Today I’m writing about how to teach a dog the word OFF as in “Get your paws OFF me!”
The biggest behavioral problem I’m having with my pup Remy right now is he has no respect for personal space. Zero. And he’s getting big (60 pounds).
Remy will jump on people, paw at people, sit on people and shove toys at people.
This is rude, and it hurts!
I do not approve of other people’s dogs jumping on me, and I will not tolerate it from my pup.
I want my dog to keep his paws off me, so I’m teaching him the word OFF.
How to teach a dog the word OFF
I’m teaching my dog the command “OFF” so I can turn his bad behavior into something positive.
Instead of scolding him all the time, I can tell him “OFF” and reward him. “Yay! Good boy!”
Here are the steps I’m using, but you’ll have to brainstorm what would work best for your puppy or dog.
1. Choose a reward for your dog.
What motivates your puppy or dog to focus?
Most likely, it’s food. I use treats for training Remy because they help his little pea brain focus.
When choosing treats, find something that is motivating enough for your dog that you can get his focus away from the issue (in this case, jumping) but not so motivating that he loses all control.
2. Choose one specific issue at a time.
It makes sense to use “OFF!” in all sorts of scenarios like stopping a dog from jumping on people in the doorway, pawing at people on the couch or pawing at people on patio furniture.
But it’s easier for dogs, and especially puppies, if we focus on one issue at a time. You can use OFF for many scenarios eventually, but start with just one.
With Remy, I’m starting with not jumping on me or others who are standing in our apartment, mostly in the doorway and main living room area.
3. Ignore the jumping/pawing.
This is easier said than done.
Most puppies don’t care if you ignore them. They continue to jump because it’s fun, especially if you keep turning around like some trainers suggest. This is a fun game!
Puppies also don’t seem to care if you scold them with “no” or even a firm shove. That’s attention! (If your puppy is more sensitive a firm no might help. Not so with Remy.)
Here’s how I ignore Remy when he’s jumping:
I show no emotion. I don’t look at him or say anything. I take my phone, sit on a tall stool and intently focus on texting or checking email.
Or, I lean up against our tall countertop with my back to him. Or, I calmly step over the baby gate and stand on the other side. (He has no idea he could just jump the gate.)
He gets nothing from me.
4. Toss a treat the second your dog’s paws are on the ground.
Once your dog’’s paws are on the ground, toss him a treat. He might start jumping again. Just ignore him again.
When all paws are on the ground again, toss another treat.
My spaz of a pup caught on very quickly how to get his treats. He has no attention span and can do this, so there’s hope for most! Just be patient.
5. Add the command.
There’s no need to add the “off” command until your pup seems to have some concept of how to get the treats. Otherwise, you’re just saying “off” when he has no clue what you want.
So after a few sessions and he seems to be catching on, say “Off! Good boy!” as you toss the treat.
If you want to use a clicker, you could definitely use one for this. Remy responds well to it.
6. Slowly lengthen the time before you toss the treats.
At first you want to toss a treat the instant your pup’s paws are on the ground, but eventually you want to pause 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds and so on. Otherwise, you end up with a knucklehead who thinks he can jump on you, lie down and get a treat, jump on you, lie down, get a treat.
7. Start using OFF to ask for the behavior you want.
Now that your dog has a concept of “off” you can start using it as a command/cue. There’s no need to wait for the behavior, you can ask him to do so at this point.
Reward! Good boy!
Common problems with teaching “off”:
It’s hard to be consistent!
2. It’s challenging with guests.
My pup has no self control around guests at this point.
With visitors, I recommend you simply kennel your dog for a bit so you can focus on your guests. Or, you could have him on a leash with a Gentle Leader or EasyWalk harness for extra control.
I ask visitors to ignore my dog until he calms down, but I don’t expect them to follow through. Instead, I block the jumping with a leash. At least this blocks the habit. If your dog bites the leash like mine does, you can get a chain leash for training purposes.
3. It’s hard not to freak out and scold.
I get it! Sometimes you get upset and you holler “NO!” Sometimes this even works. But overall it’s best to be consistent and teach a new behavior.
4. When ignoring just doesn’t work!
Some puppies won’t be ignored. I recommend the baby gate option where you just step away and stand on the other side.
But some puppies need a firm correction to interrupt the jumping so you can reward them, and in that case you could try a squirt bottle with water, a Pet Corrector (blasts compressed air) or a new product called Doggie Don’t.
5. The dog still jumps in other scenarios.
Yep, that is the way it is. My dog still jumps on people who visit, he still jumps on people on walks, and he still paws at us when we’re sitting on the couch. It’s a work in progress. Once you master the concept in one area, you can slowly begin challenging your puppy or dog more and more.
Remember, this is very, very hard for them. You might not think there is much progress but there is!
6. Too much energy.
With high-energy dogs like mine, providing adequate exercise is a big part of the equation. My dog has so much energy, it’s like his whole body vibrates! He needs to run off steam every day and if he hasn’t had enough exercise his naughtiness escalates!
Does your puppy or dog jump on you? What has helped to decrease this behavior?