Jumping up is a common behavior of social dogs when meeting or greeting a human. They persist in this behavior because it grabs our attention, though not always in a positive way!
The habit often begins in puppyhood, when a dog is so small and cute that it’s rarely corrected. However, jumping up into adulthood can be annoying and — toy breeds aside — even potentially dangerous for anyone vulnerable to being knocked over.
Table of Contents:
- Why Does My Dog Jump up at Me?
- How to Stop Your Dog From Jumping
- Aversive Action. Is It Right for Your Dog?
- The Bottom Line
Why Does My Dog Jump up at Me?
When dogs meet each other, they engage face-to-face. Since most humans are taller than our four-legged companions, a dog will leap up to try to engage at your level. For certain dogs who suffer from anxiety or overstimulation, jumping may serve to release pent-up excitement. So why does jumping up become such a hard-to-break habit? This comes back to how dogs learn. Dogs learn to repeat behaviors that are reinforced through rewards — and there are few better rewards than your attention. So when you respond to jumping, it serves as positive feedback (even if your reaction isn’t so positive!), and your dog learns that you’ll respond to jumping up with a burst of attention.
Training and redirection techniques will help to break this habit and teach your pooch to keep their paws on the floor.
How to Stop Your Dog From Jumping
- Break the habit
To change an unwanted behavior, it’s essential to remove the reward. This means withholding attention when your dog jumps up, instead remaining calm and ignoring the urge to push or scold. You can do this by crossing your arms and turning your back. Remain quiet and avoid any reaction until all four paws are back on the ground. Alternatively, remove yourself at the first sign of jumping up. If your dog jumps up at the door to greet you, turn around and exit. Repeat until your dog greets you from the ground.
The key to success in this step is consistency and practice. It may take a long time for the message to become clear. However, not everyone you interact with can be briefed on how to respond. Visitors and strangers may react to jumping, which can undermine training and frustrate your dog, so it’s important to redirect your dog’s motivation.
- The Four-on-the-Floor Method
Train your dog there’s nothing to win by jumping up using the four-on-the-floor approach:
- Keep treats close to hand
- Prepare or stage a meeting with your dog contained or on leash
- Before a greeting, toss several treats on the floor. Allow the greeter to back away.
- Reward your dog by tossing more treats down
- Repeat until your dog remains with four paws down, eventually allowing the greeter to approach and praise only while they remain grounded
- Slowly reduce the treats until the greeting becomes the only reward
- Alternative Greetings
In general, it’s easier to teach what to do rather than what not to do. For example, your dog will understand an affirmative command like “sit” more readily than a reprimand like “don’t jump.” Utilize any effective command you like; if your dog has a strong “sit” command or responds well to being sent to its mat or crate, focus your efforts on that behavior as an alternative to jumping.
When someone approaches or the doorbell sounds, give the alternative command and reward readily until your dog learns that jumping will earn them no attention or snacks, but a successful “sit,” “come,” or “crate” will!
- Be Prepared
Set yourself up for success by stocking pockets with treats and keeping toys near the front door to provide a distraction. You can also install a baby gate that keeps your dog from rushing the main entryway, or direct them to their crate when the doorbell rings. These intermediary steps may make the process of learning. During the training process, keep treats close to hand to encourage your dog to keep four paws on the floor when someone is approaching. Alternatively, try to distract them with a squeaky toy.
- Consistency is Key
Don’t be discouraged if the process takes time; changing unwanted behaviors requires consistency and repetition. If your dog begins jumping again, simply stay quiet and turn away, removing all treats and attention until the bouncing has stopped. Only greet your dog once they’re fully on the ground or performing the given command.
Naturally, you’re not the only person in your dog’s life. The entire household needs to get on board with a collective training effort to make sure your dog doesn’t receive mixed messages about what behavior earns attention. Prepare frequent visitors to the house on how to respond to jumping up — you can even gift them treats to use as a reward when the dog remains on the floor. You can’t control every interaction in your dog’s life. During surprise encounters, ask the other party to ignore your dog if they jump and reinforce the no-reward response.
Aversive Action. Is It Right for Your Dog?
When it comes to jumping up, some training guides recommend aversive action to discourage unwanted behavior. However, these harsher methods do not guarantee a positive outcome and may not be suitable for all dogs.
This method suggests raising a knee to block a jumping dog. This approach requires less engagement than pushing back with hands and keeps the dog away from your body. While this may reduce your dog’s ability to plant its front paws, a raised knee can also be interpreted as wrestling or play by your dog. In turn, boisterous dogs may try to jump higher and harder to win the game!
Some pet owners resort to pulling back hard on a leash when a dog tries to jump up. Of course, this requires the dog to be leashed during any greeting, so it’s only partially effective at best. While yanking back may work in the moment, the reprimand can cause a dog to become fearful of meeting new people and even erode the human-canine bond, causing more serious behavior problems in the long term.
The Bottom Line
The evidence is right in your face: jumping up is a challenging habit to break. Now you’ve learned more, think twice about letting your sweet, small puppy jump up for your attention — you may be creating bigger problems down the road! Rewiring the jump-for-attention behavior is a long process that requires a committed process of withholding attention and redirection but is worthwhile to avoid injury and irritation among the human family members and their guests.