How to Stop Your Dog from Jumping
You try all that you can, but you just cannot figure out how to stop your dog from jumping! There’s no need to worry. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to getting your pup to stop jumping.
Jumping up is one of “those” problems…“those” problems that wind up with a dog in a shelter sitting on death row. I, honestly, don’t understand it. I have never owned a dog that couldn’t learn to stay “off” people when they are taught properly. The problem is that most people are not spending that time teaching, and, instead, are getting frustrated and angry at an animal with a very distinctly different set of social norms.
I’m here to help! Also, it’s important to learn how to stop a dog from jumping on you; not only for your comfort but for your safety and the safety of others.
If you have a large dog, consider the possibility of your dog jumping up on a child or elderly person, knocking them to the ground and potentially really hurting the person. Even if you have a small dog, you should learn how to stop her from jumping because if she ever jumps on a child, her nails could scratch the child’s face, or worse. Everyone should aim to have a polite, well-mannered dog in public, and we’re hoping to help!
Why Do Dogs Jump?
As with most behavior modification (that is, ‘training’), it’s important to understand the reason or motive behind the behavior itself. That way we can effectively work out how to stop a dog jumping up. Dogs are hardwired to jump on us for a couple of reasons.
It starts when they’re puppies. Dogs naturally want to lick and sniff their mama’s mouth and muzzle when she returns to the den (presumably from hunting or eating something herself). It even triggers mama to relinquish some food from her own mouth for them to learn to eat. But mama is so much taller than her puppies! So – you guessed it – they learn to jump up to greet mama.
As they grow, puppies learn to play together with natural bouts of jumping, romping, and wrestling. The winner of each bout is declared as the one which pins the other to the ground. Hence, more jumping out of excitement.
Finally, as adults, dogs continue to greet one another eye-to-eye or face-to-rump, depending on the balance in size or behavioral intimidation. So, if your dog is trying to greet humans in the same way, he’s going to need to get a little height to reach your face!
Dogs greet each other nose-to-nose and want to do the same with us.
Since our noses are not at their level, they jump up to reach them.
Does your dog jump on you as if they’ve got springs on their feet?
Like it or not, we humans are to blame. We not only permit this behavior, we encourage it. We know we shouldn’t encourage jumping, but a fuzzy puppy is just too cute to resist. We forget that cute behavior in a puppy can become a real nuisance when he grows up.
Allowing your dog to jump on people can be dangerous, too. You can end up scratched and bruised. A child or frail adult can be knocked down and seriously injured.
I think, first things first, you must understand your dog. Dogs jump on each other for play and sociability. They even get in the face of those that scare them as a way of being submissive and acquiescing.
They are a separate species with separate social norms. They do not spring from their mother’s womb understanding human social norms or expectations. We must teach them!
Many dogs jump up on their owners or others as a submissive greeting ritual or appeasement gesture. It is a natural, yet unacceptable, way in which the dogs say hello.
At the very least, jumping is a nuisance and at worst, can be harmful, especially to children and the elderly. Unfortunately, you cannot just tell a dog to stop jumping – they do not know what you mean, only that jumping is gratifying – it expresses their pleasure, dispels pent-up energy, and always gets the target’s attention.
The bottom line is your dog jumps when excited.
So here you are with your excited pooch trying to jump and say hello “properly” according to his canine customs. Maybe you try to push his front feet off of you or wave your arms and yell. For a dog, that’s body language for play. Now he’s really having fun with you! So, he jumps right back up to keep the game going. Do you see the problem here? You can understand now that jumping up on you is part of totally normal canine behavior for greetings.
Unfortunately, it’s not acceptable in our human social circles, so it’s important to teach your canine companion the right way to greet their humans.
The following is a description of steps for eradicating jumping from your dog or puppy’s repertoire. Teaching a dog takes consistency and practice, so stick with it, don’t get discouraged, and eventually you will see results (often within one or two weeks).
How to Stop a Dog from Jumping Up
Perhaps you have tried to get your dog to stop jumping by using conventional training methods.
Some pet owners might think the best way to stop a dog from jumping up on you is to simply push your knee or foot into their belly while they’re jumping on you.
This would obviously cause pain or discomfort with the intent of scaring the dog from jumping again.
Actually, studies have shown that using force or aversion methods like painful stimuli to train a dog is much less effective than positive reinforcement techniques. So not only does it seem cruel to the dog – it can even cause worse behavioral problems.
Today, we’ll be discussing in-depth ways of how to stop a dog jumping on people using only positive, tried-and-true training techniques.
If you want your dog to refrain from jumping, it is going to require you to teach him.
Teach your dog that they receive no attention for jumping on you or anyone else.
Teach your dog to do something that is incompatible with jumping up, such as sitting. They can’t sit and jump up at the same time. If they are not sitting, they get no attention.
It is important to be consistent. Everyone in your family must follow the training program all the time. You can’t let your dog jump on people in some circumstances, but not others.
When your dog jumps on other people, it’s important to ask a family member or friend to assist with training. Your assistant must be someone your dog likes and wants to greet. Your dog should never be forced to greet someone who scares them.
Give your dog the “sit” command. (This exercise assumes your dog already knows how to “sit.”)
The greeter approaches you and your dog. If your dog stands up, the greeter immediately turns and walks away. Ask your dog to “sit,” and have the greeter approach again. Keep repeating until your dog remains seated as the greeter approaches.
If your dog does remain seated, the greeter can give your dog a treat as a reward. When you encounter someone while out walking your dog, you must manage the situation and train your dog at the same time. Stop the person from approaching by telling them you don’t want your dog to jump. Hand the person a treat. Ask your dog to “sit.” Tell the person they can pet your dog and give them the treat, but only if your dog remains seated.
Some people will tell you they don’t mind if your dog jumps on them, especially if your dog is small and fluffy or a puppy. But you should mind. Remember you need to be consistent in training. If you don’t want your dog to jump on people, stick to your training and don’t make exceptions.
If your dog jumps on you when you come in the door, then it’s advisable to keep greetings quiet and low-key. If your dog jumps on you, ignore them. Turn and go out the door. Try again. You may have to come in and go out dozens of times before your dog learns they only gets your attention when they keep all four feet on the floor.
If he jumps on you when you’re sitting, get up immediately. Don’t talk to your dog or push them away. Just ignore them until all four feet are on the ground.
Here are Some Quick Tips to Stop Your Dog from Jumping Up:
The biggest problem with dogs or puppies jumping is a lack of consistency.
Admit it: you thought it was cute when your puppy jumped when he was tiny. He wanted to get close to you and play with you and it was adorable!
You may even allow him to jump on you now, provided you aren’t dressed for work or not in the mood.
The problem is that dogs need consistency in order to learn.
If you don’t want him to jump on you when you are preparing for work, you must teach him not to jump on you EVER. He needs to learn that the behavior is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances.
Be fair. Be consistent.
- Consistency Among Family
The next biggest problem is consistency among family. Dad may hate that the dog jumps, but mom or the kids don’t mind. This sets the dog up for failure. Just like you need to be consistent yourself, everyone in the home has to be consistent. If this is a problem with your family, I recommend you sit down as a family and discuss it.
Explain to your children how hard it is for your dog to engage in this behavior with them, but then not have the behavior carry over to everyone else. Usually, if you explain the negative impact, sadness and conflict this is creating for the dog, children will understand. If your spouse is the problem, you need to figure out how to communicate effectively so the dog is not the one who suffers.
- All 4 Feet on the Floor
This quick clicker game teaches your dog that keeping all four feet on the floor is rewarding. Grab your clicker, your dog and some great treats. If you need help understanding clicker training click here.
Click and reward every time your dog keeps all four paws on the floor. Move to the left, move to the right, but click for the same behavior.
Next, get your dog excited. If he goes to jump on you, avoid the jump and wait for all four paws to hit the floor so that you can click and reward.
At the end of this kind of training, you can even pat your chest and encourage your dog up (don’t feel bad, your friends may do this and it is best for the dog to learn to stay “off” no matter what!). Only click and reward if he resists and stays on the ground!
Reward the dog when he is not jumping (four on floor, being calm, sitting) with treats, praise, petting, games, or a walk.
Rewarding NOT jumping will increase the likelihood that your dog will not jump.
You can also reward your dog during the day anytime he is not jumping or engaging in other inappropriate behavior. Heavily reward the inter-commanded behavior.
- Incompatible Behavior
Teaching your dog an incompatible behavior can also save your training and keep your dog from jumping! Obviously, jumping is a big problem and, if you think about it, a dog can’t jump up and lay down at the same time!
It is much easier to teach your dog to do something (e.g. sit) than to teach him not to do something (jump). Teach your dog a behavior that is incompatible with jumping such as a high distraction sit/stay (a down is probably too difficult for most excited puppies) or go find a toy. Have your dog perform an incompatible behavior before she’s inclined to jump (otherwise the natural sequence may become jump, sit, treat).
Some dogs will be too excited for a sit, in which case you can teach “go find a toy” or simply reward on the floor.
The idea is that the reinforcement value of performing the alternative behavior (make it worth 100K to the dog through praise, treats, affection) is much stronger than the enforcement value of jumping.
Incompatible behaviors can work wonders!
When I was training Service Dogs, we would teach them to lie down when greeting people. It is impossible to lie down and jump at the same time!
Many people use “sit”, which is certainly understandable as it is an easier task to teach an excited dog, but it is much easier to go from sit to a jump than it is to go from down to a jump.
Even teaching your dog to shake another person’s hand is a way to keep his mind entertained and keep him from jumping!
There are many incompatible behaviors; you just need to choose one and then require that the dog show the behavior upon greeting. If the dog gets up or ignores the command, he cannot socialize or be petted.
- Move Out of the Way
If your dog starts to jump, quickly back away so your dog jumps into the air. Once your dog has put his paws on you, it’s too late, the behavior is reinforced. However, it is important to note that simply dodging your dog will turn it into a game. Don’t let it escalate into a game; take other measures to make sure that the jumping doesn’t occur in the first place.
Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a well-behaved one.
Most adult dogs need 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.
Plenty of mental stimulation is also key in keeping your dog both healthy and happy. Your dog is also much less likely to be needy and so attention-driven if you are giving it the proper care while also training it responsibly.
- The Hello Game
This is a fun method for solving the problem of your dog having a little too much fun when it’s time to say hello.
You need to break the cycle of reinforcement that your dog gets from the “game” he has created by jumping on you. Follow these techniques to accomplish that:
Part 1: Stop all interaction when your dog is jumping – ignore him!
Do not yell, speak, or say hello to your dog. No eye contact – look up and away.
Cross your arms over your chest. This way, you aren’t tempted to push him away and he isn’t able to sniff and lick your hands.
Turn your whole body away from your dog. Wait. If he chases your attention by moving around to your front, simply turn away again.
When he gives up and stands still (staring at you like you’ve gone crazy), then that’s when you greet your dog and give him some love and attention. This is the reward he was looking for.
Following these rules will ensure he learns that he will only earn that reward by not jumping (don’t overdo the praise or it will just rile your dog up even more to start jumping again).
Part 2: “Sit” means “Hello.”
Continue with Part 1, while adding your cue for “sit.” When your dog sits down (even for a split second), praise and reinforce the sit with physical attention and even a treat.
Drop down to his eye level and give him some good snuggles. Repeat 5-7 times to complete a full practice session.
Part 3: Anticipate Potential Jumping Situations
From here on out, the best way to put this training into action is to be prepared in situations that you expect your dog to jump.
Here are some opportunities you can expect this behavior to creep back into your dog’s life:
— When you come home from a long day at work
— When you let your dog out of his crate
— In the morning when you come out of your room (if your dog sleeps in a different area than you)
— When new people enter the house
— When you let your dog out of the car after a car ride.
In each of these scenarios, it is vital to anticipate your dog’s inclination to jump by keeping calm and quiet yourself and asking your dog to sit right away.
Let your canine companion have a few moments sitting down to check out the situation, let his hormones regulate, and allow him to start thinking about his training.
Part 4: How to Stop a Dog From Jumping Up on Strangers
Start by having a family member or a friend help you with a few practice rounds at home. We’ll call that friend your assistant for now.
Explain to your assistant the rules in Step 1 and ask her to start in another room out of sight.
Ask your assistant to enter the room where you and your dog are waiting without saying anything.
When your dog approaches her, she should follow the same strategy as Step 1.
Anytime your dog stops jumping, even momentarily, your assistant should reward with petting and light praise. Repeat this exercise 5-7 times with your assistant at home.
Then, attach your dog’s leash, and take the training outside to your driveway or sidewalk. Repeat the exercise, this time with your assistant walking up to you from around the corner or from across the street. Repeat this exercise 5-7 times with your assistant outside. Now it’s a matter of trying as many different assistants in as many different locations as possible! Ask your neighbors to play along for a training session!
Soon, your dog will no longer be trying to jump on you or anyone else as a form of attention-grabbing greeting.
Strategies for Managing Jumping
There are two components to eliminating jumping: training and management.
Management prevents the dog from jumping, a self-rewarding behavior.
Training builds on management and involves withdrawing the reward or consequence (you) when your dog starts to jump and providing a reward (you and your attention) when your dog is not jumping or sitting.
Always think in terms of behavior and consequence.
Solving a behavior problem like jumping requires both management of the situation and training your dog.
Management means you must control the situation, so your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to jump up.
Use management techniques until your dog is adequately trained not to jump.
As an example, let’s take the dog that jumps on visitors. To manage your dog’s behavior, you could do one of the following before your guest arrives:
- Put your dog in their crate.
- Confine them in another room.
- Restrain your dog on a leash.
This will prevent the jumping while they are learning proper behavior.
Make sure you do not allow your puppy or dog to rehearse jumping.
Each time your dog jumps, the behavior becomes stronger.
Try putting puppy on a leash and stepping on it when he greets a passerby or bending down to pet your dog so that he has no need to jump to say hello. Tether the puppy when guests arrive and have them approach when he’s got four feet on the floor.
Leashes, actually, prevent this problem completely!
They are the best way, not only to prevent the problem, but also to keep it from continuing!
If you put your dog on leash, you can prevent the dog from jumping on people (including yourself).
I recommend putting a leash by your front door and snapping it on your dog prior to people coming inside. I, often, also recommend typing out and laminating a small sign that says “Please be patient while we put our dog on leash and get his behavior under control. We will be with you momentarily”. This shows family, friends, and acquaintances that you take your dog’s behavior seriously and will help them respect your desire to keep your dog off them.
The consistency will also help your dog to learn that he can never jump on people! All of these quick tips will keep this problem under control!
What Not to Do
Avoid inadvertently rewarding your dog for jumping: Petting your dog or having strangers pet your dog when he jumps reinforces the behavior and should be avoided.
Do not say off or down: The puppy has already jumped on you if you are. Behavior which could have been prevented has been rehearsed and strengthened. Also you are giving your dog attention for jumping. For some dogs, screeching and attempting to reprimand the behavior equals attention and will only serve to increase the likelihood of the behavior.
Do not punish: Jumping is a submissive appeasement gesture. Punishing the dog may only make your dog more eager to appease and jump even more.
It’s crucial that you know ways to ensure that you’re not making the problem worse by reinforcing his jumping with petting, pushing, or talking to him while he’s doing it. And lastly, it’s important that you practice the step-by-step instructions on how to stop a dog jumping up in as many different scenarios as possible.
This is an ongoing lesson for you and your dog to grow stronger over all the years you’ll spend together. Humans don’t learn to read overnight, just like dogs won’t learn to stop jumping in just a couple of training sessions. So, keep up the good work and make it fun for both of you. Soon, you’ll be getting compliments on how courteous your pup is!
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.