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Putting a Dog's Unwanted Behavior on Stimulus Control (to get Rid of it)-Clicker trained Jumping

Added on Feb 1, 2011 From Donna Hill

Lucy the dog developed an annoying habit of jumping up at the food dish as I carried to the tha back door. I wanted to get rid of it but for the longest time I was afraid to put it on stimulus control (on cue) as I worried she might do it more often instead of less often (add it to her repertoire).
I decided it couldn't get much worse and so tried putting the unwanted jumping behavior on cue using clicker training. These are the steps we did and the outcome. I had a pleasant surprise by the end of training.

Generalizing the new cue out of context first was important so she had a strong understanding of what I was looking or before I ever re-paired it with the food dish.

Training for stimulus control works on behaviors that are (ideally) not self-reinforcing but may also work on some that are, depending on the severity of arousal level and how controllable the environment is. (It may work on some barking if the dog is still able to acknowledge/respond to you but may not if the dog is frantic when barking in the situation). Arousal level and awareness of their own behavior is key. If you can control the environment (move the person or dog that triggers barking) further away so the animal's arousal level is lowered, success will be greater. Then you can increase the level again, no different from training an animal to function amid distractions. In this case, the trainer can control the key aspect of the behavior, - the value of the food. Start with a lower value food then as the dog shows she can control herself, increase the value of it while using the cue. In this case, I put cheese in the bowl and worked our way up to what she considered more valuable as she succeeded.

Considering the definition of 'self-reinforcing' is important as well. Laying down can be self-reinforcing if the dog is tired of standing. This approach is often used in training horses. Stopping for a rest after trotting for a time is self-reinforcing for horses.

Part of the definition of 'stimulus control' not often acknowledged is that the animal only does the behavior when cued-DURING TRAINING SESSIONS. This does not mean the animal cannot do it when the trainer is not interacting with it. Take the case of sit or down on cue. If they are under stimulus control, during a training session the dog will only do these if cued. However, when not in a training session, the dog is free to sit and lay down whenever she wants to.
The same applies to barking etc. If the trainer starts interacting with the animal, it should stop doing the behavior unless cued to do so. However, for some behaviors, it is also helpful to train an 'off switch' cue such as "quiet" that is paired with 'bark'.

Another important part of the not doing the behavior when not cued. Here's how you can capture that in dogs that have impulse control issues or love to offer behaviors.

Want some help to coach you through the process? Contact me at

303 Likes,     11 Dislikes,     36954 Views,     71 Comments

trainergirl Says:

Sep 1, 2016 - Great video Donna. I'm going to send this to one of my clients - one of the problems we are going to be working on is jumping up.

crazeedogs Says:

Jan 15, 2016 - Love this video! Any idea how this could be used for reactive barking? I am not sure how I would put that together when she is checked out? Thanks for all the insight in your videos. I have had many "Ah hah" moments lol!

Travis Bennett Says:

Dec 3, 2015 - AMAZING!!!!! AT first I was telling myself that this approach would NOT work. Well, I'll be dog-gone! What an awesome approach! Thank you for sharing this! I never would of thought to do this in a million years!!!

Uma ko Says:

Sep 23, 2015 - I loved your training procedure and how you approached it!!! Thank you for sharing!!

Kim Hall Says:

Jun 29, 2015 - This is brilliant! My shy adult rescue is incredibly happy at agility. I've been getting a lot of grief by judges because he leaps like this and mouths me which looks like he's biting me but I don't feel his teeth, just some saliva occasionally. People have been telling me that I must scold him but I don't want to, an agility ring is the only place he's sure of himself. I've been looking for an outside the box positive method of getting rid of the unwanted behavior. Actually I don't mind the leaping, it's the mouthing with the leaping that's the problem but I may have to get rid of both. This method might work.

deb Scott Says:

May 30, 2015 - you are a genius:)

Linda Lempi Says:

Feb 12, 2015 - YES! This was pleasant to see :D I will have benefit of this, thank you. It´s always nice to see people training with scientifically proven methods. 

Taryn Hodge Says:

Aug 26, 2014 -  Have you had long term success with this? My Pyr Shep bounces all the time.  I've attempted rewarding an alternate behavior, but this requires that I request the alternate behavior before the jumping happens. I don't want to end up creating a behavior chain of  jumping/alternate behavior. In some settings I cant request the alternate behavior early enough in the sequence. (hard to do when a certain someone bounces a whole lot!)   I've considered trying this, but haven't yet. As always, great video.

Caitlin Peacock Says:

Feb 21, 2014 - Never thought of doing it this way, that's amazing! I'm definitely trying this with my dog.

kriss.44 Says:

Jan 15, 2014 - she sure jumps high:) this gave me good food for thought.