The article below is provided for our education by the respected and admired trainer, Denise Nord.
Four on the Floor!
by Denise Nord,
CDPT, Certified Pet Dog Trainer/Member APDT
I've yet to meet a Boston Terrier who didn't come equipped with extra springs in his legs - and most have a great desire to use them so they can reach to plant a kiss on the surprised face of any human they meet. Itís an endearing trait - up to a point. Many dogs are strong enough to knock a toddler or an elderly or unsuspecting adult off their feet. The sight of a 20-pound dog flying through the air, mouth open, can bring chills to many who don't realize that they are looking at a doggy grin.
How can you convince your Boston that a Proper Greeting involves four feet on the floor? Itís easy enough, but it takes time and consistency.
First, decide in your perfect world that a dog without four on the floor is invisible. Dogs leap and jump for attention. Any attention: eye contact, a harsh "off" or "no", pushing the dog, grabbing its feet, are all forms of attention from the dog's point of view. And when we are trying to change the dogís behavior, that's the only point of view that matters!
Second, choose the behavior you want to replace the jumping. Four on the floor is a good place to start; sit is even better. Jumping and sitting are totally incompatible behaviors. Now you have a behavior you can reward. Behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated.
Third, be consistent. When you are teaching the dog Proper Greeting etiquette you cannot reward or encourage any jumping on humans. This means when you come home and your dog is SO happy to see you, you must only reward the behavior you want: four on the floor. Later, when the dog understands how to greet people, you can invite him up.
It is easiest to begin this work on leash, with someone holding the leash. The leash holder's only job is to stand still and hold the leash. Approach the dog, making eye contact, talk to him if you want. Keep an eye on his front feet - if they come up off the floor even an inch, break eye contact and back away fast. Turn back and approach again. You want the dog to think that his feet leaving the ground are making you go away. When you can approach and the feet stay grounded, give the dog a treat and praise like crazy. Back-up and try it again - most dogs will jump again, just testing out their doggy hypothesis. Repeat several times until the dog sits (or stands quietly) as you approach. Now switch, so you are the leash holder and the other person approaches the dog. Expect the dog to jump on that person. Dogs don't generalize well - it takes them several instances for them to think that ALL humans know how to play Proper Greetings.
Do this with everyone in your household and everyone who comes to visit. The leash will help to manage the dog. If your dog gets wild when company comes, put him on leash to keep him under control, off your guests, and in the house and not door dashing.
When you come home and your dog is not on a leash, remember that he is invisible unless he has four on the floor. As soon as those feet touch the ground, praise, lean down QUICKLY and pet him. If he jumps up again, stand-up quickly. Often, crossing your arms and staring up at the sky works very well with habitual jumpers. You can add a bit of drama - sigh and roll your eyes as you turn away.
Since many Bostons love toys, it can also help to teach them to grab a toy before they come to greet you at the door. Dogs with toys in their mouths aren't quite as jumpy. When you come in the house, run to the toy box and grab a toy and entice your dog with it. Encourage him to run to you with the toy in his mouth. Of course this also keeps his mouth occupied.
Remember that like humans, it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit. If your Boston has been jumping on people for 3 years, it will probably take even longer to teach him that Four on the Floor is a Good Thing for Dogs! Good luck and have fun!