Positive Reinforcement: Averting Undesirable Behavior

clicker training

It’s normal for every dog to jump up to visit people, especially those they love.  They want to be up with you in your space. What happens every time a cute little puppy jumps up to greet you? More often than not, we reward them by picking them up and cuddling them, talking with them in our high-pitched “puppy” voice.  They are irresistible, after all! But this is reinforcing the behavior that jumping up is not only acceptable but encouraged and rewarded. Wait till “Hank” is 150 pounds and muddy! Not so welcoming!

But this is easy to fix with consistency and positive reinforcement.  Be sure they know what a clicker is and have a basic understanding of it.  If they jump up, turn away and ignore them. No eye contact, no communication. Shun them from the pack.  I prefer they sit, then I click and treat.  You may need to start with “4 on the floor”!  as long as they are not jumping or touching me, click and give a treat.  Once they learn this I apply the command “Off” with the behavior of not jumping up on me, click give a treat.  Eventually you can skip a treat with each click, gradually decreasing the amounts of treats as the click becomes the reward.

Other behaviors to work on:

  • Wait  (means freeze! I’m going to tell you what to do next)
  • Come (stop everything and come back to me)
  • Down (Lie down)
  • Off (4 on the floor)
  • Hut (jump or get into car)
  • Stay (stay right there until I release you. It may be a while. They should be in a down for this one)
  • Settle (calm down, everything will be alright. Say in a low, slow, calming voice)

These are just some of the commands I use. Whatever you use, be consistent in your family. Be sure everyone uses the same terms and actions. This will help your dog better understand what you want from him and make him happy to be able to please the pack.