Going to the dogs

How to get your dog to stop jumping and barking

By Hank Schlinger, Ph.D.


any people own dogs. After all, dog is man’s (or woman’s) best friend. But dogs are a lot of responsibility. And they sometimes misbehave. Two common problem behaviors are incessant barking and jumping on people.

Dogs are going to bark. There’s no avoiding that. However, some dogs bark more than they otherwise would because of how their owners respond to the barking. Likewise, many dogs jump on people because of how the owners respond.

To solve these problems, the first thing to consider is what you do when your dog barks or jumps up.

Not surprisingly, many owners scold their dog by yelling at it to stop barking or jumping. Or when the dog jumps up, the owner repeatedly pushes it down. Although these actions seem to work in the short run by getting the dog to stop barking or jumping, they often inadvertently reward the dog’s behaviors by immediately giving them attention. With the exception of food, dogs want attention more than anything. So when your dog barks or jumps on you or others, it gets the attention it wants, which teaches the dog to bark or jump at those times.

To change your dog’s behaviors, you must change your behaviors.

First, you must ignore the barking and jumping and ask your guests to do the same. That means do not speak to, yell at, look at or touch the dog. I know, you’ve tried this and it didn’t work. One thing to know about ignoring behavior, however, is that the behavior will almost always get worse before it gets better. That’s just your dog trying harder to get the attention you’re withholding. Once you begin to ignore, you must be consistent, which means you cannot give in no matter how bad the behavior gets. You must plan to ignore the behavior when you know you can wait it out. Giving in after you’ve begun ignoring is worse than not ignoring at all because you will teach your dog to engage in longer bouts of the behavior.

It is also essential that you (and your guests) reward any and all appropriate behavior. Such behaviors could include sitting, playing with a toy, lying down or just walking around. You can reward these alternative behaviors by praising or petting your dog or occasionally using a treat. If the dog jumps on you or barks, immediately ignore the behavior by looking away and not saying anything. Once your dog has stopped and begun to do something else, immediately pay attention to it again.

If you consistently follow this simple advice, you can begin to enjoy a quieter and less hectic life with your dog.


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