- Teach an “off” command. First, get those paws up on you or some other elevated surface by luring your dog up. Maybe teach this as an “up” or “hug” command. Then, using a nudge or by simply lowering the dog’s front paws, get him back to the ground. As the paws touch the ground, say “off.” It is very common to accidentally say the word “off” too soon, thus rewarding paws in the air instead of paws on the ground. Timing is critical here! Reward with a treat or toy and do it again. Repeat often in many places, and under many distracting and exciting situations. When you see your dog start to respond by lowering himself, or choosing to stick to the ground, you can start to use “off” as a command, rather than simply labeling the action of paws hitting the ground. Lots of reward for paws on the ground!
- Anticipate your dog’s jumps. You probably already know what your dog looks like just before he launches. As he approaches with the intent to jump, step assertively and squarely toward your dog and say “off!” (again, you are labelling feet-on-the-ground behavior, and also here, you are using the gruff word as a surprise reminder/warning.)
- Keep a leash attached to your dog when you know he is in a situation likely to trigger jumping. Use a sharp sideways snap on his leash if he jumps, both to correct him and also to pull him off balance, thus planting those feet back on the ground. Say “off!” as soon as the feet hit the ground and praise/treat him. Remember to always keep that leash loose, so you can perform a sharp snap. Of course, even if the leash did get tight accidentally, you still can simply pull the dog sideways and get those paws on the ground. Pulling straight back gives you no leverage, even on a small dog, and often will intensify a dog’s desire to jump.
- Use a sharp four-stiff-fingers tap on the rib area right behind the shoulder blade, as he jumps. This both surprises the dog, and uses instinctive canine communication to let the dog it has made a very rude social error. The tap, like any correction, needs to be forceful enough to cause a visible change in the dog’s energy. (i.e. it should back off and not try again right away.)
Have fun practicing, and enjoy the rewards of a polite dog and clothing free of muddy paw prints!