Know Your Limits – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Layla the foster beagle in the snow.

I can’t capture the jumping. She’s so fast the pictures come out blurry. Just imagine her three feet off the ground.

Our current foster dog, Layla, is a beagle mix. What’s she mixed with? Mexican jumping bean.

No Dog is Perfect

Layla is the easiest dog we’ve ever fostered.

She’s affectionate, calm, and sweet. She’s happy to go for a walk with you. But if it’s cold, she’s just as happy to curl up near you and nap.

Layla has one habit I find funny and endearing. But it might be a problem for someone else so we’re working on it together.

She jumps up when you come home.

Sure. Big deal. She weighs 20 pounds. Who’d even notice the jumping?

Well, she jumps high enough to head butt me. I’m 5′ 7″ (170 centimeters).

Layla can’t contain her joy when one of us comes home. Her back paws end up nearly 3 feet (1 meter) off the ground.

Don’t Reward Bad Behavior

We’re doing the same thing with Layla we did with Honey from the time she was a puppy.

If Layla jumps when I come in the door, I go right back outside. If she sits, I come back inside.

The second she jumps, I go outside again. Once she remains on the floor, I love her up and scratch her butt.

This process can take a while. But she is settling down faster.

I just need to respect Layla’s limits.

  • Her excitement is greater the longer I’ve been away.
  • Expecting her to stay sitting is too much. Standing or wiggling with all four paws on the floor is fine.

Training an exuberant Golden Retriever puppy taught me there’s no better way to guarantee failure than by failing to recognize someone’s limitations (thanks, Honey).

Computers Make My Head Hurt

I’ve missed my self-imposed deadline to relaunch my home buyer’s website. I’ve threatened to redesign Something Wagging This Way Comes for two years and haven’t started yet. Even putting a simple widget in a blog sidebar fills me with dread.

I hate feeling stupid because I can’t do a task someone else finds simple.

But I’ll only learn by doing.

So I read computer forums and search for answers to my questions. I pore over software trying to understand it. And I try not to give up too easily.

I do have limits, though.

And I’m trying to respect them.

If it’s unfair to expect an excited dog to go from jumping three feet in the air to sitting quietly when I come home, maybe I need to lower my expectations for myself.

Just because something can be done in computer code doesn’t mean I can do it. And sometimes just ok is good enough.

Honey serenely chews her stick.

Stop telling stories about me. No one would ever believe I’d jump around like that Beagle heathen.

Limits Change Over Time

Teaching Honey not to jump on us took time. She’s still not perfect with some visitors.

But as she’s grown up and developed self-control, she’s able to do things that would have been impossible a year ago.

I needed to learn that expecting Honey to sit instead of jumping was too hard for her at first. So we asked her to pick up a toy from her box. Then we expected her to stand all wiggly butt when we came in. And now, she’s able to sit quietly when we walk in the door.

Layla is sweet. But she’s not as fast a learner as Honey. So we’ll have to figure out her limits over time.

And I’m sweet. But I’m not as fast a learner as Honey either.

I need to decide on the web design equivalent to not jumping at the front door and be satisfied with that for myself until I can build up my skills.

I have to respect my limits. After all, if it’s good for the dog, it’s good for me too.


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  1. I would like to see Layla jumping up that high – it must look hilarious!
    If we keep making small improvements, it’s surprising how far we get sometimes.

    • Maybe I’ll get the video camera out when I hear my husband’s bike pull up. Of course I don’t want to scare off any potential adopters. :)

  2. You are so right, sometimes baby steps is the way to go – it’s all in what the pup is able to feel successful at. SlimDoggy was so rambunctious when we got him he was hard to take…and he (at the time) was 105lb jumping on you! That had to stop real quick. Luckily he’s older (est.8 yrs) so easier to train and he was so anxious to please us, we were able to curb the jumping in a day or two. Same with counter-surfing and other unwanted behaviors. I think it depends on the reward of the behavior. Sad to say he still finds reward in eating horse-poop…so that behavior is not as easy to curb!

    • One of the reasons we worked so hard to teach Honey not to jump as a puppy was because we had no idea how big she’d get. I think lots of people tolerate jumping in puppies and small dogs because it’s less dangerous to humans. But when a big dog jumps they freak out.

      Seems unfair for big dogs to have to show better manners than small dogs, doesn’t it?

      • It does. Same goes with getting on the furniture…I think little dogs get a free pass on that too. And barking and nipping too…gee, they get a pass on a lot of things that us big dogs don’t!

  3. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    OMD! You are so right about knowing your dogs limitations! Ducky is sweet to us, but still jealous when we give Callie and Shadow attention near her. It’s something we’re still working on (among other things). She learns fast — almost too fast at times — and her early-stage adolescence is a bit too much for me at times. I need to just let Callie tell her off, but it’s hard for me to watch Ducky pester sweet Callie while Callie just tolerates it patiently.

    As for lowering your limitations for yourself — do it! There is nothing wrong with “good enough”! None of us is perfect until our maker calls us Home. And things we do don’t need to be perfect either. Stop making yourself “crazy” trying to have things “perfect” — too much needless stress! Just do the best you can with what you have and let it be. There’s nothing wrong with learning new things — it’s a necessary part of life’s journey — but that doesn’t mean you have to know how to do it all. Stop being so hard on yourself.

  4. Great post. Life is a learning process for everyone. We have to just take it one step at a time, and learn as we go.

  5. Oh, such an important – but difficult – lesson. It’s so hard to find the balance between striving for a goal and expecting too much. Luckily, our dogs don’t seem beset by that same struggle! When Cooper started jumping up on people, he was proud of himself! He was baffled when we didn’t reward his discovery. It took him a really long time to get it, but, like Honey, he eventually did (though sometimes he slips). Luckily for Layla, it sounds like you have reasonable expectations and a solid plan, which is all you can strive for!

    • I can just imagine Cooper with a proud look on his face for figuring out how to jump. :)

      I think Honey (and many dogs) jump because they want to be at eye level. That’s why I try to get down on the floor with Layla as soon as I can be certain she doesn’t feel rewarded for jumping.

      Let’s hope the plan works.

  6. “Mexican jumping bean”… Hilarious! I taught Maya not to jump on me, but it has been difficult teaching her not to jump on other people – especially since I don’t always have a lot of visitors for her to practice her manners on. I let Pierson jump on me. I know I shouldn’t, but he is so gentle about it and there is just something special about the happy exuberance of a dog when you come home.

    • I can identify with your love of happy exuberance. I hope Pierson appreciates the privilege he’s getting.

      Honey is also very gentle and if it weren’t for my concern for other visitors, I’d be fine with her jumping.

      I find she only jumps on some people–the ones who can’t (or won’t) follow my guidelines about how to teach her. Others, with better dog skills, never have her jump on them.

  7. Of course you’re sweet :) Had a good giggle at that. Layla sounds just wonderful and I’m sure she’ll learn not to jump quite as much over time.

  8. Once again you have made me feel so much better! I can’t really put it into words right now but I think I finally understand the heart of your new series. Duh. Only took me how many months? Three? Four?

    Dogs and humans have evolved together and we’re really not that different, are we? Not in the ways that mean the most.

    • I don’t know if most people get the heart of my series, so don’t feel bad. I’m not sure I do either. I just knew I needed something different than the Puppiness Project and yet kinda the same. :)

      I think the reasons dogs and humans are so close is because we’re so similar–sociable, self-interested, and intelligent. It’s not much of a stretch to apply the same lessons to humans and canines.

  9. Thanks Pamela, I really needed to hear this today after my walking fiasco that makes me feel like such a failure. I know I can’t do it all at once, but I don’t know where to start with the baby steps either. If I think I’m going to stop Brut from pulling and turn into instant show dog status of a walk, I am going to fail. Miserably. I need a limit that we can both agree on. Yes, I really needed to hear this. Thank you for slowing me down.

    I find with the computer that I do what I can and I work on the rest. If I have trouble, I try to an easier alternative, or I forget about it for a while. I don’t know how wordpress works, but blogger is easy enough for me to manipulate to get what I want. And I just learning as I go. Good luck!

    P.s. I order the easy walk harness to try out. I’ll let you know how it works. Now if they had a behavior changing tool for me, I think I’d do alright! BOL!

    • I think pulling is the hardest behavior to stop. It’s very rewarding for dogs and built into their genes. But it’s so hard, as humans, to cope with. Especially those of us who live around icy sidewalks.

      You’ll figure things out. You always have in the past. :)

      I hope the harness helps. Not every tool works for every dog. But I found it really helpful.

  10. I am so impressed with how high she can jump!

    When I had a 90 pound foster dog last year, she had a jumping issue and also an issue with mauling me as she thought I was a delightful human toy. I was overwhelmed and while the rescue group I worked with at that time suggested some less than gentle methods for getting her to stop – I had thankfully recently purchased “The Loved Dog” by Tamar Geller and tried the method of turning my back on the foster dog and it worked after just a handful of times. No one was more surprised than I was! So glad to hear you are using methods that do not hurt the foster dog! We need more of that in this world! I think dogs everywhere would agree! :)

    • So glad you found a gentle method to prevent the mauling.

      My neighbor took a local training class that suggested his children turn their back on the dog to keep him from jumping. But they suggested the dad knee the dog in the chest (?!). I have no idea why they thought the dad should do something so harsh.

      turning our back on Honey worked well because she’s a soft dog, like I imagine your foster dog was too. With Layla, going back out the door works better. She’s pretty spunky and turning our back doesn’t send enough of a message.

  11. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. Well, when it comes to the dogs, I realize it is a necessity, but when it comes to myself, there is none, so your lessons about limits are good reminders for all.
    And great reminders about the door etiquette. We live in a split level, so we curbed any welcome-home excitement by making the stairs and the landing off-limits. Dogs may be standing with tails wagging when we come in, but since they can’t come down, the time it takes to take off your shoes and coat is usually enough for them to be sitting or laying down calmly, so greetings can occur.
    I do wish more people worked on these skills!

    • Great architectural solution to the jumping problem. Our house doesn’t have sight lines like yours that would satisfy the dog’s curiosity while keeping her away from the front door. But I have been known to use a baby gate across the kitchen door with some visitors.

      Luckily, Layla only jumps on us, not visitors.

      Honey, only wants to jump on visitors, not us. I guess we have a matched set. :)

  12. I simply adore your blog. You write beautifully. Your heart sings in these posts.

    I’m a knee up person when a dog is jumping. I’m not necessarily shoving my knee in the dog’s face, but I am preventing the dog from reaching my face. I like your method, but it wouldn’t work when I’m visiting someone’s house and they have a jumping dog. :(

    When working with technology, I’ve learned to ask for help from someone who knows more than I do. My brother. A teenager. Asking for help makes the other person feel important, useful. Got any spare teenagers hanging around?

    • Awww, thank you.

      As for the knee thing–there’s a difference between creating some space between you and a jumping dog (which is what it sounds like what you’re doing) and kneeing a dog in the chest to wind him (which is what my neighbor’s trainer suggested).

      If you’re visiting someone whose dog jumps, it might be more effective to knee the owner. Just kidding. :)

      No spare teenagers for the tech questions. And, unfortunately, they’re too boring for the average teenager to bother with.

  13. I’ve been happy to take advantage of Blogger’s “plug and play” style of web design. I’ve only redesigned the blog once, and even that wasn’t a full overhaul. I’m not sure I’m likely to do it again. I’ll probably “go solo” one of these days, with my own url, and I do kind of dread it.

    • If I had started with Blogger, I’d probably have stayed with it. But I’m always hesitant to put all my eggs in Google’s basket.

      I thought about going back to the WordPress free site but I just can’t bring myself to go backwards.

      If I were you, I wouldn’t go self-hosted unless you really needed to do it for business reasons. It’s not necessary to run an interesting blog. And Blogger even allows you to earn income from your site.

  14. I admit, I’m curious to see Layla in mid jump! I bet she’s a sight.

    I think appreciating different learning styles is one of the greatest gifts a person can have!

    • “I think appreciating different learning styles is one of the greatest gifts a person can have!” says the teacher.

      But yes, I think it’s a gift we should all work to develop.

  15. I think I have a much easier time understanding/knowing the dog’s limits than my own. I tend to want to try to be a DIY-er all the time – partly because I’m a wee bit of a control freak and a perfectionist. If I know I don’t have the skills to do it myself, I usually end up putting it off for ages, because I don’t want to admit to myself I guess that I’m never going to figure it out.

    Thanks for the remember to be as understanding with myself as I am with the dog.

    As for the jumping – wow, that’s high! Rita is actually pretty good about jumping. She’ll try to get away with one jump when we first come in, but she’ll stop right away if I turn my back. Now our last pup was a different story – she never did learn not to jump, but she got away with murder cuz of her cancer. Little rascal.

    • Yeah, that DIY gene can be murder. I’m not only a control freak. I’m also very, very cheap. A bad combination.

      As for jumping, when a pup gets sick, all bets are off, aren’t they? And I bet you never regretted letting her jump on you for a minute.

  16. Sometimes I think you have camera in our house, watching, so you can teach me the lessons I need at the time. For the longest time, Kolchak had a tie down by the door. I would have to leash him to the tie down before I opened the door. The tie was long enough that he could stand comfortably, but NOT jump. Over time, it got better, though occasionaly, he still jumps up and kisses my nose. I’m short though ;0)