Dog trains man

Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Ignore Too Much Bad Behavior

May I jump up on you? Please?
This is a post inspired by - and you might like to read that instead - "You Cannot Punish Love".

If you are still here, I only want to share why it was an Aha!-moment article for us.

We have always been your average "responsible" dog family and learning Kenzo and Viva not to jump up on people was on our shortlist, among others.

It didn't totally work out. Actually it is quite easy to train, you just ignore the behavior and they stop jumping. It was working quite fine if I could have resisted those wagging tails and cute smiles when I come in the door. But I can't. I like it when they jump.

So I admit. Kenzo is a jumper. It is entirely my fault. I look forward to the ritual that is going to go down as soon as I open the door. I just love to have his paws on my shoulders and get my ear nibbled while he bursts my ear drums with loud barks.

Viva is not a jumper, but that is because of her back issues, but she sure bounces. I come down on my knees for her instead so she can make a tiny jump and she loves it too.

Luckily for me they first start jumping up on other people after they have already had a couple of earlier good meets with them, so they will not jump up on just anybody right away. But all our regular house guests know, they will probably jump. If they don't like it, they should just ignore it by turning away, I told my guests. I know, it is not my finest hour.

Other behaviors, like coming over for a kiss and a hug, while leaving fur and slime on my guests' clothes, I told them to just ignore those advances too if they didn't liked it. Some didn't care, and actually let them jump and had a blast with Kenzo & Viva like I do. Others just did the ignoring by turning away.

And then there were the middle-way people. Ignoring the behavior, but making sure they were giving love in some way to Kenzo & Viva, in an other way. Like giving them a belly-rub when they asked for it. In hindsight: they were the smart ones.

Kenzo in particular started to develop a non-relationship to the guests that were ignoring him. He even returned to some of the typical behavior we know when he meets people for the very first time: he became suspicious. And that made things worse, as now these guests started to feel he didn't liked them. And in fact, he didn't. Not anymore.

It always puzzled me why that happened, and what I could do about it. And that's when I read "You Cannot Punish Love". According to the article, jumping up is one of the genetically hardwired tools a dog uses to bond with us humans. My poor guests were not ignoring his behavior and thereby shaping it, they were refusing his love. And as a result, Kenzo loved them a little less, too. In the words of Prescot Breeden, the author:
"it is the product of an entire evolutionary lineage that survived through cooperation and the building of strong social bonds through reciprocity, trust, play and affection. Thus when a dog is being social with us, it is essential to reciprocate their play and affection."
Dogs are complex social beings like us. Probably my biggest mistake was to see it as just another training exercise, without acknowledging what the root cause is that makes them actually jump up in the first place. So it is back to the training of the jumps, and this time in a way to make sure they get the love they are asking for in another way. I imagine my guests now having to perform a mandatory belly-rub or tug-of-war game as soon as they entered the door. At least, if they want Kenzo & Viva to bond with them.

I think I never stop learning, dogs are truly fascinating.


  1. Interesting point of view! I've never thought about it that way. I let Afri jump because I like it; it makes me happy and her as well. :) In a sense you know dogs do it out of affection, yet you have always been told it is considered "bad" behaviour.

  2. When we ignore a behavior, Elka tends to take that as a "okay" to keep going. We've developed a compromise, where she may not jump ON somebody unless invited, but jumping NEAR somebody is fine, and there's a greeting dance we do involving it.

  3. I agree; dogs are fascinating. I'm with Jen, when we ignore bad behavior, our dogs get the signal that it's okay too. Our Blue is a jumper and it's our fault. He's adorable. But he's starting to learn not to jump when we come home or as his celebration for going outside to play. He'll get there. I don't want to stop his jumping when it's not hurting anyone and he doesn't jump on strangers or guests (except my step son).

  4. Its obvious for the first timers to not reciprocate because they might feel it as a bad behavior. It actually is not bad, dog just shows their affection. Like humans, dogs also mix up with those who mix up with him. I think if we train the dog to only jump on people they know then its fine.


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