Dear TCC,

My cocker spaniel, Ginger, has LDS: Little Dog Syndrome. She gets in people’s laps without being invited, jumps on them, etc.. How do I teach her some manners?

Karen S.

Rockville, MD

Hi Karen,

Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding, so there must have been at least one time when this behavior earned her a reward. That reward is most often attention or what attention brings (comfort, safety, or anything that gave her a great feeling at that moment).

Be consistent with your training. Dogs are pretty darn smart, but they aren’t mind readers. They don’t know when it’s okay to jump on our laps and when it’s not, unless we communicate it to them in a way they can understand. What they do know is, “if I got a reward last time I jumped in Mommy’s lap, maybe I’ll get one this time! No? Then maybe this time! Or this time? It’s gotta be THIS time!” It just takes one time of getting rewarded for dogs to repeat the behavior that earned them that reward, in hopes of getting it again.  And what happens every time she repeats the behavior? Do you tell her to get off? Do you physically pick her up and remove her from your lap? Do you laugh at how cute she is and pet her while telling her she’s misbehaving? Guess what? ALL of these responses are the exact response she is looking for: Attention. Good or bad, it’s all still attention. And as long as she keeps getting attention (reward) for this, she will keep repeating the behavior.

From now on, only allow her to jump in your lap when you say it’s okay. Contact us to sign up for training and we can teach you step by step how to teach Ginger some manners. We’ll teach you how to put jumping on cue, and jumping off on cue, too.

Once you’ve trained her to jump on and off on cue, then you can ask your friends and family to participate in the training. Until then, though, it is very important that they understand to completely ignore her (no speaking, no eye contact, no touching, nothing!) if she jumps up on them. When she figures out that jumping without being asked is no longer rewarding, she’ll try other things and eventually get off. Ask your friends to praise her when she’s off, and only when she’s off. Remember, it only takes one time of someone accidentally rewarding her for her to go back to, “Will it work this time? Or this? Maybe.. this time?”

Happy training!

The Canine Clique

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