It is almost inevitable that around the 4 month mark, your puppy will start to realize that they can reach more places if they jump. It is not a coincidence that this behavior is closely tied to the phase when they gain more independence; there are new places to reach and they have some confidence in exploring them. Curiosity is great, good manners in the house is even better!
For large breed dogs, usually the owners feel a sense of urgency to correct this behavior so they don't have dogs jumping on people. Teaching them what they can not jump on and what the command 'off' means at a young age is a great time, but you can teach 'off' to small dogs and older dogs just the same. Just like every other command, it takes time, patience and consistency to train a new behavior. Let's jump right into how to teach 'off'.
How to Teach 'Off' After They Jumped
STEP ONE: Go over to the dog and say "off"
STEP TWO: If they do not get off, lure them with a treat off the counter
STEP THREE: Say "Yes" when they land. When they have four paws on the ground, that is the behavior we expect when we say "off".
STEP FOUR: Lure them away from counter, give them the treat and say "good off"
Luring them away from the counter gives you time to try and catch them BEFORE they jump again. When they walk back to the counter (which they will!), try saying "off" before they jump, steps below:
Teaching a Dog 'off' Before They Jump:
- when they look like they are about to jump, say "off"
- if they DON'T jump, say "yes"
- lure them away from the counter, give them a treat and say "good off"
- if they DO jump, follow the steps for "how to teach off after they jumped"
The many faces of Vivi about to jump and staying on the ground! Communicate and reward good behavior!
Sometimes a dog jumping on a counter, table or couch elicits more emotion from the dog owner and we forget we need to teach the dog what we want them to do and then motivate them to do that behavior (which is stay on the ground).
We must teach "off" the same way we teach every other command; with consistency, patience, and repetition.
Here are some common mistakes dog owners make when teaching off that you can try and be mindful of as you embark on teaching your dog to stay on the ground!
They are not clear themselves on the command and what it means
I teach my clients to say "yes" at the exact moment the dog does the behavior they ask them to do. For 'sit', there is usually no confusion. The dog owner says "sit", the dog backs his bum on the ground, and it's clear for the owner to see that the dog did what they asked and they say "yes". When I ask clients what is the behavior they want the dog to do when they say "off", I get mixed answers.
The behavior that you are looking for is for the dog to have four paws on the ground. Now, the important thing to remember is that four paws on the ground happens before they jump AND after they jump, which means, you have TWO opportunities to train.
"Off" is a preventative command - you are trying to prevent an undesirable behavior, but you typically train it when your dog is already jumping. You works towards and get to the point where you say off and they never jump.
Saying "off" from a distance
By far, the most common mistake dog owners make is they say "off" from ten or fifteen feet away. You work your way up to doing commands from a distance. When teaching any command, you need to start close, find success, and then advance the command by increasing the distance between you and the dog.
They don't transition to saying "off" or "good off" before the dog jumps
It is very common for dog owners to wait for bad behavior. "Off" is one of the hardest commands to see that the good behavior happens before they jump and we want to communicate to them at that point they are doing something we like.
A good sign is when they're looking at you to tell them what to do, that is your opportunity to tell them to stay on the ground!
Not following through on the command
Another very common mistake dog owners make is they say off before the dog jumps and then the dog jumps and they give up on training the behavior. I always say follow through on the command, you gave them a command of "off", if they can't do it (or aren't motivated to do it), then you need to follow through on getting the behavior by luring them off or getting closer. This is how you teach them the commands and maintain control.
When training, they still get the treat for 'off' even if you said it before and they still jumped. Keep practicing!
They don't utilize training and management to correct an unwanted behavior
You can't teach "off" in a day! When you have a good opportunity to train, use it to be very consistent about what "off" means and do the command about five times. Then you need to manage the situation or else they will keep jumping over ad over. Ever hear the expression, "he's like a dog with a bone"?! That's because they can be persistent! If you leave a steak on the counter, you can teach off following the directions above a few times, then you need to get them out of the kitchen so they aren't in a position to jump again.
When you are training, you are consistent. When you are managing the situation, you are preventing them from jumping in the first place so you don't have to train. Management is a good thing. It allows you to be disciplined when you are training and give you the break when you can't train or supervise 100%.
Time, Patience and Consistency
If you follow the steps above, try and avoid the common mistakes, and are really consistent about what you expect from them, they will learn that being on the ground is better. You are reinforcing them for being on the ground and teaching them how to live in your house. If they never get food on the counter and only get food for staying off, they will understand that being on the ground is better. If you need any help at all, ask questions in the comments or reach out for personalized training. It is never too late to teach a dog to stay on the ground!