How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on Me
It has taken a lot of experience to figure out how to stop a dog from jumping on me. Jumping up when greeting is one of the most common complaints pet owners have about their dogs. The reason this behavior happens so frequently is that in dog to dog communication, moving right toward the face is not only common but may show social politeness and deference to the other animal.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to put up with this annoying behavior. You can teach your dog to stop.
While the idea of "training" may seem daunting, it is simply teaching an animal what behavior works or doesn't work through resulting consequences — so whether you realize it or not, you are actually training your dog every moment of the day. Fortunately for you, preventing jumping is possible even without structured training. There are some simple solutions to this problem that require minimal effort and fit easily into your normal interactions with your dog.
Why is My Dog Jumping?
There are a number of theories about why dogs jump up on people; popular among these are dominance and greeting behaviors.
The truth is, though, that your dog is probably jumping up to say, "Look at me!"
Why do dogs jump? In short, a jumping dog is a dog who is looking for attention, and it doesn’t matter whether that attention is positive or negative.
Dogs have spent thousands of years evolving alongside humans and over that time they have learned what appeases us when we are angry with them (puppy eyes anyone?), what facial expressions and silly antics earn our affection, and what behaviors get them what they want. If your dog wants attention, affection or petting and they have learned that they can get it when they jump, then guess what? They will continue jumping!
You might inadvertently be rewarding your puppy when your dog jumps up on you by giving it what it wants. As is often true of kids, negative attention may be better than no attention. Your dog doesn't necessarily realize that when you push it off or yell at it to get down that you're attempting to punish it. Instead, your pup may view your behavior as exactly what it's seeking: treasured attention from you.
In this case, any type of attention that the dog gets from you or others may be perceived as a reward. It makes sense then that instead of rewarding it when your dog jumps up, you make it more rewarding for it to keep all four paws on the floor.
The 3 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid when Trying to Stop Your Dog from Jumping on People
A dog that jumps up is a HUGE problem! Ironically, I live with a dog that jumps! Let me explain, before you think I am completely crazy! After all, why would a dog trainer admit to living with a problem jumper?
Actually, he is mostly my brother’s dog and I am not always in charge of his training. The kids let him jump, my brother lets him jump, my brother’s wife lets him jump; but he has learned not to jump on me! Why? Because I avoid these 3 simple mistakes to make sure that I stop my dog from jumping up:
Yelling doesn’t work. It is a waste or your time and breath. Poignantly, yelling doesn’t work for much when you are talking about dog training. It may work on your children, but in most cases (unless you are willing to back hand your dog or inflict sincere pain) yelling incites excitement. Dogs often don’t know how to deal with our anger when they are already excited.
Here they are excited to see us, excited we are home, trying to communicate something, or trying to play with us and we yell. Yelling confuses dogs. Again, they are excited, and we seem angry? So, in an effort to appease us, they often get more excited or agitated and confused and jump on us more or show other inappropriate behaviors like nipping.
Imagine being in love with someone, sincerely missing them for what seems like forever (months) and then having them meet you with indifference and anger. Would you be confused or hurt? Would you try to cheer them up or change their mind?
Your dog doesn’t understand, don’t waste your time yelling at him, which will simply make his behavior worse and will inevitably make you angrier.
Kicking or kneeing is another choice that will, almost certainly, confuse your dog. I know that some will claim that it has worked for them in the past, but not only is kicking barbaric it often doesn’t work unless there is significant pain associated with it on several occasions.
And, who really wants to kick and hurt their dog? Much less, who wants to ask other people to kick and hurt their dog? That is certainly not the way that I want to train! I don’t want my dog to fear me or other people. And, really it is as simple as that. But it also only works for people who are willing to do that to your dog.
How many 3-year-olds are going to kick your dog? How many visitors? Is that really what you want your dog to learn? I think we have all tried these techniques, yelling, kneeing, grabbing their feet till they are uncomfortable; but these all rely on “WAITING FOR THE DOG TO JUMP” instead of stopping the dog from jumping up from the beginning.
I know, I know – you didn’t expect that one on the list!
Many people are told to just turn their back when their dog or another dog jumps on them. And, I will concede that sometimes I do this with other people’s dogs for a short time until I can find another tactic, but it still doesn’t usually work.
Again, it may have worked for a small handful of dogs, but not the majority.
Jumping is a self-rewarding behavior. Let that sink in for a minute…
Jumping is a self-rewarding behavior, so to some degree it doesn’t matter how much screaming, kicking, smacking, ignoring or turning you try to do; your dog is getting something out of jumping on you.
His brain fills with oxytocin and serotonin as soon as he gets next to you and touches you.
This also happens when you touch him, but if you don’t do it fast enough he figures he can just jump into your space and onto you.
He doesn’t mean any harm, really.
He is a dog, and dogs aren’t born knowing and understanding our human rules and guidelines. They require teaching!
- They don’t understand that it hurts sometimes when they jump.
- They don’t understand how dangerous it is to jump on toddlers or the elderly.
- They don’t understand when you are dressed up and you don’t want your nylons ripped.
- They especially don’t understand when you are inconsistent!!!
And, turning away from them just makes jumping more of a game.
He jumps, you turn, he jumps again… this goes on and on and whereas it isn’t fun for you; and you hope that he is learning, the truth is that he is a dog and he is having a good time.
Turning away is like playing a game of keep away – and dogs LOVE keep away!
What if you have tried other training methods in the past, such as kneeing your dog in the chest, pushing them off of you or shouting commands like “Off!” “No!” or “Down!” without success?
When you push your dog or puppy off of you, you have touched them, and therefore rewarded the behavior.
When you shout commands at your dog that they do not understand or have not learned well, you are speaking to your dog, giving them attention.
When you accidentally knee your dog in the chest or step on their paws? Even that may be reinforcing your dog’s behavior, because to a dog even negative attention is better than no attention at all. This is why dogs who have been abused in the past may still remain loyal to their owners, because negative attention is better than being ignored.
You may have heard about methods of training a dog not to jump that call for some form of punishment. One such method is a knee to the dog's chest. Another is using leash correction—pulling or yanking on the leash—to get the dog off you. There are several problems with these methods:
If you knee or leash correct your dog too harshly or improperly, you can seriously injure the dog.
When you use a knee to the chest, you may knock your dog down, but the dog may interpret this as your way of initiating play. Your dog's response will likely be to jump up again to continue the game because you've actually reinforced the behavior you're trying to stop.
Your dog may learn not to jump up only when it's on a leash. Since most dogs aren't leashed 24/7, chances are your dog will have plenty of opportunities to get away with jumping up when it's off its leash.
Things that Help
#1 Reward a dog with four feet on the floor!
In order to teach your dog our rules and guidelines, we must teach them what behaviors we like!
People spend so much time telling dogs what NOT to do, that they rarely think about teaching their dogs what TO DO instead!
I reward my puppies for lying down on the floor at my feet, or sitting, or even just keeping all four feet on the ground.
In the beginning, I reward the puppy or new dog before they get an opportunity to jump. I make sure that I have excellent, tasty rewards! For instance, your dog might rather jump on you than have a stale dog biscuit. I use chicken breast, cheese or liver to reinforce good behavior.
Once my dog learns to keep all four on the floor, I change the criteria to sitting or (even better) lying down and waiting for me to come to him for affection. If jumping doesn’t bring petting or affection, but keeping four feet down brings treats AND affection a dog will learn quickly to stay off of you and your guests!
#2 Leash for Control
If you are still struggling and have inadvertently rewarded jumping behaviors, you might need some help. When I am working with a chronic jumper be it puppy or adult dog, I utilize a leash in the house. It doesn’t have to be a long leash, it can just be a tab leash, but a leash gives me control of my dog’s body and space. If my dog jumps up, I can simply and quietly pluck him off of my body.
Again, I don’t yell or shout commands… I don’t want to reverse the effects and make this rewarding, I simply very quietly remove the dog and wait for an opportunity to reward the dog for four on the floor or sitting. Leashes are not just for taking your dog outside for a walk. Leashes help us teach our dogs and gain control of other bad behaviors too!
#3 Teach a Counter-Behavior
One method you can try is to ask for a counter behavior. For example, if you can tell that your dog is about to jump, ask for a sit instead. If your dog is sitting, they can’t be jumping. Reward your dog regularly for sitting and they will learn that sitting is more profitable and gets them what they want more often than jumping does.
Your dog can’t sit and jump on you at the same time.
Now, don’t get me wrong… he can go very quickly from a “sit” to jumping up, but, of course, he has to break the behavior/command in order to accomplish it.
He also can’t “lie down” and jump, and it is more difficult to spring up from a down command. This is why I always taught my potential Service Dogs to “down” when greeting new people.
Even rewarding your dog for keeping all four feet on the floor is helpful!
#4 Positive Reinforcement
When you're working on preventing unwanted jumping, it can really help to keep some treats or rewards close at hand. As soon as your dog is standing in front of you with all four paws on the ground, toss it a treat or reward. Praise your dog as well, but keep things low key. Too much excitement and attention from you may stimulate another round of jumping, and we know you don’t like it when dogs jump.
This all is based upon the theory of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when you reward or treat your puppy for good behavior, and that becomes the focus of your training. A treat, positive attention, or a reward is more likely to entice your dog into behaving than punishment, or negative reinforcement. Always keep plenty of treats or some other reward on hand. Find out what motivates your dog!
When your dog does the desired behavior – in this case, sitting or standing when greeting someone – give them a treat or reward to make certain that they will want to do it. Wanting to do something to earn a reward is a great motivator. Also, keep in mind that when you issue a command, there are infinite things that you don’t want your dog to do, and only one thing that you would like your dog to do. You can punish your dog for jumping, and it could stop jumping, but then it may paw at visitors as a greeting, rather than sitting or lying down.
When finding the motivator for your dog, usually a treat is the most common reward, and many people will use this as part of their dog training. If your dog isn’t motivated by the treat that you are offering, try a different type of treat; dogs are almost always motivated by food. If that reward doesn’t still work, then many people use a toy as a reward during dog training with good results. The bottom line is to learn what your dog likes and reward it with the like.
Rewarding your dog with a treat will have much better results than punishment. Incorporating a clicker trainer into positive reinforcement makes it a piece of cake.
You MUST be Consistent
The most critical piece? Consistency!
You can’t expect your dog or puppy to learn that jumping is “wrong” if you allow it sometimes.
Plus, being inconsistent is unfair.
Make a pact as a family that no one will allow this behavior. Whatever training methods you choose to accept and apply, stick to them. Don’t compromise and be regular with making sure that your dog is not jumping.
You must be consistent!
This is why the puppy at my house has struggled. He can jump on some but not others. He has learned that if he sits or lies down he will be rewarded by me; but I am sure it is confusing for him that he can jump on some people but not others. Be fair and be consistent and you will sculpt the dog of your dreams!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.