Let’s take a look at a young, large dog who is jumping on visitors who come to the door.
The dog who jumped: Bella
Bella is a 2-year-old spayed female mastiff mix, adopted from the local shelter at six months old. She lives in the city with a couple, Matt and Lindsey, who make sure she has plenty of exercise and indoor play. Bella knows how to rest in a crate.
Matt and Lindsey enjoy having visitors, and often entertain on weekends. When Bella is loose in the house and visitors arrive, Bella jumps up. She also puts her mouth on guests. Matt and Lindsey want the jumping and mouthing to stop. They have started putting Bella on a leash when visitors come. They try to keep her off the visitor, then put her in her crate. This technique has been somewhat successful, but they need a training plan.
Training a dog to stop jumping on visitors
The first question is, what do we want Bella to do when visitors come into the house?
Rather than jump on or mouth visitors, Bella can sniff or lick a person’s hand, then accept petting or play a short game. She can then lie down and chew a peanut butter bone, or go in crate and chew a bone.
Practicing better behavior
We decided on a couple of skills to practice each week. Matt and Lindsey can do these exercises any time visitors come in, using a tether to keep Bella from jumping. Lindsey and Matt make sure to have plenty of small, tasty treats to feed Bella, such as cubes of chicken or roast beef.
First, they put Bella on a tether before visitors enter the house. Then they feed Bella for behaviors that are incompatible with jumping and mouthing. This could include sitting, lying down, looking away, stepping backwards, or sniffing the floor.
While training, Matt and Lindsey should ignore Bella’s jumping, lunging and mouthing. To do this, they move out of the range of the tether. If Bella barks during the session, they wait for five seconds of silence before feeding her again.
Lindsey tosses treats on the ground for Bella, while Matt explains to the visitors where to stand or sit.
Once the treats are gone, Matt moves Bella to her crate, and gives her a peanut butter bone. She will remain in her crate until visitors leave.
For the first four weeks of training, Bella goes to her crate with a peanut butter bone until the visitor leaves. Once Bella is settling on her tether without biting or mouthing, she can try greeting the visitor.
If Bella starts to mouth or jump on the visitor, she can go back on the tether or back in her crate without treats or toys. She can try again in two or three minutes. If Bella is successful, Matt and Lindsey will give her the peanut butter bone with the crate door open. This gives her the choice when to leave her crate.
Once Bella can greet visitors after settling, Matt or Lindsey can, hold her on a leash when guests arrive. They continue to feed Bella for calm behavior.
If Bella is able to refrain from jumping on visitors, we then change the picture. Instead of feeding treats for calm behavior, Matt or Lindsey will offer her a peanut butter bone.
Troubleshooting – jumping on visitors
If Bella is not taking food when visitors arrive, Matt and Lindsey check to make sure the treat one Bella wants. They can try chicken, hot dogs, roast beef, lunch meat, canned cat food, canned fish or chicken, or whatever their veterinarian recommends.
They will not feed Bella for jumping on visitors. If she bites or mouths, the visitor will step back out of the range of the tether. Then we will do two more sessions of reinforcing calm behavior on the tether first, before trying off the tether again.