Jumping For Joy Jackets Jubilance and Just Because

This past month, puppies are presenting with persistent jumping jack-in-the-box behaviors, and owners seeking help, immediate help. Some I am seeing privately, others in class, and yet another in a board and train setting. One was a three year old Great Dane who had been woefully under socialized and had fear related behaviors. Some of the pups were athletically leaping to shoulder height, nipping and grabbing at clothes, and had left a few bruises and torn clothing items behind. This is not good. This kind of overly aroused wildly unfettered behavior needs to be nipped in the bud. Why do puppies jump up anyways? Because:

  • They can
  • Chasing kids and jumping up is fun
  • Jumping up is normal dog behavior
  • It is highly reinforcing (think negative attention- yelling shouting pushing shoving)
  • Nobody has taught them otherwise
  • This has become a learned default behavior
  • Puppies are not aware of impulse control until they are taught.
  • They are anxious
  •  

What is one to do with a puppy in jumping jack overdrive? Somehow the little beastie needs to be calmed down. There is no magic wand, no single thing to stop this leaping behavior. As always, when working with any undesired behavior, all aspects impacting   behavior need to be considered. Consulting with an owner, the following topics would be discussed:

 

  • Exercise: Is this puppy getting sufficient exercise for the breed?
  • Chewing: What appropriate chew items are being offered to engage the puppy?
  • Lifestyle: How long does the puppy spend each day alone? Are their kids in the family?
  • Socialization: Lack of such produces puppies wildly excited by novel stimuli, and unsure of what to do. Jumping up seems like a good alternative to them.
  • Management: Any tool such as baby gates, crates, leashes to prevent rehearsal of the behavior.
  • Owner Education: How not to respond in a way that is reinforcing. Are you pushing and shoving? Are you squeaking excitedly as you greet Jack upon coming home?
  • Environmental Enrichment: What novel items keep the puppy engaged and busy? For example: feeding meals out of treat toys such as a Kong Wobbler or a Kibble Nibble.
  • Appropriate Play: Are kids in the family running helter- skelter about the house with Jumping Jack at their heels, unsupervised by an adult? Is wild shoving wrestling going on?
  • Advocating: Instructing well meaning but extremely unhelpful strangers to NO, DO NOT TOUCH THE PUPPY.  If Jumping Jack is sitting calmly that is another story. Yes, by all means allow the stranger to approach and interact.
  •  

TRAINING

Yes, daily structured positive training, giving Jumping Jack reinforcement and feedback for desired behaviors is an all important component of the program. In families,   members need to be CONSISTENT with the training approach. As we all know, randomly petting Jack for being oh so cute while standing up is actually strengthening the jumping behavior. (“Oh, it worked this time, I’ll be sure to try that again.”)  In this blog, rather than go into detail on any single approach, I will list what my current crop of Jumping Jacks are being taught, keeping in mind that the other factors listed above will need to be taken into consideration and addressed along the way. Really, the topic could be a book.

 

  • Reinforce sit always everywhere and constantly. Here comes Jack. Ask Jack to sit. Be proactive instead of waiting for the undesired behavior. The latter is a huge concept for many pet owners.
  • Reinforce down, as above, incompatible with jumping up.
  • Touch: When Jack is targeting a hand with nose, Jack is not jumping.
  • Go Find It: Likewise, when Jack is seeking out a tossed treat, Jack is not jumping.
  • Go to Place: Jack on his mat is a Jack not jumping.
  • Doggy Zen: Jack needs to learn impulse control. A toy held out to the side will only be tossed when Jack, sitting, looks away from the toy, and back to you.
  • Polite Greeting: Done on a tether, or another person “being a tree” and holding Jack on a loose leash. Jack is only reinforced for sitting as a person approaches. Jumping Jacks are ignored and walked away from.
  • Relaxation: I love the Dr. Karen Overall Relaxation Protocol.  Some dogs need extra help in the relaxation department.
  • Shape Relaxation: Simply sit in a calm setting and mark/ treat any behavior showing increased relaxation such as standing still, slower breathing, ears neutral, blinky eyes, looking down.  
  • Teach Tricks: Jack spinning in circles is a Jack not jumping.
  •  

Could I go on? To answer that, yes, more and more keeps coming to mind. Training within a level of distraction where Jack can focus and learn is very important. All new behaviors need to be initially learned at low levels of distraction, shooting for that 80 % rule of consistency, before moving on to increasing distractions. Sitting at the front door with nothing happening is greatly different from sitting with company coming in. We need to have reasonable expectations as to when our puppies will be able to focus.  As if you do not have enough to think about, there are always alternatives and complementary therapies.

 

Through A Dog’s Ear: A CD calming and soothing to the doggy ear.

www.thundershirt.com calming elastic garment therapy for the anxious canine.

www.petcomfortzone.com: a synthetic hormone also used for anxious dogs.

Tellington Touch: Providing meaningful input to a dogs` nervous system through slow systematic strokes and touches, a great complement to other relaxation therapies.  

 

Good luck with your own Jumping Jacks and have a less jumpy Thanksgiving and perhaps even a jump free Christmas if you get right to work. Holidays are stressful enough and stress magnified while trying to deal with your little leaper.

 

Until next time, Leslie and the Labbies