Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Obedience,  All Articles

Off!!!

It’s almost an instinctive reaction when a dog jumps on you. “Off!” you yell, and then you give the dog a shove or a knee to the chest. Some dog trainers even teach people to do this. But does it work to stop a dog from jumping on people? No, it doesn’t and let me explain the simple reasons why not. First, it’s important to understand why dogs jump on people. It’s to get your attention. They jump to be petted, to get treats, to get toys, etc. Once a dog learns that he gets what he wants by jumping for it, then it becomes a learned behavior. In the dog’s mind, he says “The way I get Dad to throw the ball is by jumping on him.” Or “If I jump on Mom, she pays attention to me by talking to me and touching my shoulders with her hands.” All good things in the dog’s mind. Attention is attention to a dog regardless if you think you are correcting the dog. The dog just sees it as attention. Period. So, when you say “Off!” to a dog, you’re delivering attention to the dog, right? Yes!! And when you deliver attention to a dog’s behavior, what does that do? It REWARDS the behavior and reinforces it! Yay, you get it!

Let’s take this one step further. When someone teaches a dog the “Off!” command, it’s to tell the dog to get off of you. The dog has already jumped on you and you’re telling him to get down. Okay now, can someone explain to me how this stops the dog from jumping?? It doesn’t! It’s telling the dog to get off of you, but by then, it’s too late. The dog has already jumped on you. Hmm… Dog jumps on person, person says “Off!” and dog still continues to jump because he gets attention and has not been taught NOT to jump.

The better approach: when a dog jumps on you, do not give him any attention at all – don’t talk, don’t touch and don’t look at him. Turn your back for a few seconds then turn to face him and ask him to sit. When he sits, LAVISH attention on him! Then he learns that he gets attention when he’s sitting and behaving nicely. It takes time, practice and consistency but in the long run, will pay off with a dog who is fun to be around instead of a nuisance to all. And isn’t that what having a dog is all about? Fun!

If you encounter a dog trainer who still instructs you to use the “Off!” command, they are not well-versed in dog behavior. Please find another trainer who understands.

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