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Preventing Jumping on Strangers

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Q: Can you give me some pointers for using clicker training to stop my dog from jumping on visitors? I have gotten her to stop jumping on family and frequent visitors, but new people are at her mercy.

A: Clicker training is not for stopping behavior. It's for teaching new behavior. Some new behaviors that interfere with jumping up are: sit on a mat to greet; bow; sit up and beg (not all dogs can do this).

You can build the new behavior with clicker and treats, and then use family members to ring the doorbell, come in, click and treat the dog while it is standing quietly, go out, and repeat, until the dog thinks standing still is a great way to earn clicks at the door. Then borrow a stranger and repeat, with you or the quickest clicker in the family doing the clicking, and the "stranger" doing the treating. Use super treats; fresh food, not kibble or store treats.

Does the dog like toys? A quick fix is to hand the dog a toy before opening the door. Then the dog runs around showing off its toy and the moment of the urge to jump passes.

Sometimes you can solve the problem of jumping by teaching the dog to touch the back of a held-out hand for a click and treat. Then everyone who comes in holds out a hand before the dog jumps, and you sneak in a click and treat for that. (Your cue to the visitor: "Hold out your hand, she wants to kiss your hand.") It's often actually a little bit of fear that makes the dog jump on strangers; it's puppyish appeasement behavior, jumping and licking to say "Don't hurt me, I'm only a baby." Of course, it can be an 80-pound lab that feels he has to do this! Touching the hand, on cue, for a click and a treat, reassures the dog ("Oh, this person is just a 'clicker opportunity'") and that may be an easy shortcut, depending on the dog.

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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.