Health and Behaviour Articles
To a dog, jumping up to greet a human is a way of showing their affection and love. Dogs in a pack in the wild greet each other by licking the mouths and faces of other pack members, so in jumping up, your dog is trying to say "Hi, welcome back Boss!" to you. Unfortunately for your Boxer, this behaviour is socially unacceptable in the world he lives in, and can cause serious harm if left uncontrolled. It is up to you to teach your Boxer alternative behaviour to jumping up in a positive, non-threatening, consistent, fun way. One of the problems with Boxers is that they are mighty jumpers, jumping ability has been bred into our wonderful dogs, and some of them just live to jump. We need to let them know when it is okay to jump and when it is not. This is very easily learned with consistent training by you.
Most people notice this behaviour with their pups, but because a puppy is small and cute let them do it. It is always best to set 'rules' for the house when your puppy first arrives, to avoid unwanted behaviour later. It is not something you can be inconsistent with, one day allowing your Boxer to jump on you because it is 'cute', then the next saying 'no' because your dog's paws are muddy or you are in a bad mood. Reprimanding the dog, or even worse, hitting your dog for jumping up will not work, the dog may misunderstand the reprimand and get more excited, or you may mistime the reprimand which is next to useless. Hitting a dog never works for anything, and indeed, with some of the working breeds which include Boxers, striking them could set them into 'fight' drive - which is the last thing you need.
So, how do we stop this behaviour? One of the easiest ways is to teach your dog an alternative behaviour which is more rewarding than the 'offered' behaviour. In this case the 'offered' behaviour is jumping up. One of the best things is to teach your dog / puppy to sit instead of jumping. Be aware that a very young puppy will not hold a sit / stay for very long as they have a short attention span, but as they grow they will become more adept at this. When your Boxer is sitting, praise them, pet them, give a treat and generally let them know what a wonderful dog they are. We will talk more about teaching alternative behaviour further down.
You will have to watch that you are not the cause of your jumping Boxer. When you return home do you immediately make a big fuss of your dog and get them excited? This is very tempting to do, as you are pleased to see her, but stop doing this or any training will be useless. When you return home ignore your dog for 5 - 10 minutes then when you do say hi, do so calmly. This is not cruel, it will teach your dog that you can come and go as you please without a major production of greetings and emotions. Dogs will respect the new calmer you more than the old hyper you. If your dog proceeds to launch himself at you full pelt when you arrive - stay upright, turn you head towards the ceiling, yawn, and then slowly turn your back on your dog, do not give them any recognition at all for the unwanted behaviour - this is a 'calming signal' for your dog and if you are consistent you will have less problems with a Boxer missile. Your entire family and any visitors to your house should do the exact same thing. If any visitors object, then they are not really doggy people and hopefully will not visit you anymore. Just joking, if non-doggy people do visit you and are not willing to co-operate, then put your Boxer away in her crate, or the yard, or a room, so she can not keep up with the 'self-rewarding' jumping behaviour.
Back to teaching the sit as an alternative behaviour to the jumping. The easiest way to teach a sit, especially with a young dog, is to lure him into a sit. He will need to learn a sit in a calm, non-stressful environment before you can apply it to jumping. Take some very tasty treats (liver, cheese, salami, chicken etc), hold in from of your Boxer's nose, and then move your hand holding the treat up and over your dogs head. If he wants the treat he will follow your hand 'up and over' with his head and end up in a sit. See how easy that was? As soon as his bottom touches the ground give the treat and lots of praise. At this stage do not expect him to hold the sit. Do this many times, your hand movement will become your 'sit' hand signal. When you feel your dog has got this, add the verbal sit command. So far so good. Now we can use this in place of jumping.
Practice is necessary, as if your dog is excitedly jumping up when you return home and that does not happen frequently, then he is not getting much of a chance to learn. If he jumps up on visitors but you only see people every fortnight, then that is not enough for him to be able to understand his requirements in greeting people. She will need to learn the alternative behaviour through frequent training sessions. You can make things much easier for your Boxer by leaving the house through a door which is not the main entrance, waiting outside for 5 or so minutes and then coming back in to house through the front door. BTW - having your dog on lead when practicing not jumping will be easier for you. If your dog jumps, ignore him, he should calm down very quickly, then you can lure him into a sit and treat and praise. The best way to ignore a jumping dog is to 'be a tree' - stand still and straight and turn your back on him. Have friends come over and do the same. Make sure you know when your friends are going to arrive, and when they do, ask your dog to sit-stay before opening the door. He will be excited at first, but if they are good friends, they should not mind leaving and then returning several times. The more you can practice, the more consistent you are, and the more praise your dog gets for doing the right thing, the better he will be.
These are NOT acceptable things to do to your Boxer if he jumps up:
*Raise your knee as he jumps (you may harm your dog and your knee).
*Stand on his back paws (ouch! He will be clueless as to why you did this and probably only think you are clumsy).
*Bop him hard on his nose with your fist (some people actually do this - sad but true. It the equivalent of walking up to greet a friend and then punching them).
These are acceptable ways of teaching your dog not to jump:
*Do not get your dog excited when you return home.
*Teach an alternative behaviour to jumping consistently with a lot of positive reinforcement.
*Practice the alternative behaviour frequently.
*Ignore the unwanted behaviour in a very calm manner.
You will be surprised at how quickly your dog picks up on what is acceptable if given the right training. Be consistent, praise frequently, give him lots of love and make training fun. Good Luck!
By Sharon Steele
Health and Behaviour Page