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Chocolate labrador jumping up to eat cookies

How to stop your dog jumping up to grab food

Golden retrievers and labradors love food! They are also fast learners which makes this an easy one to change.

Generally it is never appropriate to have your dog jumping up. If left unchecked it will result in stress at meal times and worst case, food being taken if left in reach for a split second!

The good news being it is a very simple behaviour to correct and can be done in a few training sessions. Key is consistency and getting all members of the family to stick to the plan.

What does not work is pushing your dog off or shouting at your dog. By doing this your dog can see this as exciting and a way of getting attention. Much better is to make it rewarding for your dog to keep all paws on the floor and choose not to grab food that is not theirs.

4 key steps to correcting this behaviour

  1. Make sure they are not jumping up when feeding them their own food.
    1. To stop this, every time you feed them, give them the ‘sit’ command and make sure you hold up their food until they sit
    2. As you put their food down, again, make sure they stay in the sit position
    3. If they move forward or start to jump up, just lift the food higher out of reach until they are back in the sit
    4. Do this until the food is on the floor in front of them and they are still in the sit.
    5. Once they are calm and take a look at you, give them your release command such as  ‘ok’ and they can eat. This process allows you to start to demonstrate control over food and shows how quickly their behaviour can improve
  2. Repeat the above with a treat in your hand in front of them, at their level 6 inches from their nose. Have your hand open, palm up, with the the treat in the palm of your hand. Use the command ‘leave it’ as your start this process.
    1. If they move towards the treat, close your hand so they cannot get it and use the ‘leave it’.
    2. As they move away, open your palm again and repeat the ‘leave it’
    3. Very quickly they will work out that moving towards the treat is not working.
    4. As soon as they are in a calm state with your palm open and take a look at you, you can give the ‘ok’ command and allow them to take the treat. Repeat until they have this 100%
  3. Next stage is to improve on the above by getting your dog in the sit or down position and throwing a treat or treats on the floor in front of them with the ‘leave it’ command followed by the ‘ok’ once they are calm and look at your for direction. Very quickly they will learn the route to getting treats is to wait and look at you. Of course you can add a ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ when they are doing things correctly.
  4. Final stage is to begin putting very tempting food in front of them on the floor and repeating the reward process. This time however, they do not get the food that is front of them but they get one of their favourite treats instead. Basically you are now rewarding them with their own treats for not stealing cakes and other items that they would normally love to grab off the counter!

If you have a particularly energetic and easily distracted dog, it may take a few sessions to ingrain this behaviour. You do have to be great with the timing and 100% consistent.

If you are still struggling, then another tip is to use a lead to prevent them getting to the food distraction.

For this technique – Put your foot on the lead to stop them being able to reach the food on the counter, give the ‘leave it’ command and when they when they are calm and look at you give them the a reward.

Top tip It massively helps if you don’t give your dog random bits off food throughout the day e.g a corner of toast or a bit of your dinner from the table! Only feed at their meal times and/or as part of their training. That way your dog knows there is no point in constantly being on the look out for opportunities as they only come at mealtimes. Make sure guests adhere to these rules as otherwise they will undo all your hard work!

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