Jumping on people when greeting them is one of the most common complaints dog owners have about their canine companions. While it may be cute when your puppy jumps up to greet you after a long day at work, such behavior can be dangerous when your puppy becomes a large adult dog. So what’s a dog owner to do? We have some suggestions.
Normal, but undesirable, dog behavior
Jumping up is a normal play and greeting behavior of dogs. Dogs greet each other nose-to-nose and typically want to do the same with us. Because our noses aren’t at dog level, they jump up to reach our faces. Dogs also don’t typically intend to hurt the people they’re greeting with a jump or two. They simply don’t understand that humans think it’s poor canine petiquette, especially when they’re allowed to jump on us sometimes.
Other reasons why dogs jump on us:
- To attract attention, whether positive or negative
- To release energy that’s produced as a result of sheer excitement or hyperactivity
- To cope with anxiety triggered by the presence of visitors in the house
Since jumping is part of normal greeting and play behavior, your dog will interact in that way with you and your human family and friends unless he or she is taught to behave differently.
What you can do to curb jumping
Curbing a behavior problem such as jumping requires both management of the situation and training your dog (and potentially yourself and other family members).
The management part of the equation means you must control the situation so your dog doesn’t have an opportunity to jump up. Limiting opportunities for jumping behavior also prevents inadvertent rewards that encourage your dog to continue the behavior.
One option for managing jumping behavior is to remove your dog from situations where jumping is known to occur, such as when visitors arrive at your home. Essentially, you’re not allowing your dog to greet visitors when they first come through the door. You may be able to use a baby gate to confine your dog to a specific area, or you may need to restrict your dog to a crate or room with a closed door. Instead, you can restrain your dog using a head collar or no-pull harness and leash. Once your dog is calm, he or she can calmly welcome visitors. If your dog jumps when approaching guests, gently turn and lead him or her away. Wait for your dog to calm, then approach again.
The training component of eliminating jumping behavior involves withdrawing the reward or consequence (you and your attention) when your dog starts to jump and giving a reward (also you and your attention) when your dog isn’t jumping. By ignoring and not interacting with your dog until he or she is calm, you remove inadvertent reinforcement of the behavior.
One effective strategy to stop some dogs from jumping up is to ignore them while they’re jumping. Each time your dog jumps up, stand calmly and turn away with your arms crossed. Don’t look at, talk to or touch your dog. When the jumping stops, wait for four seconds of four paws on the floor, then reward the calm behavior with your attention. If your dog jumps again, ignore him or her again. In cases where your dog persistently jumps, you may need to walk away or out the door, closing it behind you.
Another effective option is to teach an alternative behavior as an alternative method to greet people. The alternative behavior could be commands your dog already knows, such as “sit,” “stay” or “mat.” If you can teach your dog to do something that’s incompatible with jumping up, he or she can’t perform both behaviors at the same time. And if your dog isn’t sitting, there’s no attention.
Consistency is key
Consistent interactions and training are necessary to teach and solidify desired behaviors. That means it’s important that everyone in the family follows the training program at all times. Jumping behavior will be reinforced only if someone allows the jumping behavior to continue.
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