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Does your pet jump on guests? Are you unwittingly encouraging this behavior? Learn how to retrain your pet in this installment of "Ask a Purina Vet."

The minute your key hits the lock, your dog races to the door. As you cross the threshold, he pounces with masterful precision and lands a big, wet kiss right on your lips.

Then, you head to the kitchen to give him a treat. Or, perhaps at night, you stretch out on the couch for some TV therapy and encourage your cat to hop up and join you. Then, you begin stroking her and cooing as you watch TV.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In this installment of Petcentric's "Ask a Purina Vet" series, we turned to a Purina behaviorist to help us understand why pets jump on people. Below, you'll learn why your pet repeats certain behaviors when guests come to visit — and what, if anything, you can do to stop it.

Are We Owners to Blame?

In a word, yes, but don't get down on yourself just yet.

We asked Cynthia Bolte, senior scientist of animal behavior for Purina, to weigh in with her expertise. In the examples above, we unwittingly reinforce behavior by rewarding it. From the human perspective, we're returning the pet's affection. From the pet's point of view, we're granting permission to extend the behavior — to everyone.

Pets can't differentiate behavior in different situations, according to Bolte. How can they know that "good dog" when they greet you translates into "bad dog" when they pounce on a guest? This concept often eludes pet owners because we humans have the power of discernment.

Bolte says, "We tend to confuse animals. You can't allow one thing one day and not the next. Pets need structure and consistency."

Retraining Your Pet

Despite the age-old adage, we can almost always teach pets new tricks, says Bolte. "Preexisting behaviors take a little longer to redirect and retrain." The trick is to address the behavior you want to change immediately after the behavior occurs. Here's how to properly respond to your pet's behavior:

1. When a cat jumps on you, grab the kitty fishing pole, a laser beam, or any toy that's handy, and move the activity and your cat to the floor. Then reward her good behavior.

2. When a dog jumps on you, stop dead in your tracks and ignore him. Put your arms to your side or behind your back and turn your back to him. As soon as his front paws hit the ground, reward him.

Decide on the rules and stick to them without exceptions. Think of how disconcerting it is to you when rules change midstream. Whenever you play with your pets, they regard it as a reward and a reinforcement of the current behavior. You can't train one day and break the rule "just this once" the next day. Ask a behaviorist and they'll tell you that pet training is an ongoing process that never ends.



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