A dog jumping with joy is cute when they’re a puppy, but as they grow up, persistent jumping can become a problem. This behavior, which is all too common among canines, poses safety concerns for both dogs and humans and needs to be addressed immediately. Pouncing dogs can be especially dangerous to small children, the elderly, and any unsuspecting individuals.
Pups that are inclined to jump also tend to counter surf and get themselves into trouble by consuming things they shouldn’t, leading to emergency visits to the clinic. Thankfully, this common issue can be easily rectified. Proper training early on can curb your pet’s enthusiastic leaps and help them become a well-behaved family member.
Keep reading to find out the reason why your dog jumps and how to stop them from jumping in various scenarios. A step-by-step guide will provide you with the tools to implement on your own to stop this behavior for good.
Why do dogs jump?
There are many theories as to why a dog jumps; the most prominent is their need for attention. When you enter the house, your tail-wagger comes running and bounds up towards you, begging to be picked up or pet. Dogs also jump when they are excited, or when they anticipate excitable moments during their day, like when they are about to be fed or taken for a walk. Prior to training, my Cocker-Spaniel mix would start jumping at the mere sight of me entering the kitchen because he thought it was time for a meal or treat.
Some dogs jump because the act is fun for them and they are rewarded for their behavior. Lauren Jay, certified dog trainer and Owner of Paw & Order: Canine Intent in New York City, states, “Some dogs jump because they are petted or given attention every time they jump. Therefore, they are taught that jumping gets them what they want. Dogs also jump to get access to something out of their reach.”
Is jumping bad for dogs?
While jumping may seem harmless when the dog is young and small, it could turn dangerous as they get bigger. The behavior is especially problematic when the household has small children or older individuals, who are at risk of being knocked down and hurt. This situation, unfortunately, can lead to the family re-evaluating their dog and considering surrendering them.
In some cases, out of reflex, humans can use a knee to the dog’s chest to prevent them from jumping, knocking them down, and causing serious harm. Dogs may also consider being knocked down as a form of attention and continue to jump, making the situation worse. Yanking at the leash to prevent leaping onto strangers or other animals can also cause harm to your dog.
Allowing your dog’s jumping can also invite other unwanted behaviors. “A jumping dog, whether he is 3 lbs or 103 lbs can turn him into a very pushy or a demanding dog,” warns Jay. This forceful behavior can lead to attention-seeking behaviors like excessive barking, aggressive jumping, and mouthing/nipping when the dog doesn't get the attention they are normally used to getting.
Additionally, permitting a dog to jump a majority of the time, but pushing them away at other times sends mixed signals, causing confusion. According to Jay, some people don’t mind when their dog jumps on them, “but they decide it is unacceptable if the dog is wet, or if they are wearing nice clothes. This gives mixed messages and can be very confusing to the dog.” To avoid this bafflement, it’s best to be consistent when it comes to training your dog not to jump.
How to stop a dog from jumping
Whether you’ve just gotten a puppy or an adult dog from the shelter, it is important to curb bad behaviors early on. While the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” still persists, the truth is, a dog of any age can learn not to jump by way of positive reinforcement and proper training.
Pet parents can learn how to train a dog to stop jumping by practicing the following techniques. Keep in mind that this process will take time, patience, and persistence.
Ignore jumping and reward good behavior
A good way to stop a dog from jumping is by ignoring the behavior and only rewarding them when they sit or stay down. As soon as your dog starts to jump, turn your back and cross your arms over your chest, so your dog receives the message that you are not going to pet them. If your dog circles around to jump again, turn away once more, and wait for them to stop jumping. Only bend down to give them attention when they have all four paws on the ground.
“If they only get attention for sitting and/or laying down, they will start offering sits and downs instead of jumping,” suggests Jay.
Another technique for persistent jumpers is turning away and going back out the front door or out of the room. It can take a few attempts at the beginning for the dog to understand that jumping will not get them what they want: you and your attention.
Urge visitors to follow training techniques
Let visitors know ahead of time to ignore your dog’s jumping and not to reward them with petting or treats as soon as they enter the house. Additionally, train your dog not to jump on strangers by having your pet on a leash and only allowing them to interact with the guests once they’re sitting.
“The moment the dog no longer has all four feet on the ground, grab the attached leash and lead him away from the guest. This teaches the dog that jumping gets him further from what he wants,” says Jay.
Teach “sit” and “off” commands
When your dog realizes that they will be rewarded when they’re on the floor, introduce the “sit” command. The next time they willingly sit, continue to use the word to associate it with the behavior and reward them with a treat. This technique will keep them from jumping at you at the door, as they will anticipate a treat for sitting. Similarly, teach the dog the “off” command to prevent them from jumping on couches and counters.
When it comes to your dog jumping on other dogs, it’s important to redirect to acceptable behavior. This can be accomplished by calling your dog to come to you. The best way to get them to do this is by associating coming when called through positive reinforcement, by giving attention and/or treats.
Regardless of breed, it’s best to be consistent when managing unwanted behavior. It may seem alright for a chihuahua to jump since they’re tiny, but allowing this to continue will lead to other unpleasant conduct.
Puppies vs. adults
It’s easier to train a puppy, as they haven’t yet learned bad behaviors. “Puppies have a clean slate. They've never been taught what's good, what's bad. Start ignoring the behaviors you don't want to happen and immediately bring attention to the behavior you love, and you are going to see the puppy offering that on his own,” says Jay.
When dealing with an adult, Jay is a bit stricter because the dog has already developed bad habits over the years. “I think it’s best for a dog that has been doing this for so long to be denied access from practicing the unwanted behavior in the first place. No attention whatsoever should be given to the jumping dog, including pushing the dog off or reprimanding him, because any attention, whether it’s positive or negative, is still attention,” says Jay.
To prevent an adult dog from jumping, Jay suggests “creating a barrier or leashing him up and asking visitors to come to the dog only when the dog is calm and sitting or laying down to lessen his excitement and the compulsion to jump up.”
The difference between jumping and playing
Playing with your dog is an essential part of maintaining that special bond. Dogs have a natural tendency to play and interact with other dogs and humans. When you see your dog bowing down to the ground when approached by another dog or a person, it’s an indication that jumping and roughhousing are about to follow. To differentiate this playful behavior from jumping for attention, pet parents can ignore the unwanted behavior and designate a specific place and time for playtime.
Healthy play can also be encouraged by teaching dogs not to jump through training and exercise. Jay uses the flirt pole, also called a 'flirt stick,' a piece of exercise equipment similar to a cat teaser wand that encourages the dog to chase a fast-moving object.
“This can be a really great way to get the dog to play, as well as incorporate training. The idea is that not only can you give your dog an acceptable outlet for all the energy he puts into the unwanted jumping, but you can also teach him how to better control his impulses, which is in many cases one of the root causes for jumping,” suggests Jay.
Lavanya Sunkara is a NYC-based writer who is passionate about animal welfare. She has been producing stories about pet care, rescue, adoption, and inspiring individuals in the pet world for the past decade. Her other passions include travel, volunteering, and her two adorable adopted dogs.