(No) Jumping For Joy

HOW TO KEEP YOUR DOG FROM JUMPING UP ON PEOPLE

by Christie Fernandez // April · May · June 2016

Jumping is one of the most common behavior problems dog owners face. A dog that jumps up on people is rarely welcome at human social functions. Not only is it considered impolite, but jumping can be scary for people who are not comfortable with dogs.

There are many reasons why dogs jump up, and it’s helpful to know that this is a normal canine behavior. Dogs who are not actively taught to not jump will put their paws on people – not because they’re bad dogs, but simply because they don’t understand that there are other ways to greet people they are meeting.

For most dogs, jumping begins early in life. Tiny puppies jump up to lick and sniff at adult dogs’ faces. Jumping up on other dogs is a normal greeting ritual for puppies, and as the puppies mature, they no longer need to jump to sniff noses and breath; thus, they naturally stop doing this. Puppies that are well-socialized to adult dogs tend to grow out of this behavior quickly, and no longer jump on other dogs, except in play, by the time they’re between four and six months old.

Of course, puppies don’t just jump on other dogs. They also jump on people. Unfortunately, most people then proceed to pet, talk to, or play with the puppy, thus reinforcing the behavior. It’s al-ways a good rule not to encourage your puppy to do anything you don’t wish him to do as an adult.

If your dog jumps on people in a friendly way to greet them, there are three simple things that you can do to address this.

The first thing is to make sure that his jumping actions don’t get rewarded. If you greet your dog happily when he jumps on you while you’re wearing jeans, but get upset when he does the same thing while you’re wearing your dry-clean only work clothes, this is not fair. Behaviors that are rewarded tend to get repeated, so if you don’t want your dog to jump up sometimes, then make sure you don’t ever encourage him to do so.

There are times we unintentionally reward jumping. For many dogs, negative attention is still preferable to no attention at all, and these dogs will frequently learn that jumping up is a great way to earn the attention they seek. In this case, the more you yell at your dog and push him down, the more likely he is to jump up on you, because it’s earning him the attention he desires.

Once you’ve made sure that jumping isn’t being rewarded, it’s important to prevent your dog from practicing. Remember that practice makes perfect, so the more chances your dog gets to leap up on people, the better he’s going to get at it.

Preventing your dog from jumping can take several forms. A leash can be one easy way to prevent your dog from jumping on visitors. Hang a spare leash right next to the door so that you can easily leash your dog up before opening it for visitors. Then simply stand on the leash, allowing your dog enough slack to comfortably sit, stand, or lie down – but not jump. You could also consider using a baby gate to keep your dog away from visitors until he calms down.

If your dog jumps on you, it’s helpful to prevent this as well. One easy way to do this is to use some of your dog’s daily food or small training treats to give him something better to do. When you are about to greet your dog after an absence or when he’s very excited and likely to jump, arm yourself with the food or treats before you see him. This may mean that you need to keep some food or training treats outside your door or in your pocket. As soon as you enter the area where your dog is kept, toss the food or treats on the ground. Timing is important here – you want to have the first thing your dog notices be your tossing of goodies on the ground, so that you catch him before he even begins jumping. As your dog vacuums up the treats, you can pet him and greet him, thereby reinforcing his four-on-the-floor behavior.

Once your dog is no longer getting rewarded for jumping or getting the chance to practice jumping, you can teach him what you’d like him to do instead. This is an important step, because dogs do best if we can tell them what to do, rather than just what not to do. Many people teach their dogs to sit before greeting others, and this can be one great option. Active dogs may also do well if they’re taught to go fetch a toy or to perform some other behavior that allows them to release some of their excited energy.

As dog lovers, we all love when our pups cheerfully run toward us, jumping excitedly to let us know how happy they are to see us –  however, not so much when they barrel us over, knocking us to the ground, or covering us with their muddy paws. So gather up some patience and start training your pup now, to nip this pesky pooch behavior in the bud.

Christie Fernandez

The owner of Training Your Best Friend. For more information or to schedule group classes or private in-home training, call or visit their website.