Teaching a Jumping Husky to Hand Target and Focus on Cue

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 16, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with Whiskey, a 2 year-old Husky who doesn’t always listen to his guardian and likes to jump up on guests.

Knowing that the dog likes to jump up on people, I used a delayed entry tactic; having the guardian open the interior door but leaving the exterior door closed. I waited for Whiskey to calm down a bit and when he did, I reached up and jiggled the handle to the door. This caused Whiskey to get excited and jump up on the door. When he did this, I let my hand fall to my side and remained motionless until he relaxed enough to try again. This start and stop method went on for a few minutes before he was calm enough for me to open the door.

When his guardian and I sat down to discuss the dog behavior problems she wanted help with, I learned that due to a fence escape problem and the cold weather, Whiskey wasn’t getting as much exercise as he needed.

I shared a few creative forms of exercise with the guardian as well as discussed the importance of mental stimulation like using a snuffle mat for feeding, getting a few treat dispensing toys, high-value chews (like kneecaps of bully sticks) and lick mats.

I would like the guardian to get into a routine of providing Whiskey with mental or physical stimulation every few hours, every day – especially before guests come to visit. We ended up doing one of my creastive exercise options twice during the session when he got into one of his jumping up moods and both times, the physical exercise stopped the jumping from continuing.

I also showed the guardian a hand targeting exercise. This is a great exercise to incorporate for guests who come to the door. Instead of jumping up on the guest, Whiskey can learn that touching his nose to the guest’s hand can result in receiving some treats or attention.

By itself, exercise is not going to stop a dog from jumping up on people. Neither will the hand targeting exercise. But exercising Whiskey before a guest arrives, as long as he has 10 minutes to rest between the end of exercise in the guest arrival, combined with some hand targeting practice should reduce the dogs habit of jumping up on people. And this is something the guardian can do on her own at home, you dont have to be a professional Husky dog trainer to teach dogs to stop jumping up on people this way.

I recommended that the guardian start inviting family members or friends to come and visit in short sessions. This will give her an opportunity to practice exercising the dog before they arrive and then using hand targeting or distractions like a bully stick or lick mat to stop the dog from jumping up on houseguests.

Stopping the dog from jumping up on guests is going to take a little bit of practice because this behavior has been going on for a while. Most people try to train their dogs not to do something in the moment which is not a good strategy. That’s why inviting guests to come over and practice, at a time that is predetermined, is a great way to teach a dog to stop jumping up on people. Actually it’s not so much training a dog to not jump up on people, it’s more conditioning the dog to do something else when people arrive.

Another dog behavior problem that I observed throughout the session was that whiskey was very determined. His focus was impressive, unfortunately it was often not on his guardian. I pulled out some high-value training treats and set up my camera so that I could demonstrate how I like to teach a dog to focus on cue. Unfortunatey my iPhone 12 decided to render part of the video in slow mo! Instead Im posting a training video on the focus cue from our puppy class.

You can learn how to use this force free dog training lesson to teach your dog to look at you will by watching the video below.

I recommended that the guardian practice this focus exercise three or more times a day with 12 to 15 treats each practice session. It will be important that she practices in different rooms and different postures as dogs don’t generalize well.

It shouldn’t take long before whiskey realizes that looking up at his human is a very easy way to get attention or a treat.

The guardian can also use some free shipping to encourage the dog to look at her on walks. I called this focus focus walk. It’s really easy to do. Grab some really high value training treats and a clicker or introduce a marker word. Once you get outside the front door, take five steps then stop. Let the dog do whatever it wants and give it all the leash that it has. As soon as the dog looks at you in the high, click the clicker or say your marker word then give your dog a treat.

Take five more steps then stop and wait for your dog to look at your face again. Mark as soon as it does and then give it another treat before taking another five steps.

Usually within a couple of minutes, the dog realizes that all it has to do is look at it’s human to get a treat. If you’re consistent with your click or marker word, eventually this becomes a new behavior where the dog is checking in with you every few steps instead of pulling on the leash.

There were a few other dog training tips that I suggested such as incorporating a few rules, using the Premack principle (an undersireable behaviro leads to a desirable one) and rewarding whiskey when he offers desirable behaviors without being asked to give them. The more you pet your dog for doing things, the more the dog will do those things once it realizes that is what receives a pet or attention. This is why pairing the activity with a marker word is so important.

Whiskey is a really great dog. Aside from his determination that sometimes distracts him away from his guardian, and his jumping behavior, he really didn’t have many problems. I hope that the tips I shared to stop dog jumping and providing him with additional exercise and stimulation will enable the guardian to create scenarios were whiskey practices doing some thing else when guests are visiting.

To help the guardian remember all the dog behavior tips we covered in this in-home dog training session, I filmed a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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