Hey Doggies! Don't Jump Up; Sit.

My  canine hiking buddy, Gurr, resting beside the Lake Clementine loop trail, near Auburn, California
My canine hiking buddy, Gurr, resting beside the Lake Clementine loop trail, near Auburn, California | Source

Introducing a Canine Friend

One day several years ago, my neighbor's teenage daughter came home from school, and said:
Guess what Mom? We have a new puppy!

The mother didn't have the heart to say no, even though her condominium was not really large enough to accommodate an active Border Collie mix. His name--believe it or not--was Gurr.

When we met, Gurr and I took an instant liking to each other. When he was old enough, I volunteered to take Gurr on occasional short walks around the neighborhood. At the age of 11 months, he started going with me on Sierra day-hikes. Gurr learned a lot about the natural world. And he learned that most hikers are friendly. I learned a even more about dog psychology.


How I Solved the Jumping-Up Problem

Like many dogs, Gurr enjoyed jumping up on his human friends. When he grew to a certain size, that habit got to be a nuisance. On our neighborhood walks, we'd stop for half a minute, so that Gurr could read one of the local doggie bulletin boards. (OK, I'm exaggerating; he was just sniffing some shrubbery.) Then Gurr would look at me, and jump up.

Some dog trainers think that jumping up is a dog's attempt to gain alpha status. One of the 'old school' recommendations was to knee the dog in the face when he tries to do that. But that's not my style

With Gurr, I think that jumping up was more about affection than anything else. He simply wanted to give me a doggie kiss. Here's my approach.

When Gurr looked like he was thinking about jumping up, I'd tell him to sit. Then I'd pet him and praise him when he obeyed.

My strategy was to distract Gurr with the Sit command--which he already knew--and then to reward him for obeying that command. I reasoned that that was a good middle ground between allowing him to continue the jumping up on the one hand, and getting angry about his unacceptable behavior on the other hand. Because of his doggie Einstein heritage (Border Collie), he got the message very quickly. However I was mildly surprised at the next development.

On our subsequent walks, Gurr would spontaneously sit down and then roll over for a belly-rub. Here's what was going through his mind.

I want affection. In the past, I'd communicate my wish by jumping up. Larry's response was give me the sit command, which I would obey. And then I'd get the affection. But it's faster to simply sit down, roll over, and get instant affection. Why bother with the intermediate steps of jumping up, and waiting for him to tell me to sit?

Gurr had learned two things: first that I did not enjoy being jumped on; and second that it was OK to ask for affection in this new way.

Like most social animals, dogs enjoy communicating. Gurr understood my desire not to be jumped upon, and he respected it. He also learned a more polite way to ask for affection. It was a win-win situation. I got what I wanted, and Gurr got what he wanted.

I'd stumbled across yet another application for the incredibly useful Sit command.

I read in a hub recently, about another way to discourage dogs from jumping up: the Cold Shoulder Technique. When the dog starts to jump up, simply turn away from him, and do your best to ignore him, until he settles down and behaves more appropriately. The main idea is to avoid rewarding the dog's bad behavior in any way. I'll bet that that works pretty well too.

Gurr and two human friends just above the North Fork of the American River, on the Stevens Trail hike.
Gurr and two human friends just above the North Fork of the American River, on the Stevens Trail hike. | Source
Gurr and yours truly, same hike.
Gurr and yours truly, same hike. | Source

More reading

Here are two links that illustrate the extraordinary intelligence of Border Collies.
http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/07/gurr-the-toy-maker-a-note-from-larry/
Language Concepts in Border Collies

Are you thinking about getting a super-smart Border Collie? If you live on a ranch, that's fine. Otherwise you should be aware that BCs are the quintessential working dogs. And a half-hour walk every day doesn't even begin to cut the mustard. If you don't give your BC a full-time job to do, he'll create one for himself, and we silly humans probably will not appreciate it. Here are some Border Collie horror stories from loving dog owners.
http://www.bcrescue.org/bchorror.html

Copyright 2011 and 2013 by Larry Fields


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Comments 13 comments

A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

Beautiful dog! Thank you for the informative tip.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California Author

A.A. Zavala, thanks for stopping by. Even though Gurr is not my dog, he's the first animal friend I've ever had.


Memories1932 5 years ago

I just love your article. We have a border collie who looks a lot like Gurr. It's amazing how smart they are and how quickly they learn. We don't live on a ranch but there is a big field in front of our house where he loves to play and run around.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California Author

Memories1932, I'm glad that you enjoyed the hub. Half-jokingly, a hiking friend expressed the opinion that BCs are smart enough to correct your grammar and rewire your house!


Memories1932 5 years ago

@ Larry Fields My family and I had a good laugh at your comment.Thanks!!


Sueswan 5 years ago

My mom and sister have a Border Collie. He is six years old. When I visit, he starts bringing out the toys. If I ignore him, he will get another toy, and look at me as to say, "Well is this one ok." He also always accompanies me to the bathroom, He doesn't do it when my brother visits. Soon as he hears the word bathroom, he heads for the stairs.

His favourite word is outside. He is the border collie and I am the sheep. lol


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California Author

Sueswan, that's typical for a Border Collie! :-)


EQTactics profile image

EQTactics 5 years ago from South-West Pennsylvania, United States

2222 in ratings!


sosoo 4 years ago

Pretty dog


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California Author

Hi sosoo. Thanks for stopping by. In addition to being handsome, Gurr is also a nice dog.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Larry, lovely dog, reminded me of my brothers, he was so intelligent, I think they are the best type of dogs to own, he used to take my brother for a walk! lol!


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 3 years ago from Northern California Author

Hi Nell,

Nice to hear from you, as always.

I always enjoyed Gurr's company on my hikes. On high country hikes, he would run ahead to be certain that Larry the Wimp was in no danger of being eaten by a ferocious Golden Retriever. Then he'd run back.

Just walking was not enough for him. He needed more exercise than that. And he needed a job to do--in this case, one of his own making. If I'd adopted Gurr when his owner was at wit's end, keeping him occupied would have been a full-time job for me.

That's the typical Border Collie temperament. Your brother was very fortunate to have had a relatively laid-back BC. And you were fortunate to have enjoyed the company of this extraordinary breed of dog.


Shwetha 23 months ago

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