Laddie's World

   Before we can talk about how to convince your collie that jumping isn't nice, we first have to discuss what exactly jumping means to a dog and how it comes about.
   When we talk about jumping here, we're talking about its social sense or "general implications". In its most basic principle, jumping up is used by dogs as a form of dominant posturing. This is the most widely accepted theory based upon the "anything over is dominant, anything under is submissive" rule. But there are things to be considered if you are looking at it solely from this angle. To begin with, when a group of dogs or a "pack" is left to its own devices, jumping up on each other actually occurs rather infrequently if at all. If the group structure or "hierarchy" is sound then you'll notice that the more submissive animals naturally lower their heads when greeting their leader who then only needs to raise his head straight to be above the eye level of the others. This is identical to many other types of group animals in the wild. To the leader,  jumping up on every submissive member of the pack is a useless waste of the much needed energy that would be better spent in finding food, mating, protection of the family, et. Jumping up on each other will almost only occur when two animals of the same status level fight because neither is willing to back down from the other. In the case of domestic and many wild canids, the combatants will often rise onto their back legs as their fronts clash. Their mouths will usually be wide open and they seem to be trying to bite each other on their jaws or mouth while at the same time trying to keep their head higher than the other animal. If one animal is larger, more powerful or even longer in body length and the maneuver is executed properly, one animal will be toppled over onto its back at which point the other animal can dive in for the unprotected throat or belly. Many times, the loser will signal his defeat by stopping all fighting and whining or crying with a tucked tail. If they are not already on the ground they may also crouch low and sometimes even role over, fully exposing their belly to the more dominant dog. Once the status of the winner has been acknowledged, the better animal will release the lesser and life goes on much to happiness of the rest of the family. (This kind of fight is rarely fatal as it is really more of a show of power and strength. However, if it is two males fighting over a female in estrus or a female fighting to protect her young, all bets are off. Those are cases in which it is usually win it all or lose it all. If the combatants are too evenly matched, then it is entirely possible that one, if not both, may die if neither is willing to back down. Those two kinds of fights along with fear motivated dogs or extremely dominant dogs with multiple issues will usually remain close to the ground with heads low to protect the throat and underbelly. In these cases it is often the dog that has developed the most "play fighting" skill that is the victor. For example, most dogs will try to immediately and continually go for the other dog's throat for the death grip. Two dogs evenly matched with the same agenda in mind will often maul each other horribly and the fight can continue for a good length of time, but, remove one of those dogs and replace it with a dog that has learned the wrist or back of the head trick and the dynamics of the fight have been changed completely.) So what does this have to do with jumping up on people? Read on!
   These behaviors are not entirely instinctive. At some point during their life an animal will have to have tried it to learn what response can usually be expected. This learning of most basic canine patterns and behaviors all starts at just about every human's favorite dog life stage... the puppy stage. Look at an adorable bunch of fuzzy puppies playing with each other. Do you notice how they jump and duck and roll about? Depending on the reactions they receive from their mother and siblings, each puppy will display a different willingness to perform an individual task again. The puppy that jumps on mom's back and gets little more than a "rrr", half bark or even a playful roll over from mom will probably want to try it again at some point to see if it gets the same response. If she is patient and allows her rambunctious puppy to do this a number of times before getting tired of it and walking away or even giving a severe enough reprimand, this pup will more than likely assume it is okay to jump until it gets a signal to stop. He has at the same time learned that jumping, to a point, is okay and he has begun to learn a body language cue that signals to stop. If a different puppy tries the same game when mom is not in a good mood and gets either a serious reprimand or is completely ignored for twenty attempts to get her to play than that puppy has learned that jumping is either off limits or not worth the time to try. This kind of trial and error learning for puppies primarily takes place through various games that can include jumping up on each other. Thanks to sibling play, puppies can also acquire the thought that jumping gets a play response,  ie. Responding in a manageable or playful manner, a dominant response such as corrective growling biting or even a physically dominating or controlling return and even fearful or not interested responses by the other puppy's yelping and/or running away or ignoring the sibling and walking away. These responses can vary from time to time and puppy to puppy and depending on the each particular puppy's personality each can take their own belief of what jumping is into their next home after leaving their mom. Yes, right into YOUR home. Here's where it gets interesting. If the pups lived in a wild pack and stayed with the family, chances are good that most if not all of the pups would have eventually grown out of the behavior because most of the other adult animals do not tolerate the behavior and in order to function in the family the pups would have to learn to curb the behavior and in a sense "grow up". BUT, when a pup steps into your home and transfers all his doggie ways and learning to his human family, the reactions can be so diverse and even astounding that the behavior will be encouraged, albeit unintentionally, but still encouraged.
   How? Lets say you just stepped into the house after a long weary day of work. It wasn't your brightest day and you're feeling a little down about it. Suddenly, your cute little collie puppy comes racing over and jumps up at you in his excitement. You smile happily thinking that at least he still believes in you and start petting him with all those lovey dovey coey sounds and phrases you didn't know you even knew. BAMM!!! You just unintentionally praised your puppy for jumping and reinforced the behavior. With a response like that, chances are extremely good he'll do it again and again and again. As he starts to equate jumping with your attentions, he might even move towards trying to jump up on you when you're watching TV and not him, when you're on the phone talking to someone other than him or you're sleeping and he's just bored. Get the general picture? This same jumping behavior can teach a nervous or fearful dog that you'll pick him up or coddle him whenever he's not happy about something (who's training who?) and a very dominant, in charge dog can learn that jumping gets a fear response from you or other people and he will use it assert himself and his leadership capabilities. My mom will tell you that there are few things more unnerving than a very large, very in shape, very dominant dog standing with his paws on a human's chest staring directly at them with dilated pupils. When your cute little collie starts to gain weight and jumps on other people as well the behavior begins to get less appealing. Some people try to beat their dog to the punch line and lean over to pet the dog before it jumps. This works far better as a preventive than a cure. Even IF the dog begins to realize he doesn't have to jump through this method, it can take many months if the behavior was already ingrained and chances are good that if you forget to lean down he'll probably jump to remind you he's there. Some people actually try for a time to ignore the behavior, but even though they're on the right track they usually don't hold out long enough and end up losing their temper. This is where many people start to yell at the dog. Some dogs find this a fascinating response and will try jumping just to get you to do it again. An attention starved dog will not only find this NOT a deterrent but regard it (no matter how scary it might seem) as the only way to get any kind of attention, good or bad, and will continue jumping just to be noticed in some way. Other people will try physical approaches such as bringing a knee up into a dog's chest sharply, stepping on the dog's back toes, grabbing the front paws and squeezing them until the dog really wants down and even just gently guiding the dog back to earth by pushing them down with both hands on either side of the lower neck/shoulder area. Not only are some these methods dangerous to either or both dog and handler but many dogs will regard these actions as the desirable response of your attentions. Once again they are negative, but a dog who wants to be noticed isn't going to care. So how do we #1 Prevent the jumping altogether and #2 correct the dog who already does it? Good news folks! The method itself is extremely easy. Its the following through and sticking to your guns part that isn't.
   As with just about everything else that has to do with dogs its all about timing. To prevent jumping from even starting always try to pet or acknowledge the puppy BEFORE it jumps. If this means leaning over or kneeling down to the puppy's level, then go ahead. Praise and greet your puppy warmly but don't go crazy. If you greet him a little to enthusiastically he may get excited and be "unintentionally encouraged" to jump up. Warm gentle greetings also help to calm and prepare puppies for the proper greeting of other people. Warm gentle greetings also can help submissive or overly submissive and fearful dogs feel comfortable about greeting people, make them feel good in general, make them confident in you and can even help reduce urination in submission or fear. If your puppy should happen to sit during his greetings, immediately give him a little extra praise and a treat if you have one handy. A good rule of thumb when working on jumping during greetings at the door is to have a zip-lock bag of treats outside so you and your guests can have one ready before you even unlock the door. If you walked in the door and the puppy starts off well but then jumps up as you are petting him, remove your hands from his body, stop talking, take any treats you were offering away and stand straight. My mom likes to fold her arms across her chest as well with a mildly annoyed look. Stand like a statue and wait quietly. As soon as the puppy gets down lean in and praise with your happy face, verbal praise, petting and treat. As your puppy begins to understand and does less and less jumping, you can start to even wait to pet and praise during greetings until the puppy sits. If the puppy never jumps at all you can use your sit hand signal and just encourage sitting for petting from the get go. If you have a larger, older or even more rambunctious puppy or dog you can also incorporate turning your head skyward while ignoring your collie, turning or even completely walking away for the total attention removal. If you have an extremely hyper or energetic dog that takes half an hour before it calms down enough to even think about siting than do you best to ignore it until it calms down. That includes no eye contact whatsoever. If you have to turn your body three times to avoid his eyes because he moves in front of you every time you try to turn away, than do it! However it is okay to secretly marvel at him for his problem solving skills. If you have to completely leave the room to get away from his jumping than do it, but stay out no longer than 30 seconds for a puppy to 45 seconds for adult dogs. They do have to be able to realize that you left because they jumped and staying away to long won't let them put 2 and 2 together quite so easily. For jumping up on guests, it is best that the puppy already begin to understand the 'no jumping' rule and workout with you first before asking anyone else to do it. It is also always a good idea to put the puppy on a leash to allow for better control during any situation that could arise. Remember to have the bag of treats outside the door waiting and instruct the visitor to do exactly as you have been doing. If you need to you can use the leash as an aid. The leash should always be slack as they are greeting someone or something whenever possible so no other signals are unintentionally transmitted to the dog or puppy. If the puppy jumps up on the guest that person should do exactly as you have been doing with as little coaching as possible from you. The reason I don't encourage a verbal correction from the owner is because you want the no jumping rule to apply whether you are there or not. Getting into the habit of saying "Off!" or "No!"  whenever your dog jumps up on people teaches the dog that your verbal cue has to accompany the no jumping rule on other people. That means that if you aren't around he may still jump up on non-family members. As the dog grows and matures and gets better, you begin to proof the no jumping rule by slowly adding greater and greater temptations such as clapping your hands or talking excitedly. Remember not to push to much. We want him to learn through succeeding not through failure.
   As a final note, many people actually like having their dog jump up on them when they come home but they don't want it to do this to other people. With many dogs it is possible to teach them the difference, but the only best way to do this is to teach no jumping first, than after he knows this and doesn't deviate from it you can teach him to "give you a hug" on command only. If, while you are teaching him to give you a "hug" he begins to jump up on you or anyone else without being asked, immediately stop "hug" training and go back to the no jumping routine. You can try waiting a good couple of months before attempting to teach "hugs" again but if he once more jumps up on anyone without being invited, stop the "hugs" altogether. Some dogs will take advantage of a new privilege and think that if its okay to do once then its okay to do anytime and folks, that's just not safe.
   Hope this lesson helps. Until next time...