Stop Dogs from Jumping Up… For Good
You want to know how to stop dogs from jumping up? Maybe your dog has been a little too excited to greet people lately. I get it, I get it…
You probably don’t care WHY dogs jump up as much as you just want the behavior fixed. You just want to stop dogs from jumping up. But, I can fix it for you! All it takes is a little time and consistency. However, sometimes understanding a behavior will actually help you to stop it.
I think it is also imperative to understand your puppy, because it better ensures that you don’t become as quickly and overly frustrated.
Jumping up is a natural behavior for dogs. Dogs jump all over each other. This is often how they initiate play. They learn from a young age to jump on us when they are excited or want to be picked up.
Most of us pick up our puppies and put them close to our faces; many of us kiss them. So when a dog is excited, it seems a natural response to hurl his big enthusiastic body at you, to express his elation. It makes sense that in order to keep your dog from jumping up on you and family and friends, you will need to teach him that jumping is always unacceptable.
So what is so wrong with jumping? Well, aside from being a very rude, pushy doggie behavior, a jumping dog can hurt someone, causing split lips, bruises and black eyes, toppled toddlers and even grown adults who aren’t expecting it. Dogs want to please us, and we hate to be jumped on, so why do they do it?
In a dog pack, alpha dogs are the only dogs who are able to get away with rude, demanding physical solicitations like jumping or pawing, so a dog who is jumping up may be anxious and confused about what he is supposed to be doing and what is expected of him. He may also misread your commands of “No! No! Stop!” and attempts to push him down as an invitation to play. When you train your dog to stop jumping, you may find that your dog will be calmer and more relaxed because they understand clearly how they need to behave to earn your love and affection.
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.
Teach an Incompatible Behavior and Greeting
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!
Keep It From Happening to Guests
Whereas a puppy jumping up won’t hurt most people, it can get worse as your dog matures and grows, a jumping dog can seriously injure a geriatric individual or toddler. I make a point of ensuring that my dogs never get the opportunity to jump on guests. Jumping is a bad habit. It is a bad habit that you don’t want your dog to start!
Put your dog on leash. I am always amazed that people think they can have control over this behavior, and how their dog greets people, when their dog is off leash. Inevitably, the dog pounces guests and then the owner is off yelling and screaming and trying to reprimand as the dog swoops in for multiple pounces.
Unfortunately, this is fun for your dog. So, I don’t want my dogs to figure out that this game exists. Instead, I want them to understand that I am in control and will give them commands and keep them from jumping.
When they are calm and contained on the leash, they can be petted by the guest, provided they maintain their obedience and good behavior. I suggest you invite some friends or family over with the intention of teaching your dog! After many visits, your dog will simply settle in and know how to act because you have given him the tools he needs to know what you want and what your expectations for him are.
Here’s a game that helps you use the leash to train dog’s not to jump on guests:
Jumping up is a common behavior problem among dogs. You may be annoyed by your excited, overly exuberant dog attacking you the minute you step through the front door. But it can actually be dangerous for small children, people who have physical disabilities, some older people, and people who aren’t expecting your dog’s greeting, especially if your dog is off the leash. The good news is that you can train your dog to stop jumping on people and start greeting everyone more politely.
Why Do Dogs Jump Up?
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 expression 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.
How to Stop the Jumping Up
When your dog jumps, it can injure someone or cause damage to clothing or furniture. Training your dog not to jump up on people takes patience and persistence on your part. Be aware that there are actions that you should take and others that you should avoid. Be consistent when you’re training your dog, and you’ll be rewarded with a best friend who keeps its front paws to itself.
So how do you stop the jumping? The first part of teaching a dog not to jump up involves withholding your attention. There are a couple of ways to do this. We’ll explore both of them below.
Adopt a rule to make sure that your dog or puppy has all four on the floor. This means that unless all four paws are on the ground, you pretend that your dog does not exist. Don’t look at them, touch them, talk to them or acknowledge them in any way unless all four paws are on the ground. If your dog jumps on you, cross your arms and look away. When your dog has all four paws on the floor, lavish him or her with attention. After repeating this a few times, your dog will get the idea and learn that when all four paws are on the ground, they are the light of your life. When they jump? Nada, zero, zip, no attention whatsoever.
It may sound like a cruel idea, but it works. In order to be good pet parents, you have to establish clear rules and effective leadership in order to take away our pet’s stress and anxiety that unclear leadership always brings.
As soon as your dog or puppy jumps up, turn your back. Cross your arms over your chest and don’t make a sound. If the puppy runs around to jump up again, turn the other way. Wait for the dog or puppy to stop jumping.
Another method is to remove yourself altogether. If your dog jumps up when you walk in the door, turn around and walk back outside. If it jumps up when you’re inside, walk out of the room. Wait a moment; then step back inside. Repeat this until your dog calms down.
Reward Good Behavior
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 work still, 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.
Practice Makes Perfect
It helps if you can set up situations to practice with your dog. For instance, if the jumping occurs most often when you come home after work, spend a few minutes several times a day coming and going. Don’t make a big fuss over your dog and step back outside if your dog jumps up. Offer a reward anytime all four feet are simultaneously on the floor.
Add a Sit Command
Once your dog is able to keep four paws on the floor for a few seconds or more, start asking it to sit. Walk into a room or through the front door and give the command “sit.” As soon as the dog sits, offer a treat. Practice this over several training sessions. With plenty of repetitions, your dog will start sitting as soon as you walk through the door or enter the room.
Practice With Other People
It’s not enough that you practice with your dog. You should also involve friends and family in this training. Otherwise, your dog may learn that it’s not OK to jump up on you but everyone else is fair game.
Having other people help with this training teaches your dog to keep all four paws down no matter who comes into the room. When your dog jumps, no matter who the recipient of the pounce is, you need to make certain that it won’t be a regular problem by completing this practice with a variety of individuals.
What Not to Do
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 knee your dog in the chest or step on their paw? 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 or aversive. 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.
The Bottom Line:
If your dog jumps only when they are overly excited, then do everything you can to take their excitement down a notch when it reaches the point where jumping is imminent. For example, if your dog jumps all over you when you get home from work because you greet them enthusiastically and lavish them with kisses and attention, try calmly walking through the door and ignoring your dog for a few minutes until they are over their initial peak of excitement and are in a calmer state of mind.
Your dog isn’t a person, he doesn’t know what you want and what your expectations of him are, until you teach him what you want him to do! Be consistent with what you’re trying to teach him; if you don’t want him to jump, communicate it through proper training and be steady with the message that you’re sending so that you don’t cause any confusion.
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.