Dear Uncle Matty,
During the holidays (both Thanksgiving and Christmas), our house is going to be full of visiting revelers. The whole season will be an extended family reunion of sorts, and some of my relatives are getting up there in age. Two elderly uncles walk with canes, and others usually need some kind of assistance. I’m worried about Biscuit, our energetic Labrador. She is 13 months old and a real handful.
The problem is, she not only jumps up on people when they first enter the house, but if they say anything to her, she’s up and at ‘em or in their laps if they are sitting down. Other than this problem, she is a really wonderful dog. She has not had any formal training, but she caught on to “sit” and “come here” all by herself. How can we teach her not to knock people down? — Anne in Austin
The problem is the lack of training and a lack of true communication between you and your dog. A well-trained dog will always “sit” and “stay” on command. And if she is sitting and staying, it is impossible for her to be jumping and knocking over your guests and possibly injuring them.
Your options are: hire a trainer who can solve the problems, or work with your dog yourself. Solving the jumping problem is not difficult, but it will require some time and effort. Do not resort to abusive techniques like kneeing the dog in the chest or stepping on her back toes. It is cruel treatment and harms the relationship between you and your best friend.
There are a lot of ways to correct a dog. One of the most effective is the corrective jerk using a training collar and leash. But you must know how to execute the correction properly. See “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things,” Siegal-Margolis, published by Little Brown and available at unclematty.com or at most libraries.
There are a couple of quick fixes that may work quite nicely. If your dog is not shy, keep a whistle around your neck or a shake can handy (empty soda can with a few pennies taped inside). Then, have someone greet your dog in the same fashion that usually encourages her to jump. When she does, blow the whistle followed by a firm “no.” Or use the shake can and say a firm “no.” When your dog stops jumping, praise her. Repeat this four or five times. If your dog is shy, a firm “no” may be sufficient as opposed to a loud noise that may scare her.
This will help, but you still need to train yourself and Biscuit in the basics. Without training, the problems are endless. Remember, don’t get rid of the dog, get rid of the problem.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions email@example.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
Copyright 2012 Creators Syndicate Inc.