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My Dog Thinks He’s a Kangaroo!


kangaroo dog

Some dogs look like authentic kangaroos. They jump at everyone! If you just got home from an extremely intensive workout at the gym, you probably wouldn’t mind to have your dog jumping on you. You’re going to shower anyway so a bit of dog hair and drool won’t hurt. However, if you’re an 80 year old lady, who suffers from painful arthritis and can easily break a bone just by sneezing, things are very different, especially if your dog is a half-a-ton Great Dane.

Most dogs will begin to jump at people when they’re puppies. They are small sized and they try their best to stay a little bit closer to their owners. Also, they’re just so happy to see them! They get so excited they end up jumping on them when they walk through the front door. And who wouldn’t like to be welcomed by a tiny, happy puppy? No one, indeed! And, as a consequence, that particular behavior gets positively reinforced: people talk to the puppy, pet him and give him tons of attention. Then… the puppy grows! And, suddenly, that cute little puppy has turned into a giant, heavy dog that will make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck every time he jumps on you… It’s not cute anymore, isn’t it? You get angry at your dog and you can’t stop thinking that, one day, he may seriously hurt someone. But it’s not your dog’s fault; after all, that behavior has always been reinforced.

In order to prevent this situation, the whole scenario needs to chance. And we do that by removing the reinforcement, even when the dog is still a small puppy. When you get home and that fluffy little creature comes running towards you, you need to resist the urge to pet him and tell him how cute he is if he starts to jump. Just wait until his four tiny paws are touching the floor to do so. The moment he starts to jump, stop interacting with him and wait for him to calm down. Don’t punish him, don’t yell at him and don’t tell him to stop. Even if you’re angry, you’re giving him attention. Stop every interaction and wait for him to hold his paws to the ground. You can also ask him to sit before he starts to jump; this allows you to prevent the puppy from practicing the unwanted behavior and gives you an opportunity to reward a calm, adequate one. The same rules apply to adult dogs. When we stop reinforcing the jumping behavior and we start reinforcing an alternative and incompatible behavior, we’ll begin to see a considerable change. Dogs will do whatever works best and, suddenly, jumping doesn’t get him the attention he wants. However, if he sits and remains calm, he can get access to attention AND yummy treats. Your dog will soon have the fastest sit you’ve ever seen!

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Marilia Domingos
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