Jumping Dogs and Flying Crickets!

Written by Leigh Pyron

As an in-home pet sitter there have been many times when I’ve watched multiple dogs at one household. A few years ago, I had a client call to ask me if I was available to pet sit their five-year-old Spaniel mix, Ginger and their Leopard Gecko, Harvey. I told them I was available the first two nights, but after that I was booked at another client’s home to pet sit their two animated, vivacious eight-month-old Standard Poodles named Jupiter and Pluto. Since the two Poodles got along with other dogs, and the owner didn’t mind if I had other dogs over, I offered to take Ginger with me to their home. The client was thrilled, but wanted to make sure I would still be able to take care of Harvey. Now I thought to myself…how hard could it be to take care of a Gecko…sure, I said, no problem.
So, the instructions on how to take care of Harvey were to change his water and feed him 3 to 5 crickets daily. That all sounded pretty easy to me until they mentioned that I would have to go to the pet store a couple of times to pick up more crickets. Now normally that would be a simple request, but as it was summer time, the busiest time of the year for me, I needed to figure out how to fit cricket-purchasing into my crazy schedule. Especially since the only pet store that carried them was a bit out of the way from where I would be pet sitting.
Well, my cricket adventure began the first night I started watching Ginger and Harvey. The owners were running behind schedule the day of their departure and didn’t have time to purchase more crickets before they left. So, it looked like my dinner would have to wait, as I ran off to the pet store before closing time with the Kricket-Keeper cage in hand to purchase those priceless crickets. After I got the crickets, I remembered that I was to pick up some food for them as well. I found a container of these funny little orange cubes called Fluker’s Orange Cube Complete Cricket Diet… perfect! The container said they were, “…made from kelp, spirulina, brewer’s yeast and more to gutload crickets.” Ok, now my question is, has anybody ever inquired what exactly the “more” ingredient is in the orange cubes? I now realized I was definitely taking my job a bit too seriously. I was actually concerned about the health of the crickets that I would be feeding to the Gecko…are the crickets a pet too? I guess I should have charged for them too!
The next morning, after I let Ginger out and fed her, I headed off to the garage, where I left the crickets, to get Harvey’s breakfast. As I approached the Kricket-Keeper cage and looked inside, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Almost every cricket was belly-up at the bottom of the cage. Yikes! I panicked, how could that possibly be, I just bought them yesterday! With a crazy day ahead of me, how was I going to fit in buying more crickets? Luckily, I managed to catch three of the ten or so crickets left alive out of the cage and put them into Harvey’s lair for breakfast. I then got ready myself, loaded Ginger in the car, along with the dead crickets, and started out for the day. Somehow I would have to squeeze in a trip to the pet store once again.
I finished around 6:00 p.m. that day and decided to make one last stop for the crickets before I headed back to Ginger’s house. When I arrived at the pet store I found a clerk and told him what had happened with my newly-purchased crickets. I asked him if this time he could pick out a few crickets that had a bit more vitality and longevity. The clerk was more than happy to exchange them, the only problem was they were out of crickets and wouldn’t receive any more until tomorrow afternoon. This can’t be happening! How difficult can it be to take care of a simple little desert reptile from Pakistan. I couldn’t believe I would have to return again!
The next day I had to pack up Ginger and myself to move to Jupiter and Pluto’s house. So, at the end of the day, all packed and ready to go, I fed Harvey the last of the living crickets and headed off to the pet store one more time to purchase those irreplaceable insects. Thank goodness they had received a shipment that afternoon. Now all I had to do was transport Ginger and the crickets safely to Jupiter and Pluto’s house.
When I arrived at Jupiter and Pluto’s, I left Ginger in the car for a moment and picked up my precious container of crickets and headed for the front door. Normally, when the owners leave they always put Jupiter and Pluto in the back yard, so I knew I could enter the house quietly and put the crickets up and away before I let them in. As I approached the front door I could hear the dogs barking in the background, although it seemed a little louder than usual this time. I didn’t think much of it as I put the key in the lock, turned the knob and opened the door and…Kaboom! Two out of control, crazy, jumping Poodles hit me like a freight train when I opened the door. The only thing that came out of my mouth was “NOOOoooooooo!” as the Kricket-Keeper cage went flying into the air out of my reach over the top of Jupiter and Pluto’s head. Crash! The container hit the floor, the lid popped off and thirty crickets scrambled across the entryway floor heading desperately for a place to hide from the scary, hairy, four-legged creatures that hunted them. Out of shear desperation I yelled, “Leave-it! Leave-it!”
Needless to say, it took me hours and hours throughout the night to collect the thirty or more crickets that scurried and bustled about all over the floor of the house. By the time I went to bed, as I tried to nod off to sleep, all I could hear was the disharmonious, incongruous sound of chirping coming from the last few crickets I couldn’t find. I felt like I was camping in the wilderness, it was not unlike the annoyance that one experiences with a persistent mosquito that buzzes by your ear just at the moment you’re about to drop off to sleep. How could these tiny little creatures cause such chaos?
Why do dogs jump on people? 
It’s not uncommon for puppies and dogs to jump up on people when they greet them.   When a dog greets another dog they immediately sniff each other’s faces. And, in the wild, the young wolf cubs will submissively sniff, lick and nibble on their mother’s face in order to stimulate the activity of regurgitating food up for them. So, since humans are much taller than dogs, the easiest, quickest way for them to get to our face is to jump! Dogs of all ages and sizes will jump up on humans for a variety of reasons, such as ritual greeting, playfulness, excitement or arousal and trying to dominate.
 
Teaching dogs not to “Jump-Up” on People
There are many ways to address a dog jumping-up on humans. Here are a few great ideas to try out:
Ignore the Dog
When you arrive home and open the door to a jumping dog, try walking right past him, totally ignoring him. Don’t look at him, or talk to him, or touch him. Walk right past him as if he wasn’t there and busy yourself with other things until the dog is calm. Once the dog is calm, you can now greet him. But, if he starts to jump again when you bend over to greet him, quickly stand up, walk away and ignore him again. Repeat this exercise until he can remain calm while petting him.
 
Put “Jumping-Up” on Cue
You can teach your dog to “jump-up” on command. First, take a high value treat, such as cheese, cooked chicken or any other type of food that your dog really loves. Call your dog and ask him to “sit” in front of you. Once he is sitting, take a treat and hold it up high just above his head. When he looks up at the treat say, “Jump!”  When he jumps for the treat say, “Yes!” and give him the treat.  After the jump ask him to sit again.
Another way to get your dog to jump-up is to take two treats and hold one in each hand.  Place the treats between your thumb and first finger of each hand so your dog can see them.  Show the dog the treats and then hold your hands at chest level with palms facing out and say, “jump!”  Most dogs will jump-up and hit your palms with their paws.  When he does say, “Yes!” and give him the treats.  Be sure to ask for a “sit” before and after this exercise as well.
Use a Distraction
Have a small bowl of treats somewhere near the front door so when you arrive home or if you have guests coming over, you can toss a “find-it” treat. Simply pick up a treat, show the dog the treat, toss it away from the front entryway and say “find-it!” When the dog goes to find the treat, let yourself or your guest enter the house. When he comes back to the front door again toss him another treat before he gets there. When he goes to find the second treat, walk away and ignore him until he is in a calm state of mind.
Dragging a Leash
When you’re home with your dog and expecting company, you can attach a leash to his collar or a harness and let him drag it on the floor. When someone arrives at the front door you can step on the leash just enough to prevent him from jumping. Once your guest enters have them walk quickly past the dog ignoring him. Release the dog by taking your foot off the leash and walk away, also ignoring him until he is in a calm state of mind.
Use a “Sit” or “Down” Stay
If your dog already knows “sit” or “down” try asking him to do so at the front door before you open it. Before you open the door, put him in a “sit” or “down” position and ask him to “stay.” Give him a few treats to start off with as a reward. When you go to open the door, continue to ask him to “stay.” If he starts to get up when you open the door, quickly close the door and put him back in a “sit” or “down” again. Continue to repeat this exercise until he stays in position when you open the door.   Once your guest has entered, praise him, release him and walk away.
Using an X-pen or Baby Gate
Put your dog in a small room and close off the entrance with an exercise pen or baby-gate so he can’t get out. Leave your dog for a brief moment and then return, walking back to greet him. If he jumps up when you arrive at the gate, immediately turn and walk away from him. Walk about four or five feet away, pause and then return, walking back to greet him again. If he jumps up again when you get there, turn around and leave again. Repeat this until he stops jumping when you arrive at the gate. Praise him and release him from the room when he succeeds.
Remember to remain calm and patient when practicing these exercises. If the human gets frustrated or angry during the process, it only creates more excitement and arousal in the dog, which causes them to jump even more. It usually only takes a few minutes for the dog to realize that what he is doing isn’t working. The first step to success is simply to get the dog to stop practicing the behavior.   From there, it’s just a matter of being consistent with the new rules you have established with him.

 

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