Thursday, October 8, 2009

Training Rant - Jumping and Kneeing

Ok ... this is DRIVING ME CRAZY! We all know how annoying it is when a dog jumps on you; many of us are even aware of the dangers that it can present. Yes, it sucks; but it takes time to re-train a dog if they've been rewarded for behaviours.

I ran into the following problem around a week ago when I took my newest dog out in public ... the jumping is something we are working on, but we can't address that fully until we build up some self-control (of which she has little to none - she's like a bouncy ball). Since the jumping was a behaviour that was reinforced with both praise and cookies, it takes time to redirect. (Don't get me started - that's another rant for another day!)

So we're hanging outside, working on self-control and watching people walk by. She's doing very well. At this point, I am telling people that no, they can't pet her; she's training. Most people accept this and move on. When they stop, she gets up to approach the people and I put her back into her sit. She settles in pretty quickly at this point. (We do spend time working with approaching "strangers" - people I know but she doesn't - but that's not what we were doing that day)

One woman asks why I don't just let her approach so she can give the dog a pat? I say "Two reasons - One; I don't want her to get used to just running up to every person she sees. Some people are afraid of dogs. And two because we are still working on jumping and I don't want her to jump on you."

The woman replies confidently "Oh, don't worry - I'll just knee her and she'll get off quickly."

"WHAT!?" I said loudly. "You can't do that! You should never knee a dog."

"Why not?" She asks. "I've always done that. I had friends with two big dogs and that's how I taught them not to jump on me"

"Why not?! Well, for starters, you can quite easily break the dog's ribs." I say (which she scoffs at and dismisses).

"Do you know how thin a dog's ribs are?" I ask her. "They are TINY! Not to mention that this dog is only about 25 lbs ... her ribs are probably thinner than your finger bones. Do you think your finger bones would hold out to being kneed? Besides that, if you break them, what if it pierces the dog's lung? Now the dog has to go to an emergency clinic, will need surgery and will quite probably die." Ok, granted - I'm starting to use scare tactics on the woman, but she is just not listening. I really wanted to ask her to brace her finger on a ledge and I would knee it - that way we could see if it would break, hurt or not.

"Well it worked for those big dogs that used to jump on me" She retorts. "They got off right away."

This still isn't working, so I use a different approach. "Of course they got off right away - you just gutted them. Best case, you knocked the wind out of their sails. Worst case ... well, do you still see the dogs?"

"I haven't visited them recently. I'm pretty busy you know; I have a life" She replies. (As though I know what this stranger's personal life is like?)

So I move on and ask. "Would you give the dog an upper-cut with your fist as hard as you can?"

She shakes her head No while saying "Of course not! That would be cruel."

"Then why would you do it with your Knee instead? Look at the shape of your knee when it's bent - does it not look like a fist?" I ask. She nods. "Then why would you think that kneeing the dog is any different than using your fist? How fast is your knee coming up? So how fast would you use your fist to come up if you were to mimic this action?"

So she left and I continued working with the new dog. Now, keep in mind that I probably embarassed the woman and she likely refused to consider different methods because of that. I would hope that she left and continued to think about what I said. Perhaps she won't knee the next dog. Perhaps she will. I can't change the world - just me.


Ok ... here's my inspiring thoughts for today ...

We all agree that there are different training methods when it comes to dogs. Some work, some don't. Some are too good to be true. Some mask and DON'T train. Some are idealistic but in reality don't work.

I don't have all the answers, that is why I keep searching and learning. I want to know. Every day I learn something new; sometimes it is totally new, sometimes it contradicts something else. That doesn't mean I stop looking for answers; it just means I consider that the answers I find may not be the absolute truth.

I have been studying, learning and reading about dog training since I could pick up a book. Some people enjoy reading fiction books (mystery, romance, fantasy); I read non-fiction. The very first book I read about dog training encouraged the use of choke collars. That doesn't mean it wasn't true, it just meant that at the time it was the best practice. For some dogs I still use a choke (the ones I don't know won't take my arm off, for example!).

The world is constantly evolving and changing ... so too should we. If you've got your head too far up your ass that you can't even acknowledge new things then that's really unfortunate and you are doomed to eternal failure. What's even worse ... you doom your dog to failure.


Viatecio said...

I'm going to disagree with this one.

I have witnessed dogs being kneed and have kneed a few. In each case, they still wagged their tail and showed invitation/play behaviors, but they inhibited their desire to jump...and were rewarded.

There is a proper and an improper way to do it, especially with small dogs. The key is to knock the dog back and away from you with enough motivation that the dog will not want to do it again, not tumble it tail over teacups so that it falls on its back or head. I have never yet met a dog who was afraid of me or otherwise injured from this. My trainer does it too, and each time I watched him work, the dogs were still happy and willing to work...but they didn't jump.

If people can't do it right, either learn or don't do it. Unforunately, it's hard to tell without a demo who would and wouldn't apply it correctly, and those who wouldn't aren't going to wear a special hat or sign.

If the knee is applied and the dog is still willing to work, let it be. If the dog is still jumping, is in obvious pain or is overly submissive, then it might be time to step in and suggest something else.

By the way, some people here actually seem to get offended when I don't let my dog approach them. We're just mean people, I guess :P

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Good insights Viatecio.

The problem with it is ... do you know that the stranger on the street will know the "proper" way as opposed to the "improper" way?

Are you willing to take the risk?

The answers to the above will be different for each person.

Yes, people do get offended when I don't let them pet my dog. I don't much care though. If it keeps my dog safe then that's what is important. You're right, we are probably terribly mean people.

Than again, I wouldn't let them come up and pet my kids either ...

Viatecio said...

Nope, like I said...they don't exactly turn on that particular neon sign on their shoulders.

That's why I never have and never will let strangers knee my dog, not that she'll jump, but if I ever did have a jumper they would still not be allowed. If any sort of correction is to be given, it will come from me. Then again, the dog will also be learning that sitting is the appropriate way to greet.

They can do what they want with their own dogs (provided it's not obvious maltreatment). But when it comes to mine, it's "Knees' Off!"

You did the right thing by not letting that woman have her way, but I feel you might have been a little harsh with her otherwise in driving your point home.

Then again, we never know exactly how we can/will react in a situation like that until we get there. I have a list of comebacks, reasonings, snarks and whatnot in my brain for a lot of situations (not all dog-related!) but when it comes time to use them...nothing!

GoLightly said...

Oh,for sure, small dogs have to be discouraged more carefully.
Flip, who has been encouraged to jump up by ONE person in my life, is easily discouraged from doing it, by simply (um, how do I describe it).
I put my hands in front of me, tell her off, and put one knee in front of the other. MY knee, not hers:) I kinda twist my leg, so she has two legs fending her off. She's never been "hit" by my knees.
Of course, that one person is untrainable;)

She's always been the type to RACE up to you, whole body wagging, and then she sits on your feet.

I had a neighbour with a 90 pound young yellow lab, who jumped up at me once, and hit my knee with his boney head coming down. Never did it again. Yes, it hurt, both of us.
I agree, it needs a good trainer, and common sense.

Splash said...

I teach my dogs to jump up on me on command. It's a great stress reliever for the dog at a trial, and before an agility run, it's an easy way to get your dog to stretch out.

When folks (even experienced trainers!) insist on giving me advice on how to teach my dogs not to jump up, I just smile and reply, "Well, if you don't want my dog jumping up on you, then stay back!" And then I smile again, turn away, and focus on anything else.

Im my opinion, it takes a pretty giant ego to walk up to a total stranger and give them advice. Maybe the person you are advising knows something you don't. If you aren't being asked for advice, then don't give it.

I certainly don't reward such interference with attention/discussion. Instead I withhold any positive reinforcers. ;)


Splash said...

Oh darn, my resolution for October was to NOT read any blogs and absolutely not comment and here I just blew it and it's only October 8! Darn it darn it darn it.

Cyndi and Stumpy said...

I've kneed a dog a time or two...and then some. It's not the best way to go. If the dog knows sit, and that should be the first thing it learns, it's always, "off, sit. It doesn't take long for a new dog in training to figure out there's a reward to sit.

Stepping on toes, works, too.

Both are tools for an experienced trainer, both can cause damage if used improperly and without caution.

Viatecio said...

GSP, the problem for many dogs is that yes, they know how to sit and they really want that reward, but the self-reinforcement from jumping is better; it's like dogs who really love their toys and treats but still want to chase the rabbit instead because it's more fun and self-rewarding. These dogs just need a reminder that the sit really is a better choice, because jumping will bring discomfort (not pain). Removal of attention is simply not enough for some dogs and they will continue...what I'd rather do is remove POSITIVE attention and introduce a motivational aversive. I want my dog to stop jumping NOW, not in a week or a month. If I can do that and still have a happy goofball, what is so humane about drawing out the process for so long?

The last time I turned around and ignored a rather large jumper, he threw my back out for a week by launching himself at me. I'd rather see what's coming at me (when it comes to larger dogs) and be able to plainly tell it "That's not allowed" and redirect to "This is the better choice."

aldon @ orient lodge said...

This has been a fascinating discussion that I would love to see you expand upon in many different ways.

First, I would love to hear more about appropriate ways of getting a dog to stop jumping, especially if you are a visitor meeting a dog that has not been well trained.

While I don't actively 'knee' a dog, I shift my body so that all the dog can jump on is my knee. If the dog keeps jumping I push the dog off with the palm of my hand using "down" or "off". Ideally trying to repeat whatever word the owner uses. Are there better tings to do?

In terms of approaching dogs, my eight year old daughter loves dogs and dreams of becoming a vet. We've taught her the importance of always asking the owner before petting any dog, and she understands that there are many reasons that you cannot pet every dog you meet.

With that, we've transported rescues, including a young pit bull pulled from a kill shelter that had no socialization. During the drive, we stopped to walk the dog and explained to others that wanted to let their dog play with the rescue that ours was a rescue. They quickly said, "Oh, ours is too!". Of course their rescue had been in the family for several years, and ours was in the process of being rescued. (She is now much better socialized after a month with a foster mom, but is still looking for her forever home).

So, more comments on dealing with jumping dogs, both as an owner, as well as a guest, as well as ways to improve conversations with others that might not understand or appreciate the training or lack of training that a dog has would be greatly appreciated.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

After reading some of the comments, once again I fear that I have not explained myself well enough ... there is some confusion (though I do love these discussions and the comments it brings out!). I will address everyone's comments individually ...

Viatecio ...

I wonder if we are saying the same thing with a different context:

"That's why I never have and never will let strangers knee my dog, not that she'll jump, but if I ever did have a jumper they would still not be allowed"

Since you don't know whether or not the stranger will know a safe way to knee your dog, you are erring on the side of caution - as I was.

You're right. I was terribly harsh. I was mean and I was rude. Why? Because she would not listen to me when I asked her nicely not to touch my dog or approach her; Because she blatantly ignored my comments about the training we are working on with the dog; And finally because when she heard one of the issues we are working on (jumping) she went ahead, disregarded my opinion (ON MY OWN DOG) and told me how she will train her.

Perhaps I would not have been so rude had the tone of her voice not been so condescending. I will never know. I do know how I did react.

GoLightly ...

I think we all have at least one person who is untrainable in our dogs' lives. :) I have two.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Splash ...

Regarding the jumping up ... I wrote a post in October regarding this (Training Rant - Jumping Up). I do allow our dogs to jump up WHEN INVITED (note the key words - when invited). They are not allowed to just run up to people and jump on them.

I also wrote a post in March called Muddy Paws that was about allowing dogs to jump all the time but then giving them absolute trouble when they jump up after they are all muddy.

Hyprocisy pisses me off.

I am not sure to whom you are referring with the big ego? The woman who walked up to me and advised me how to train my dog?? Or me who actually bothered to formulate a reply? When she asked why, I gave her an answer.

You will note that I said "So we're hanging outside, working on self-control and watching people walk by." I thought that was pretty self-explanitory; we were NOT working on "greeting" people. Simply watching them. That was the exercise we were working on.

Sorry about your resolution ... I think?

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

GiantSpeckledChihuahua ...

I agree. Those tools do work, but for the experienced person only. Even the experienced person can be caught off balance and step a little too heavily or knee a bit too sharply. You must always be careful.

You're right - default behaviours!! "Off, Sit" ... Excellent!

When I first heard a trainer mention that bones could be broken with this, I went to my phone and started calling Vet clinics (this is my stand by any time there is a medical thing that I don't know the answer to! Most Vets will give advice over the phone - just watch those ones that insist you come in and pay a referral fee!). Three of the four vets I was able to speak with said that yes, the action could break bones. That was enough for me.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Aldon ...

I will work on putting together a post about these things you have asked. Great questions. Don't shoot me for the following statements but ...

There is no perfect answer.

There are no right or wrong answers.

This is because each and every dog you (or your daughter) comes into contact with will have different personalities and different drives. Likewise, each person will have different strengths.

The key is to fill a "toolbox" of knowledge that you can reference and use when the time comes. I will see what I can do to help you fill that toolbox

*Amber* aka Suzy SINsation said...

Some people will argue until they're blue in the face, no matter how many facts are stacked against them. It sounds like the lady you encountered was one of these.

I am disappointed when I can't pet a dog, but understanding.

Viatecio said...

Amber said it best. I didn't realize from your post that the lady was so insistent...just figured that she was a bit overconfident, but not a stubborn airhead. I would have just told her to walk on and go pet another dog, but that's just me. It's like people who harangue on me for using a training collar who refuse to listen to my side of the story, so I do understand where you're coming from. No I will not use a 'Gentle' Leader, and No you will not knee (nor let anyone else knee) your dog!

My apologies! I think we do have a common thread in what we are saying. Just using different ways of saying it.

Jackie said...

I have a 7 mth old Schipperke. She's very energetic, and bouncy, and is in the process of learning what's proper behaviour. If a stranger kneed her after a rather jumpy greeting on her behalf, I'd be really REALLY upset. I hope this kneeing practice isn't brazenly done to just any dog that approaches. Some discretion would be ideal. I'd have to do everything in my power not to deck that knee-jerk person!