While you may think it’s cute that your puppy or adult dog jumps all over you, this behavior might not be looked upon so kindly by friends, relatives, people out in public, or people coming into your home. Not everyone enjoys being covered in dog hair, slobber, and scratches! Save yourself the stress of struggling with an unruly pup down the line and give your dog the opportunity for more freedom by working on the Polite Door Routine with them. Not only will this strategy mitigate the level of stress associated with guests and doorways, but it is also a safety precaution and useful training protocol for any household with a dog. It’s important that your pup knows the “stay/wait” command, as we will be using those skills to teach the Door Routine.
The Polite Door Exercise:
In the beginning stages, you want to practice simply getting your dog comfortable with waiting at the threshold of an opening door. It might seem like a simple feat, but remember, this might be the exact opposite of what the dog has done in the past. Try to be aware of how tough this can be for them. I recommend not using a door leading outside, as this would be too distracting at first. Start with a doorway leading to another quiet room in the house.
Step 1.) Have your dog sit in front of a closed door with your left hand free and your right hand on the knob of the door to be opened
Step 2.) Give the verbal command and hand signal for “Stay” – say it firmly, and leave your hand out in a stop sign position
Step 3.) Slowly open the door, keeping your pup engaged and maintaining the stay – if they move toward the door or try to get up, give a no-reward marker such as a neutral “ah-ah”, partially close the door, and ask for the sit-stay again. (A no reward marker is an easy, effective substitute for punishment that let’s your dog know that they did something wrong during a training exercise).
Step 4.) Once you’ve gotten to the point where the door is open completely with your dog sit-staying, ask them to stay again (vocal cue and hand signal), THEN, slowly step over the threshold, holding the door so it remains open. While saying a command more than once is normally a training no-no, it’s important in these circumstances to repeat the command every time you add new movement; we want to remind the dog that we still want them to stay, regardless of all the motion around them.
Step 5. Once you’re completely on the other side and the dog is still in the sit-stay, you can give him the release cue (“Ok!”), call him to you, praise, and treat.
Each day you practice, make sure you’re only asking as much of your dog as you think they can successfully offer. As their comfort level increases, add more distractions such as a family member on the other side of the opening door.
Unwanted jumping will cease if it is never reinforced. However, consistency and repetition are very important for a socially acceptable new behavior to be fully learned. For this reason, make sure each family member knows to never acknowledge the dog in any way unless it has all four paws on the floor or is sitting calmly. The puppy will learn very quickly that the best way for it to get the attention it craves is to be calm and attentive. Set your dog up for long term success, and happy training!
Corinna Melanie, CPDT-KA
Beantown Bed & Biscuit