Why is my border collie jumping up?
Border collies are very attached to their owners, and when they first see us, it’s a natural instinct to want to jump up. This can cause problems, particularly when it’s wet and muddy. Or when your dog jumps all over guests in your home so that they feel intimidated. Some will also want to jump up people in the street who aren’t as keen on your dog as he is on them! Even worse, little children, the elderly, or other vulnerable people could be knocked over by a border collie jumping up, and as part of the Dangerous Dogs Act we need to be in control of our dogs at all times.
Border collies jump up because they are thrilled to see people, they want a fuss but most importantly, they know that people’s faces are the place where they can get the most information. If they can see our faces, they can understand more about us, so it makes sense to try and get to the part of us that issues the most praise, information, and emotion.
Unfortunately, despite border collies being one of the most intelligent breeds, they are not able to distinguish which people it’s ok to jump up, or whether their paws are muddy or not. Therefore, in order to make sure that our collies come across as nice, well-mannered dogs who are a joy to live with, whether it’s muddy or not, and whether our visitors like dogs or not, we may decide that it’s worth investing time in training them not to jump up.
The following step by step training guide is designed for owners who have problems with their border collie jumping up visitors to the home, but by making small changes, you can adjust it to other settings.
Step by step guide
Handler and “visitor” have treats ready
Carry out the training below when the dog is relatively calm
Don’t work through all of the stages in a single session – do stage one for a few days then, when you have a solid sit, move on to stage two for a few days, and so on.
- Start with a member of your own family entering the house.
- Don’t ring the doorbell or knock at this stage
- The family member leaves the house and the dog sees them leaving.
- They then come calmly back into the house (so no huge excitement – starting calm)
- You ask the dog to sit as they enter
- Reward your dog with treats as soon as they sit
- If they stay sitting the “visitor” can approach and reward the dog with a treat or two
- If the dog doesn’t stay sitting, continue this first step until they do
- Build duration by feeding the dog one treat, then waiting a few seconds before feeding him another
- Once the dog is staying sat and enjoying the treat and praise, ask the family member to leave again but come in with a little more excitement – saying hello, directly looking at the dog etc
- No doorbell ringing or knocking
- The handler asks the dog to sit as they enter
- The handler rewards the dog for staying sitting – build duration by rewarding them for staying sitting for a few seconds building up to a minute or so
- Your visitor rewards the dog with treats
Repeat the above but the “visitor” should knock very quietly, then walk in
Repeat with ringing the doorbell, then walking in
Next, ask the family member to come in when the dog didn’t realise that they had gone out
And go back to stage 1, working through to stage four over the course of a few days.
Practice from stages one to four with homecomings, when a member of the family returns home after being out. Start with stage one, with the returning family member staying calm, for a few times then move through the stages gradually.
- Invite family or friends who are happy to work on this with you. Put the dog on the lead the first few times just in case they forget their training.
- Start at stage one: ask the visitor to come in without knocking or ringing the bell.
- Ask the dog to sit. Treat him for sitting. The visitor must only approach the dog if he remains sitting. If your dog doesn’t sit, then the guest must not approach them.
Repeat until your dog learns that seeing a person means they sit until the person approaches and greets them.
Things to remember:
- Never get cross with your dog – it could cause fear of visitors and create other issues. If they don’t stay sitting, they don’t get treats or get to greet the person.
- Ignore any pack leader theory. This is out of date, a sign that the person hasn’t learned about dogs, and your dog deserves better.
- Jumping up is your dog’s way of showing that he is overjoyed. We want to keep that emotion, but just help him to express it differently.
Can’t I just ignore my border collie jumping up?
Ignoring your collie if she jumps up is unlikely to work. If you ignore your dog, they usually try harder to get attention by jumping higher, for longer, scratching as well as jumping, and mouthing or biting at skin or clothing. Collies excel at this – they are not a breed to easily give in.
If, after your dog has upped the game by scratching, biting and jumping higher and we then give in and react, usually because we can’t avoid reacting, we have rewarded the dog for this increased intensity of the behaviour, and they will start to do this all the time. So we have inadvertently made the jumping up worse.
Start when your collie is a puppy
It’s very cute when puppies jump up, they are only small and we love to fuss them. However, we must remember that it’s not fair to let our puppies do something when they are little that we are later going to get very annoyed about. Start as we mean to go on!
I have an adult dog that jumps up
If you have an adult dog that jumps up, then we have a lifetime’s work to undo. It will take longer, quite often much longer, but persevere and the training above WILL work if you are consistent and persistent!
Adolescent border collie jumping up in frustration
If your dog is a puppy or adolescent border collie that gets over-stimulated and seems to jump up you, his owners, in an aggressive way and seems unable to calm down, this is a different issues, and my post about how to manage aroual in border collies will help.