to tug or throw, drop the toy in front of you — whatever behaviour you are wanting). As explained earlier with the food bowl example, don’t expect perfection when beginning this. As well, be sure to resume play or to bring out the toy right after the dog self-corrects. If the unwanted behaviour continues after 3 chances, then put the toy away and try again later when the dog is calmer.

Treat: Wait for the behaviour you desire then begin to get the dog the treat out of the package or cupboard or container. If the dog is just learning and doesn’t really know that the treat container or treat cupboard contains treats, you might want to start this training at the point when you begin to lower the treat. If your dog jumps up (or does any other unwanted behaviour, like barking), immediately stop and reverse (e.g. raise the treat, put the treat back in the container, etc.). Wait for the dog to self-correct and immediately reinforce that self-correction with resuming giving the treat.

NO WORDS ARE NEEDED.

Adding words can slow down the learning. Adding words can become a distraction to the dog and your voice could be carrying stress/frustration that would add to the stress/frustration of the dog, interfering with the dog’s ability to learn.  Talking to the dog can reinforce the dog’s unwanted behaviours (in the case of dogs that crave any attention at all, even when the attention is not in a happy form.) For the most effective communication with your dog, remove your words and concentrate on creating consequences that can teach your dog that his/her behaviour can make good things happen or good things stop/go away.

NO NEED FOR NON-REWARD MARKERS. A non-reward marker is a signal (usually a word like “oops” or “nope”) to indicate to the dog that the behaviour was not the right one. There is scientific evidence that indicates that non-reward markers do not improve learning and in fact can become punishers that can lead to increased stress/frustration. Your dog will easily figure out that the behaviour isn’t the right one because it didn’t cause you to lower the food bowl, pick up/tug/play with the toy, deliver the treat, etc. No need to add a non-reward marker, especially if there is a risk it will interfere with learning.

*FYI: These are simplified explanations of two of the four quadrants in the science of Operant Conditioning: Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment.

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