Why Label a Behavior You Don’t Want to Happen?
As Canine Behavior Coaches, we are often asked to work with canines to eliminate unwanted behaviors such as pulling on leash, counter surfing, or jumping on humans. Pet Parents will often ask us, “what should I say to my dog if he does one of these unwanted behaviors?” Our reply is, “why label a something that we never want to happen?” If our goal is to extinguish or eliminate a particular behavior, it does not seem useful or helpful to put a label on it. We suggest that you only label behaviors you want to occur, such as coming when called or sit.
So what do I do if my dog jumps up uninvited? One option is to ignore the behavior if possible, and then praise the behavior you want, being all four paws on the ground. Another choice is to ask for an incompatible behavior such as a sit. Show your dog what you do want and your dog will choose that behavior over doing what you don’t want.
Dogs certainly can learn a cue like “off” when they jump on us, but that is only useful if the dog is allowed to jump on us some of the time. If a pet parent wanted a cue for jumping up, we would recommend you have a cue for inviting the jump and not asking your dog to not jump. See the difference? Otherwise, your dog will only learn that jumping is allowed sometimes and not others, so he will just have to jump on you to see which it is. Dogs do not understand ambiguous rules, only those that have a very clear cause and effect. To them it is either “yes” or “no”; they do not understand “maybe”.