Teach Your Dog Not to Jump
Do you share your life with a jumper (not the sweatshirt kind of jumper but the canine variety)? Do you find yourself late to work due to snagged skirts or paw-printed muddy trousers? Do friends shy away from visiting for fear of being knocked over? Whether your dog has been jumping up on you for years, or you have a new puppy, the following guide will help you help your dog to keep their four paws firmly on the ground.
Why Do Dogs Jump?
There are a number of reason why dogs jump up on people including greeting and dominance behaviours. The truth is, though, that your dog is probably jumping up to say, “Look at me!” 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 expressions and silly antics earn our affection, and what behaviours 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? Yes, absolutely, they will continue jumping!
You might inadvertently be rewarding your puppy or dog when they jump up on you by giving them what they want. We are all guilty at times of forgetting about positive attention – (when your dog is being good and not praising rewarding them) but giving them negative attention when they are naughty (giving them attention for naughty behaviour). For a dog any attention is better than no attention. Your dog doesn’t necessarily realise that when you push them off you or shout at them to get down that you are attempting to punish them. Instead, your dog may view your behaviour as exactly what they are seeking: 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 therefore that instead of rewarding (giving your dog attention) when they jump up for you to make it more rewarding for them to keep all four paws on the floor.
When Do Dogs Jump?
Dogs jumping up when you get home
This is the “best rehearsed” type of jumping up. While other forms of jumping up, such as on visitors or people in public, only occur maybe once or twice a week, every family member will come home every day and offer an opportunity for this behaviour to be practiced. Your dog very quickly builds up a habit of excited jumping and gets to ingrain it rapidly because of the daily practice. Unfortunately training never stops with dogs and unless every single time your dog jumps up at you, training needs to take place, not just during ‘formal scheduled training sessions’.
When you get home after a long day at work or even just a quick trip to the supermarket (for many dogs there is not difference between the two) your dog will be overjoyed to see you. They may want to lick your face, sniff you, and generally say “Welcome back!!” in the most excited way possible. Most of all they one thing: Attention and engagement.
This is where the self enhancing nature of jumping up comes from: It is difficult to not engage with a dog that is jumping up in your face. On the other hand, it is easy to ignore a dog who has four paws on the floor or sits patiently. Some time in the past your dog might have learned that if they stand back, you will put away your groceries, check your emails, have a cup of coffee but if they jump up as high as possible, they will definitely get some attention.
Dogs jumping up at visitors
A visitor coming to your home for many dogs is an exciting event, someone new to play with, to be made a fuss by. Your dog is excited and before you know it they are jumping up at your visitor. In the same way your dog jumps up at you when you get home, your dog is overjoyed and happy and is demonstrating this by jumping. The likelihood is your visitor doesn’t want to be jumped up at by your dog and potentially scratched, items of clothing torn or pushed over.
Dogs jumping up at people in public
Nobody wants to be walking in the park and to be confronted by a dog jumping up at them. Many dogs however think that it is absolutely fine to greet everyone they see with a hugely enthusiastic ‘cuddle’ by jumping up at them.
When a dog jumps up on people in public, this is a bigger problem than mere over excitement. This is a dog thinking that strangers in the park are far more fun that their owner. It is important to realise just how much dogs like to do fun, novel and exciting things. If a walk consists of your dog going where they want and you either just about hanging onto the lead and going through the motions, your dog is in control of you and is looking for more fun than you at the end of the lead.
A walk should be the time when you are part of providing your dog with those new and fun experiences they crave and not the time when you tell them “Leave it” as they try to find these experiences themselves.
What NOT to Do when Your Dog Jumps?
Before we look at how to stop your dog jumping in the situations detailed above, let’s take a look at what you should absolutely not do in these situations.
Shouting is a waste of your time. Shouting doesn’t work. Dogs often don’t know how to deal with our anger when they are already excited. Your dog is excited to see you, excited you are home, trying to communicate something with you, or trying to play with you and you shout. Shouting confuses dogs. Your dog is excited, and you seem angry? So, in an effort to appease you, your dog gets more excited or agitated and confused and jumps on you more.
Imagine being in love with someone, sincerely missing them for what seems like forever (months) and then having them meet you with indifference and anger. Would you be confused or hurt? Would you try to cheer them up or change their mind?
Your dog doesn’t understand when you shout, it is that simple!
Many people are told to just turn their back when their dog or another dog jumps on them. For the majority, this doesn’t work.
Jumping is a self-rewarding behavior, so to some degree it doesn’t matter how much shouting, pushing away, ignoring or turning you try to do, your dog is getting something out of jumping on you.
Their brain fills with oxytocin and serotonin as soon as they get near to you and touch you. This also happens when you touch your dog, but if you don’t do it fast enough they realise they can just jump into your space and onto you.
Your dog doesn’t mean any harm at all by doing this, dogs aren’t born knowing and understanding our human rules and guidelines. They require teaching!
They don’t understand that it hurts sometimes when they jump. They don’t understand how dangerous it is to jump on babies, toddlers, children or the elderly. They don’t understand when you are dressed up and you don’t want your tights ripped. They especially don’t understand when you are inconsistent!
Turning away from your dog just makes jumping more of a game. They jump, you turn, they jump again. Seems like a fun game from the perspective of a dog. Turning away is like playing a game of keep away – and dogs LOVE keep away.
Pushing away is another choice that will, almost certainly, confuse your dog. Some will claim that it has worked for them in the past, but not only is pushing away rather cruel, it often doesn’t work unless there is significant pain associated with it on several occasions.
Training your dog by hurting them? No absolutely not!
Dealing With Your Dog Jumping
As with anything, prevention is the first and best plan. Confession time….. how many of you reading this think of it as cute when you see a young puppy stretching up and jumping in order to reach your hand? Or when they up to you for comfort and cuddles? Of course it is sweet and it also makes us feel important and the ones they come to for love. The problem is that a few months and many pounds later that same dog can knock you over with that same action, and suddenly it’s not so cute or welcomed anymore.
Even small dogs can be unpleasant when they jump, because they often use their paws to scratch at your leg until you respond to their needs. Often dog jumping gets more intense as time goes on and is soon followed by scratching, barking, pushing and so on.
In order to help prevent this behaviour issue, always control the environment, especially with young dogs. Make it clear right from the start that jumping will not bring any rewards. Most people fail to stick to a strict or consistent plan. When dealing with animals you need to always be consistent. Avoid playing with your dog in a way that will encourage jumping up on you. If you reach a point that your dog or puppy starts jumping during your play, stop for a moment or two, let your dog calm down a little and then continue playing.
There are a few ways to deal with dog jumping issues. As mentioned above the best way is not to encourage your dog in the first place.
First of all, ask yourself what you would like your dog to do instead of jumping; would you like them to sit, down, or it is okay if they stand around as long as they don’t jump? Training an alternative behaviour is a first step. Now with that said if you wish to use the sit or down command for example, be aware that your dog needs to be fluent in performing these exercises, they needs to have reached the point where the sit or down command is performed regardless of the environment and situation, and also keep in mind that you will be dealing with a high level of distraction and energy.
Having visitors at the door is a highly distracting situation, as is playing with a dog, so it isn’t surprising that these are two of the most common times that the dog jumping behaviour occurs the most.
You will need patience; all family members and all visitors will have to stick to the same training plan. Depending on your dog’s energy level, size, etc., you may need to use an obstacle like a baby gate in the beginning of the training.
Places like the entrance way and around the main door are places where the dog has already established an emotional attachment. This is the place where they get excited before going out, as well as the place where they get excited when someone comes through the door. The reason for mentioning this is that it is more difficult dealing with a dog in that environment, simply because the level of energy and excitement is classically conditioned.
The longer your visitors spend in that area; the more the dog will get over-excited. By simply moving through and away from that area faster, you will help the dog keep a lower energy level and calm down quicker.
Teaching Your dog To Sit
If your dog does not already know “sit,” practice the basics until they sit on every command. Ask them to sit by putting a treat in front of their nose and moving it directly back in an invisible line toward their tail. When your dog rocks back into a sit, praise them and give the treat. If you ask your dog to sit and they decide not to, do not praise them or reward with a treat. Our guide Teach Your Dog 4 Basic Commands details how to teach your dog to sit.
You will be surprised at how quickly your dog catches on. When the sit every time you ask them, start mixing up the rewards. Sometimes give food treats and sometimes give a pat on the head, or a brief game of fetch with a favourite toy. They are now earning your attention by sitting, not jumping.
The next step is to expect them to sit a little longer each time before getting the treat or attention. Start with short intervals, first about 3 seconds, then 5, then 10. If they get up too quickly, do not give them food or attention. Before long, they should be able to sit for a full minute or two.
The next step
The next step is a little tougher. Your dog now knows that sitting gets the reward they are after. But they still have to learn that jumping no longer works. Be prepared as this does not happen overnight but it does work. Whenever your dog jumps they must be totally and completely ignored, no angry words, no pushes, no pats, not even eye contact.
This will undoubtedly be a challenge. Your dog will jump for attention. When they are ignored, they will quite possibly jump even higher. And when that does not work, they may jump even higher, clawing and barking. This behavior is normal and a part of your dog’s learning process.
Your dog must learn that no matter how high they jump, they will always be ignored. Only then will they settle down enough so that you can tell them to sit. Once they sit, give your dog lots of praise and attention. Then keep a close watch on your dog.
Before they even get to the stage of crouching to jump, give the “sit” command. When they sit, reward again with lots of praise and attention. Any time they try to get up from the sit, straighten up, turn your back and give them the cold shoulder. It may take some time, but soon your dog will learn that to avoid being ignored and to get the attention they want, sitting is the only answer. Everyone in the household must stick to the rules and be consistent.
If getting your dog to sit doesn’t work
Instead of having the dog predict an exciting, over the top welcome party, you need to teach your dog to associate a new emotion with you arriving home. If your dog expects a calm, low key encounter, they will not be in the mindset to jump . A dog that is relaxed and not excited is not a dog that jumps.
To promote the quiet state of mind, sniffing, chewing or licking are great activities. They are very relaxing for your dog and are an inbuilt calming system.
Before you leave, make some preparations for your return. You could fill a Kong or a similar toy and put it in your freezer, or fill a box with some treats placing it close to your front door. You can also use a lick mat, spread peanut butter on it and put it in the fridge.
When you get home, immediately give your dog the “calming item”. Go to your freezer/fridge and get out the lick mat or Kong, or take the treats from the box and scatter them for your dog (either inside or outside, whichever you prefer).
The first few times your dog will probably still jump on you, this is okay. It takes a while to build up the new expectation and emotion that they will connect to the situation.
The great thing however is that when we change the underlying emotion from “Oh yes!” to “Ahhhhh yes, my relaxing chewing time”, this will automatically change the outward display of behaviour, from excitable to calm. A dog that expects to lie down and chew will not be crazy and jumping everywhere.
Important: It will be crucial that you do not engage with your dog in an exciting way. Do not say “Hiiiii!” in a high pitched squeaky voice, do not give them attention by stroking them or smiling at them enthusiastically. For a dog that is already very hyped up, these small gestures can be enough to push them over the top. In order to effectively stop jumping, you need to make sure that you train your dog to not expect an elaborate welcome back party.
Consistency is Vital
You can’t expect your dog or puppy to learn that jumping is “wrong” if you allow it sometimes. Being inconsistent is unfair.
Make a pact as a family, friends, visitors, that no one will allow this behaviour. Whatever training methods you choose to accept and apply, stick to them. Don’t compromise and ensure that your dog is not jumping.
You must be consistent!