DEAR OLD TRAINER: My wife and I just adopted Cruz, a 1-year old Spaniel/Weimaraner mix. We love him already, but he jumps on us ever time he gets excited and he is big. Is it common for dogs to do this and how do we train him not to?
Roy, Las Vegas, Nev.
A: All dogs do it because it’s in their DNA, a holdover from the wolf days when Mom carried dinner home in her mouth and the pups jumped up to get their share.
It’s not a character flaw — he just wants to love on you — and it’s easy to train him to knock it off. Start training Cruz right now. Carry a rolled-up newspaper or have it close by. The instant he starts to jump, whack your leg with the newspaper, making as much noise as you can, and say “don’t jump.” The hand signal is to move your outstretched hand, palm down, toward the ground.
As soon as you say “don’t jump,” order Cruz into the “sit” position. “Sit” is part of basic training and he should already know it.
When he obeys the command and sits, pet him and praise him. It will make Cruz so happy he jumps again. Repeat the exercise. Do it every single time he jumps. Always pet and praise him when he backs off and sits.
While he sits, say “don’t jump” and whack your leg. You must be unrelenting to convince Cruz his jumping days are over. If whacking your leg does not make him respond, tap him on the neck with the paper after you make the noise. The instant he backs off, pet him and love on him. He wants to do the right thing. Your job is to teach him what that is.
Keep in mind you are simply helping him break a habit, and the easiest way to do that is to interrupt the thought process before he begins the act. You usually know when he is likely to jump so give the order, give him the hand signal, and whack your leg when you see he’s getting excited. Then make him sit and bore him with a lecture explaining why you did it.
It will take only a short time to see improvement because it’s easier to train a dog to refrain from an unwanted act than to perform an affirmative one. Cruz may forget the rules when he is excited. Be patient and loving when he does, but be firm.
No command is taught in a vacuum. It must be part of an overall training system. That’s why “sit,” “stay,” and “come” are the first things you teach. “Sit” is the go-to command for anything else you teach the dog to do or not to do, the canine equivalent of a time out for bad behavior.
When you add any new command or when Cruz does something wrong you put him in the sit position, make him look at you and nothing else (tell him “look at me” and turn his head with your hand if you need to in order to make sure he does).
When he’s looking at you, explain what you want from him, what he did wrong, then pet him and love on him.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to email@example.com.