Keeping Paws On The Floor Where They Belong

Dogs love nothing more than being right in our face whenever they get the chance. Our faces are a lot higher off the ground than theirs are, which means they need to jump up to get closer. It is not everyone that appreciates the jumping. It is not behavior that should be encouraged.

Just as you would do when teaching a new behavior to your dog, you need to choose a command to go with the action. “OFF” works very well with this one. “Down” is another common word, but that can be confusing, as that word is also often used to get the dog into a prone position.

There are stories of owners who have had issues with their dogs becoming confused by the use of “down.” For example, a dog was jumping up on a piece of furniture or bed to try and get closer to its owner, only to be given the “down” command. Rather than getting off the bed, he became confused and ended up lying down on the bed. It was tough for the owner to be angry with the dog, as he had done exactly as he was asked. It I for this reason that “OFF” and “down” should be used for different things.

OFF is not just for getting the dog off of people, it can also be used to get him off furniture and other places he shouldn’t be.

Before you can start with the OFF training, your dog needs to be familiar with the SIT command. It is that command that sets the tone for all others that follow. SIT is what the dog will do when being given the OFF command.

There are a few ways to teach the OFF command, some of which are confrontational.

  • One of the easiest, and least confrontational ways to teach the OFF command is to turn your back on the dog when he jumps up on you. Give the OFF command as you do so, and follow it up with SIT. Give praise when he gets it right.
  • A dog usually make it pretty clear that he is going to jump up. If you see him coming, raise a knee BEFORE he comes into contact with you, using the OFF command as you do so. Having your knee in the way will make it difficult for him to reach you, and may even be uncomfortable for those dogs that persist with the jumping. It is important that you time this move correctly, though, as you can strike and hurt your dog if you get it wrong. It is for that reason that this method is not one that I really recommend. Let’s not forget that if you have a bigger dog, you can be thrown off balance when he jumps at you while you balance on one leg.
  • One of the most effective teaching methods for OFF is to use a training collar. To do this, attach a leash to the collar and have him sit on the floor in front of you, allowing the leash to dangle loosely. You then need to step on the leash where it touches the floor, and then set up the training by getting your dog into a state where he usually jumps up (treat in hand, cute talk, etc.). When he does try to jump, tell him OFF as he self-corrects. More exuberant dogs are likely to try jumping up more than once before they finally get the idea that they are not in the position to actually do so. This is not a one and done deal, though, and chances are you are going to have to repeat the training several times throughout the day for a period of a few days. Once you think he has learned the OFF command, test him by trying to coax him into a jump without using the leash, making sure to reinforce with the OFF and SIT commands if he does try. Give him praise for appropriate behavior, but not so much that it looks like an invitation to jump again.
  • Another method you can use is one that will require to people to make it work. One person will handle the dog and the leash, while the other person coaxes the dog to jump. Again, a training collar and leash are required. The person handling the dog has to approach the other person who will do the coaxing. The moment that the dog decides to jump, a quick leash pop and OFF should be issued by the handler. Timing is critical here, and the handler should NEVER pull on the leash. The “pop” is achieved by a quick tug and release, and if done correctly, the paws of the dog will never touch the other person. The OFF should always be followed by SIT, and the handler should be the only one to give praise for appropriate behavior. Each session should consist of 5-6 attempts at the technique.
  • The final technique that can be employed involves taking the forepaws of the dog in hand as he jumps, and then walking towards him while saying OFF, repeatedly. This movement will cause him to stumble backwards and into a sitting position. If he resists (AND ONLY IF) you can give the paws a gentle squeeze as you say OFF.

You are probably wondering how all of this works when someone comes to you front door. The answer is to have his training collar and leash in an accessible position by the door. When someone knocks, call out and let them know that you will just be a minute, and that you are training your dog not to jump. People will generally be happy to wait rather than being jumped on. Simply kenneling the dog means passing up a training opportunity.

DO NOT use your hands to push the dog off when he jumps, as he will perceive this as an attempt to pet or praise him. If you are using a training method that does not require you to use your hands in any way, simply keep your arms folded and away from the dog.

A few final thoughts about OFF:

  • Once your dog shows that he understands the SIT and OFF commands, using SIT should be enough if you time things correctly. If he does get into the jump before you can get the command out, then you will use OFF SIT. When he comes to terms with OFF, the command can be used as a reminder before he starts to jump.
  • Dogs are smart, but they have no idea what “sometimes” or “maybe” means. If you want to stop jumping completely, don’t ever allow him to do it.
  • Your dog also won’t understand the difference between work clothes and casual wear, so don’t expect him to only try to jump when you are wearing suitable clothing. If you are going to teach the OFF command, make it a permanent thing so that he never jumps.
  • If you do want them to jump on command, you can teach them the UP command, which is usually combined with tapping your chest as a hand signal.

As always, praise for appropriate behavior is a must.

The A-Z Guide To Dog & Puppy Training