To most of us, it’s cute, even adorable, when our new, barely 10lb, puppy is so excited to see us that it does all kind of crazy things, including jumping up at us. It’s not so cute, however, and certainly not adorable, when that puppy has grown to over 100lb and is still doing the same thing. The puppy that could barely get up to our knees is now able to put its paws on our shoulders!
As with all dog behaviors, prevention is better than cure, and it’s a lot easier to prevent your dog from jumping in the first place than it is to cure a jumping habit that has gone on for years. However, the techniques are more or less the same for both and so, in this post, my recommendations for how to stop your dog jumping can be used on dogs of any age.
Why do dogs jump up at us?
There are several theories why dogs jump up at us, typically (though not exclusively) after a period of separation, including;
- A form of social greeting inherent in the species and reinforced during early puppyhood. When dogs meet they typically do so face to face and, puppies, in particular, will often lick the mouths of older dogs, starting with their mother. Because you are their pack leader, your dog wants to do the same with you and jumping is their attempt to get closer to your face.
- Dogs are highly social animals and any period of separation from their pack (you) is upsetting to them. Jumping up at you, as well as things like wagging their tail furiously and ‘crying’, are just a demonstration of their excitement at being reunited with you.
- They want your attention, plain and simple.
In my opinion, the main reason dogs jump is to get your attention. To them, this has worked very effectively since they were young puppies. After all, what do we typically do when our new puppy comes running up to us and then does its little two-legged dance around our feet? We pick it up, or play with it, or tickle its tummy or any one of a dozen different things all of which are heaven to that little ball of fur……mission accomplished. It’s only as the dog gets older (and bigger), and we start to see the jumping as an annoyance, that, rather than reacting positively, we might try to push the dog away and say “no” or “down”. But even in that act, we are showing the dog attention and so it has again achieved its purpose.
Why is jumping a problem?
Kind of obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway.
Even if you are okay with the behavior, your family, guests, and friends may not be. When you take the behavior out into the street you are now involving the public and the risk of confrontation or even litigation. Senior citizens and smaller children who may be unsteady on their feet pose a particular risk when it comes to jumping dogs.
With bigger dogs, the risk of being knocked over, or hurt in some other way, is very real but even with smaller dogs, there is still a risk, particularly if you are distracted or otherwise caught by surprise.
Do you really want your dog to stop jumping?
For many people, particularly those with small dogs, jumping is not a problem and, if you fall into this category, then that’s great. Besides, even though the techniques to stop jumping are very straightforward, the process does take commitment and patience and if you don’t really see a problem you won’t have the necessary commitment.
So, how do you stop this behavior?
As with many other unwanted behaviors, the best, and easiest, way to stop your dog jumping is to simply give her something else to do, in this case, that would be to sit, lie down, or go to a designated area, like her bed. However, this presupposes that your dog has had the requisite training to do one of these things and that they will do it reliably every time. If you cannot count on her to do so then there is no point in giving her the command and so, for the purposes of this article, we are going to assume this is not an option
Stopping your dog jumping is a fairly easy thing to, particularly when compared to other behavioral issues, but, as mentioned earlier, it does take commitment and patience. The process is going to be easier, and faster, with younger dogs but even a dog that has been allowed to jump for years can be taught not to, it will just take a little longer.
You are going to need the support and cooperation of everyone in the household so make sure the whole family is on board. From now on, consistency is key and everyone who has contact with the dog has to act the same way otherwise it just won’t work. Essentially, every time your dog is allowed to jump without consequence, it is going to set you back dramatically.
The techniques you will employ will vary depending upon whether you are in your home with just regular family, in your home with visitors, or outside your home. Remember, dogs are highly contextual creatures so, just because you have taught your dog not to jump on you in your home, this does not mean it will not jump on others, or even you, outside the home. Consequently, you are going to have to work with your dog in all three situations.
In your home with family
Most jumping occurs as we return home and our fur kid is waiting at the door ready to pounce.
All you are going to do, as your dog starts to jump, is to cross your arms (so that they are inaccessible) and turn your back to it. It will no doubt wriggle round in front of you and try again so, again, turn your back. In the beginning, this little dance may continue for a minute or more but it will eventually stop and the moment it does (four paws on the floor) reward with praise and, if you have one immediately available, a treat. The reward itself may cause another round of jumping in which case just repeat the process. With bigger dogs, particularly if they are persistent, you can also push your hips into them as you are turning. This is not going to hurt the dog and the surprise of you doing this will frequently make them stop, at least momentarily, and (with four paws on the floor) give you a chance to praise and treat.
Remember, the primary motive in jumping is to get your attention and, if you deny that attention by turning your back and then show attention with praise (and maybe a treat) when they are calm, your dog will quickly learn that jumping is maybe not such a good idea after all.
Remember also not to ignore any occasion your dog greets you without attempting to jump. This is a great learning opportunity for them so give praise and reward with a treat if available.
In your home with visitors
This is best practiced, at least initially, with friends (fellow dog owners are best) who are prepared to work with you, and fully understand what they need to do. In this case, simply invite them into your home and have them do exactly as described in the preceding few paragraphs. Following a few prearranged practice sessions like this, your dog is going to be a lot more controllable when regular visitors come into your home.
With regular visitors, if you have the opportunity to prep them in advance, and they are willing to participate, you can again use the above-described technique but you need to be sure they understand what to do. In all other cases, you will need to ensure that your dog is simply unable to jump. The best way to achieve this is to attach a leash (make sure you keep in near the door) and then stand on the leash, before you open the door, allowing only enough length for your dog to sit or stand, but not jump. It will undoubtedly try to jump but after a few futile efforts it will stop (self-correction) and that is when you give praise, as can your visitor. Make sure the dog is calm before you take your foot off the leash.
Outside the home
This is the trickiest situation because you are now exposing your dog to people you likely don’t know. Many dogs will only jump on people they know or when in their own home and when they encounter strangers outside their home they do not react at all. If your dog falls in this category then you need only be concerned with encountering people your dog is familiar with. If, however, she jumps on everybody then this is definitely a ‘management’ situation and you will simply need to avoid getting too close to strangers until the jumping habit has been broken. Remember we are not just talking about avoiding an unpleasant confrontation but rather the risk of actual injury. If nothing else, every time your dog successfully jumps on someone you have set their training back several steps at least.
The best way to deal with jumping outside the home is, again, to set up staged encounters with friends in which case you can again have them turn their backs or, if that is impractical, you can step on the leash.
There is no doubt, the easiest way to break the jumping habit is to redirect your dog to another behavior (sit, down, etc.) but, if this is not an option, then enlist the cooperation of family and friends for training sessions in staged scenarios using the techniques outlined above. Avoid completely chance meetings with strangers.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope it has been informative and helpful to you.
Does your dog exhibit unwanted jumping behavior? I would love to receive your comments and if you have any questions I will answer them as soon as possible.