Do you have a dog that jumps on everyone who visits you in your home? Does your over-friendly pup leap up at strangers when you’re walking in the park?
Not everyone is a dog lover, and many people don’t appreciate being bounced on by Fido as soon as they walk through your front door. So, if your answer to these questions is “yes,” you need to take action!
In this article, we take a look at how you can teach your dog not to jump up at strangers, both in and out of your home.
Why Dogs Jump
Before you can take action to prevent your dog from jumping up, you need to understand why he does that.
Watch a mom dog greeting her puppies, and you’ll notice that the pups jump up at her to lick her mouth. In wolves and wild dogs, that behavior stimulates the adult dog to regurgitate food for the pups to eat. Puppies also try to mimic that behavior with people, as a kind of greeting. Unfortunately, as the pups get older, the habit continues until full-scale leaping begins.
Also, young dogs at play jump up at each other, and that’s entirely normal behavior. Unfortunately, since your dog regards you and your friends and family as members of his pack, he will most likely think that it’s fun to jump up at you too.
Sometimes, dogs grow out of the habit of jumping as they get older, but if humans encourage the behavior, it can prolong or worsen it.
Why it’s Problematic
Often, people who don’t own a dog do not appreciate being jumped on and licked by one! Also, small kids can find a jumping dog quite frightening and could even develop a dog phobia as a result. Teaching your dog tricks isn’t a wholly different experience.
If you have a big, heavy dog, a mistimed leap could result in the recipient falling over or being scraped with paws and claws. That’s clearly a potentially dangerous situation and considered bad manners, especially if you have frail seniors or young kids in your household.
Don’t Do These Things
There are two traditional approaches that some people take to try to prevent their dog from jumping up. Unfortunately, these tactics don’t work for reasons we’ll explain here.
So, if you want to stop your dog jumping up at people, don’t use the following traditional preventative methods:
Lift Your Knees
One knee-jerk reaction to a jumping dog is to raise your knee as the dog charges towards you. The idea is that the dog impacts with your hard knee, rather than your soft, squishy tummy.
The main problem with this method is that you could cause injury to the dog, especially if he’s a small breed. And if the dog is large and heavy, you could end up with a damaged knee! Many times in this scenario, the person being jumped on ends up on the floor.
Also, pushing and shoving is likely to encourage a young dog to “play” even more enthusiastically.
Getting physical is all very well if you’re a strapping young guy, but what about a child or an elderly, frail person? The knee-up approach won’t work. Period.
Only Ignore The Dog
So, how about ignoring the dog?
Well, to some extent, it’s true to say that ignoring the dog can work, as the cavorting canine will eventually stop behavior that goes unrewarded.
However, ignoring the dog is just a part of the solution, rather than solving the whole problem.
Also, some dogs actually enjoy the act of leaping up at you, even if they receive no response from you at all. The game is all about trying to get a reaction from you, so the dog will most likely carry on jumping until he receives a response. Often, the jumping will become more and more boisterous as the dog takes out his frustrations on his victim!
And if the dog is a big, heavy type, you and members of your family could end up sustaining severe injuries.
One big problem with both these tactics is that your visitors may choose not to follow your advice on how to deal with a jumping dog. Some people enjoy being leaped on and find the experience amusing and entertaining, so your dog will end up receiving mixed signals.
So, what’s to be done?
Do This Instead
You’ll need to approach this training project from two angles:
- Physically preventing the dog from jumping up
- Training the dog not to jump up
First of all, you need to physically prevent your dog from jumping up at vulnerable family members and visitors. Then, you need to educate your dog in the polite way to greet your visitors, strangers he meets in the street or at the dog park. These two methods can form a winning combination that will permanently cure your dog of the habit of jumping up.
Dogs jump up for fun. The act of jumping is self-rewarding in that the act itself makes the dog happy.
So, the more the dog jumps, the happier he gets, and the more he wants to repeat the behavior. You need to break the cycle so that the dog is no longer rewarded by being allowed to jump.
When out walking, the best way of physically preventing a dog from jumping up at people you meet is to use a no-pull harness and leash combo, especially if your dog is a large, heavy breed. For the dog’s safety, use a harness, rather than a collar and leash.
If the harness is not strong enough to restrain your dog, you’ll need to use a special head collar, which will give you much more control.
Now you have control of your dog outside, what about when he’s in your home?
To physically prevent your dog from leaping up at visitors or family members, you’ll need to employ a house-line. A house-line is simply a short leash that your dog must wear all the time he’s inside your house.
Attach the house-line to the dog’s harness. That gives you control over your dog without you having to pull on your pet’s neck, which could cause injury.
When you receive visitors to your home, be sure to grab the house-line before the dog has a chance to jump up. Try to restrain your boisterous pup before he gets close enough to contemplate jumping.
Now that you have your dog under full control using a house-line, you can move on to the next step of training him to greet your visitors politely.
You do that by picking an alternate, acceptable behavior, rather than jumping. When your dog offers you a satisfactory response, reward him.
Acceptable behaviors you could choose from include:
- Four feet on the floor
- Sit down
To be successful in this endeavor, you’ll need to do a little preparation before you start:
- Have a supply of treats to hand
- Distract your dog
- Acknowledge the desired behavior
- Back-up the acknowledgment with a reward
Let’s look at these steps in more detail:
- Have treats to hand
Many people fail in their training, simply because they forget to ensure that they have a reward for their dog when he does the right thing. When teaching a new skill to your pet, be generous with your rewards.
Have a container of training treats on hand in your home, and take a pouch of treats with you when you take your dog out for a walk or to the dog park.
- Distract your dog
If your dog becomes very excited when visitors call, it can be a helpful tactic to distract him. You can do that by sprinkling some treats onto the floor when your guests arrive.
Distraction helps to divert the dog’s focus away from the visitors, keeping your pet’s attention on you as the provider of tasty treats! Distraction is especially crucial if your dog has previously been rewarded for jumping up by being petted and fussed by your visitors.
Your dog must understand that, from now on, the only reward your pet receives is from you, as long as all four of his paws remain firmly on the ground!
- Acknowledge the desired behavior
Be sure to acknowledge desirable behaviors and reward them with a treat. That keeps the dog’s focus on you and not on the visitor. The acknowledgment is a word that you make that tells your dog that he did the right thing.
Practice teaching your dog acknowledgments by asking him to sit, and then saying “Good boy” and throwing him a treat.
Once you’ve chosen an acknowledgment word, don’t change it. If you think you might forget the word you’ve chosen in the heat of the moment and you find it easier, use a clicker.
- Back-up the acknowledgment with a reward
So, when guests arrive at your door, prevent the dog from jumping up by using the house-line. Wait for your dog to sit or keep all four feet in contact with the ground, say “good boy,” and then place a treat on the ground for him.
Placing the treat on the floor is better than offering one from your hand, as it deters the dog from jumping up to get the reward.
Teaching your dog to greet visitors politely is really about repetition and consistency. Reward your dog each time he shows the behaviors you want to see and always use the same acknowledgment word.
Once your dog has learned to greet people politely, and without leaping all over them, you can begin to wean your pet off the house-line and leash when you take him out walking.
You can also begin to teach your dog to take rewards from passing strangers that you encounter while you’re out walking and from visitors to your home.
Ask your dog to sit down as the guest or stranger approaches. If your pet remains calm and is obedient, give your visitor a treat to offer your dog. You may need to continue using the house-line for a while just in case of relapse in the dog’s good behavior.
Some dogs love to bring something in their mouth to present to visitors, and that can nix jumping! Keep a supply of suitable “gifts” close to your front door, and give your dog a stuffed toy or a chew to carry when visitors arrive.
If your dog becomes overexcited when visitors arrive but settles down once they are sitting down quietly in your home, try setting up a playpen to contain your pet while you open the door and show your guests inside.
Once your visitors are sitting down and the dog has become calmer, let him out of the playpen and supervise him as he politely says hello to the newcomers. You may need to leave your dog’s harness and house-line on until you can be confident that he won’t jump up.
A dog that jumps up at visitors can be a real nuisance and could even be downright dangerous. You can train your dog not to jump up at people by using the physical restraint and training techniques that we’ve outlined in this article.
If you experience problems when teaching your dog not to jump up, we recommend that you seek the advice of a professional dog trainer who may suggest an intensive course of training.