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Hey Doggies! Don't Jump Up; Sit.

Updated on June 27, 2015
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.
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.

Copyright 2011 and 2013 by Larry Fields


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