Can I Jump Up and Kiss Your Eyes
Our dogs talk to us every day! - but do we listen? On average we don't. Not because we don't want to, but because their language is foreign to us. For the most part we expect dogs to learn our language; "sit", "down", "come", "want to go for a walk", "din-din", . and so on. However, we are not always so good at learning their language. Which, if you think about it, it is pretty weird, because we have shared our lives with dogs for centuries. Probably the biggest reason for this, is the major difference in how each species (human and canine), communicates. Humans are mainly a verbal species where canines rely on body language. In the past 15 or so years most dog training professionals have actually come a long way in understanding canine language, largely in part because of Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas. Turid Rugaas was absolutely instrumental in introducing North American dog trainers to the world of canine communication, and now the majority of dog trainers have some knowledge of specific canine body language. Unfortunately sharing this knowledge and teaching it to clients is not part of the average dog trainers class curriculum, as it should be.
Dogs mostly use body language as a means of communication and sadly much of this body language is unacceptable to most humans. Canines will often greet close canine friends and family by licking each others lips, ears and eyes and sometimes mouthing each others muzzles.
These actions are displays of affection in the canine world, however, for most humans, jumping up to lick our lips, mouths, ears and eyes is unacceptable and mouthing at a human face, or any other body part for that matter, is seen as anything but affectionate.
As a result a dog's actions or behaviour, when applied toward us humans, are very often considered "bad". Generally a dog is pushed away, or scolded for becoming this intimate with us. One of the most common complaints from people who attend manners classes for dogs, is that their dog jumps up when they get home, or their puppy jumps up on everyone he meets.
When a dog does this, especially with their human family members, they are simply trying to show an affectionate greeting, by getting close to our eyes and mouth. Unfortunately this is rarely how it is perceived by people. Most people find it a nuisance and don't want to be licked, especially in the mouth and eyes. However, If you think about it from the dog's perspective, imagine how hurtful it must seem to be pushed away, yelled at, and even kneed in the chest, when you are giving someone your love, and affection. And for them (the dogs), this is normal behaviour and certainly not "bad".
Some trainers will tell you that you have to ignore your dog when you get home, so they will calm down and not jump on you and so on. I say "are you kidding" - "I am happy to see my dogs when I get home and a little eye and ear licking is okay in my books". I love my dogs and I want them to know it!
I am a little unconventional though, as dog trainers go - so if you don't like the whole jumping up, mouth and eye licking thing - by all means - try to teach your dog to sit for a pat from you, or ignore your dog, until they are calmer.
Or...you could try communicating to your dog in their language; For the average person who does not want all this attention when they walk through the door, using canine body language such as turning your back to your dog, will communicate to them that you want them to calm down. For the very exuberant dog, you may have to keep turning away, until they get the point. In terms of training, you could make sure that you have a jar of treats nearby, and you can scatter small treats on the floor to help distract and dissipate some of their over stimulation at seeing you walk through the door. Kind of like feeding chickens :-)
If you have multiple dogs like I do, you may have to have a set up where you can separate some dogs in one area and some dogs in another area. As this will allow you to greet some of the dogs at one time and then move on to the next group.
I would advise that you "do" greet your dogs though, and allow them to greet you. After-all your dogs have likely been waiting for hours to have this special reward of seeing you and loving you!
And I do hope; that now that you realize that jumping up is a way to reach your face so that the mouth, eye and ear licking can commence (because they love you!), that you will be a little more understanding as to why your dog does this.
Oh and when your new puppy starts mouthing your arm, face and head please keep in mind that he is just doing a natural dog behaviour and not being bad or becoming a savage beast. Yes, yes it is unacceptable to humans and yes it does sometimes hurt a bit, and yes it is okay to help teach them to not do this, please be aware that to them it is not inappropriate behaviour. So don't get mad okay - just help them to realize that the different species that they are living with, doesn't like that, and then teach them to bite and mouth a toy instead.
~Love your dog because he is a dog and let your dog be a dog, because he is a dog~
© Copyright 2015 Jackie McGowan St. Croix.