LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thanksgiving and Christmas often involve visits from family and friends, but unless your dog keeps all four on the floor, you might be the one in the doghouse. Some people will be frightened by a dog that greets guests at the door by jumping up. Others may be allergic, frail or easily knocked off balance. A pawmark or doggy drool on guests’ clothing is embarrassing, and while some visitors will say they love dogs and it’s no big deal, others will be annoyed.
Diane Morgan, who includes jumping up in her book “Complete Guide to Dog Care” from Animal Planet and TFH Publications, says dogs can be trained out of jumping at the door. But it takes time and patience and you may need to try different strategies to find one that works.
Tucker, a 50-pound Labradoodle, can “sit, shake, high-five, lay down, roll over, stay, heel, do all that stuff,” said owner Mike Pentz, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. “The only time he doesn’t listen is at the front door.”
Pentz and his wife Yvonne worked with trainers using clickers, a leash, and commands to try to stop the behavior, but nothing worked. Finally they resorted to putting him in the laundry room when company arrives. Now, Pentz says, when the bell rings, Tucker runs to the laundry room and “waits for me to close the door.” Once guests have settled in, Tucker comes out, checks everyone out and lies down.
But Morgan doesn’t recommend putting a dog in another room as a way to prevent jumping at the door, because it can lead to other problems like whining, scratching or barking.
“Dogs are very pragmatic creatures. They do what works, what earns them rewards,” she said. Most want attention, so even simply telling the dog to stop or get down can be interpreted by the dog as attention.
The goal is to refocus the attention. About 85 percent of dogs care about treats and 15 percent care about toys, she said, so use what amuses your pet the most.
Here are some of Morgan’s techniques:
— Have a treat or toy in your hand when you walk in the door. Instantly throw it on the floor. The dog will soon understand that the best way to get the treat is to look on the floor, not to jump up.
— Teach the dog to sit. Once he is still, throw a treat on the floor.
— Try walking in the door with a can or jar of pennies. “Shake it really hard. It acts as a warning or signal to stay away.”
— Put the dog on a short leash and keep him at your side. “Have people get down low to greet him.”
— Walk in and ignore the dog. If you don’t give him attention, he will stop. Morgan added this warning: “He may become frantic at first and try harder and might ruin your clothes.” You may have to cross your arms and turn your back on the dog to be sure he gets the message.
— Last resort: When the dog jumps up, take him by his front legs and hold him like you are dancing. He will be real happy for about two seconds, then want down. Keep holding for several more seconds. Dogs don’t like staying on their hind legs. With repetition, the dog will get the idea.
No matter what method you try, “it will only work if everybody in the house is involved,” Morgan said.
Take turns leaving the house and coming back, repeating the treat, the dance, the chilly reception or the noise, whatever you’ve chosen.
In addition, she said, before guests arrive, “make sure your dog has access to toys and things he likes. Make sure he gets some healthy exercise before dinner. Wear him out. The more tired he is before guests arrive, the better behaved he will be after. Make sure he is bathed and clean. You don’t want the dog to smell bad. And make sure his toenails are clipped in case he does jump.”
There are also things you should not do, she said.
— “Never yell at them. Believe it or not, that’s reward, getting attention.”
— “Never shove them in the chest. It will hurt the dog. And big challenging dogs like malamutes will think you are playing and will push back.”
— “Some people say step on their toes. No.”
— “Never pet your dog on his hind legs. Petting there encourages them to jump up.”
Morgan says you can use the same techniques to retrain dogs who greet guests by sniffing them in embarrassing places.
Once you’ve made progress breaking the dog’s jumping habit, ask a friend to come over for a test run before your holiday party or big dinner.
Despite the variety of approaches, it’s not uncommon for pet owners to find they simply can’t stop their dogs from jumping. Christy Myhre of San Antonio, Texas, named her Boston terrier Toki, which means rabbit in Korean, because she jumps so much. When company comes, Toki will jump several feet in the air to try to kiss them.
“I have tried for many years to control her,” Myhre said, but Toki is “all about eye contact and in your face.”
Fortunately Myhre devised a simple solution: “I just scoop her up.”