How to stop your dog from jumping
By Kristia Goodnight
While most people find a dog jumping up at them as one of their least favorite ways to be greeted, dogs of all sizes naturally enjoy jumping on people. In fact, one of the most common behavioral issues pet owners seek to correct is stopping their dog from jumping.
Understanding why your dog jumps and meeting their intentions with the appropriate training methods is the most effective way to stop your dog from jumping. If your dog jumping up on people is something you would like to eliminate, consistent dog training is the best option.
Why is dog training important to stop jumping?
Consistent dog training benefits both your family and your dog. Training your dog opens communication options, sets expectations, and creates structure.
A dog who regularly jumps can become a dangerous situation. Jumping dogs can accidentally cause injury to humans or themselves, access toxic substances, or even become lost.
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Large dogs jumping up on small children, older adults, and anyone a bit unsteady on their feet can lead to falls and injury. Smaller dogs can injure themselves by jumping up on people or jumping into the arms of humans, leading to a trip to the emergency vet.
Dogs permitted to jump often become counter surfers, jumping up to reach foods on countertops and tables, giving them access to potentially toxic ingredients.
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Dogs who jump on visitors can create a situation where their excitement and the distraction of jumping turn a greeting into an opportunity for an escape.
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Does dog training really work to stop dogs jumping?
Puppies and most adult shelter dogs have not been taught ideal ways to greet people. They will naturally greet people as other dogs: getting face-to-face, jumping, licking, and initiating play. This is simply instinctual behavior.
The benefits of consistent dog training can be seen after just a few training sessions in many dogs, especially puppies. Puppies have not yet had the time to learn and have unwanted behaviors reinforced. Have patience in redirecting a natural behavior, especially with adult dogs who have had time to reinforce unwanted jumping behaviors.
Why do dogs jump?
Dogs have been recorded to clear six feet high obstacles, so getting a couple of paws on a person or counter is not a challenge for most dogs. Dogs jump for several reasons.
A dog who jumps may be investigating an interesting smell or assessing a new person. They also might want something a person has, especially if that something seems like a toy or a snack.
Dogs naturally meet and greet each other face-to-face, and many dogs wait hours for their people to return home, building up excitement. Both factors lead to dogs greeting humans by jumping up to be face to face or even bouncing off humans and objects.
Dogs may jump at their owners when frightened in the same way children do. Others may have a difficult time being apart from their humans. Separation anxiety can lead to jumping to receive affection and attention when your dog is feeling insecure.
Dogs naturally jump and wrestle when playing with other dogs and with people. Playing together is essential to a happy dog, but you don’t want to send mixed signals about jumping. The best method to give your dog an outlet to express their natural jumping behavior is to use a flirt pole or flirt stick in a designated play area. Your dog can chase and jump after the flirt pole toy and work out their natural energy and instincts.
How to stop a dog from jumping on you: what not to do
Dog behavior develops from two sources: their instincts and reinforced behaviors. So, if your cute puppy is allowed or encouraged to jump up for head pats, jumping up is being taught as a way to receive attention. Even some more common advice for stopping dog jumping actually reinforces it.
Pushing the dog away or down is sometimes reflexive, especially in children. But pushing a dog off of you will actually make them more excited. In dog language, you are initiating play. This will escalate the unwanted behavior and may lead to more jumping and nipping.
A knee to the dog’s chest is an old training method that is both ineffective and dangerous. Kneeing a jumping dog can cause injury to the dog’s neck or chest regardless of the dog’s size, even if you don’t use much force. It also is seen as aggressive play by most dogs and will lead to more excitement.
Turning away saying ‘no!’ is also likely to increase your dog’s desire to jump. After all, they are still getting a response from you, even if it is not an ideal one. Persistent dogs may see this move as a game or challenge as well.
A big reaction like screaming or waving your hands will excite your dog and encourage jumping as they are receiving attention in your reaction.
Inconsistent rules like ‘my dog can jump on me but not on guests or children’ or eventually giving in to jumping on occasion will create confusion for your dog. This leads to frustration for both of you and ultimately greatly hinders your training efforts.
How to train a dog to not jump and stop a dog from jumping
The science-backed approach to training a dog not to jump is to reinforce incompatible behavior and prevent the need for jumping. There are several methods you can use when teaching a dog not to jump.
Teaching your dog that an alternate behavior (rather than jumping) is a better way to receive positive attention is the most effective way to stop a dog from jumping.
- Train “Sit” Cue: a dog can’t physically sit and jump at the same time.
- Train “Off” Cue: it's useful for a quick correction if your dog does jump up.
- Train other incompatible behaviors like ‘find it’ with a high-value reward. Drop treats at your feet or tossing them a few feet away while saying ‘find it’ is a great distraction.
- Train “four on the floor”.
- Loose leash training: tether your dog to something solid or use your foot to tether your dog in place while learning to sit or four on the floor.
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How do I train my dog not to jump on visitors?
Teaching a dog not to jump on visitors is a two-part process. Continue with your chosen training method. And make it a priority to tell anyone visiting your home about your training method and ask them to follow your process. This will reinforce your training and teach your dog that jumping is not the desired behavior in any situation.
When first introducing your jumping-prone dog to visitors, consider leashing your dog before greeting. While working on training, keep a short leash or stand on the end of the leash to limit your dog's ability to jump up. This will help set them up for success.
If you find your guests encouraging jumping (common with small dogs), gently remind them of the importance of your dog’s training and ask them to help your dog succeed.
What are the benefits of training your dog not to jump?
Training your dog not to jump will protect them from dangers like accessing toxic foods, escaping and becoming lost, and even injury. You and your guests will enjoy a calm welcome when entering your home, and your dog will know with confidence how to ask for your attention and affection.
Training is an involved aspect of pet ownership, but the benefits of a trained dog are worth every minute of training. A well-trained dog can live a more free and calm life. Training options include group classes, individual training, and online class plans like Petcademy.