How can I stop my dog jumping on people?

Does your dog love to jump on everyone they meet? This can be extremely annoying and can also be dangerous as the dog may knock the person over or injure them accidentally. A dog jumping up can be particularly frightening for young children and older people.

There are a number of methods you can use to teach your dog not to jump up; they don’t need to be aversive or use physical tools. The hardest part (as with most behaviour work) is the consistency and dedication it takes of you and your family to work with your dog.

“Keep four on the floor”

This is what we want, your dog to keep all four paws superglued to the floor until you tell them to jump up (if you want to). In order to do this we will teach your dog a contradictory behaviour. For example, if your dog learns they have to sit for attention, then they can’t jump up as it’s not physically possible for them to do both at the same time. Or, you could teach our dog to go to their mat/bed when people come through your front door. Whatever behaviour you decide on you must keep it the same. It’s easier on your dog if the rules don’t change.

Using Sit as the alternative behaviour

If you use Sit as your alternative behaviour then it is a good idea to get a treat bag to carry round with you and then do the basics of training the Sit command in all the places where your dog likes to jump up at you. For example, the hallway, outside your bedroom door, in the garden, in the kitchen. We use these places to change the behaviour there first so that the dog has a strong association of sitting and staying calm and this becomes their default behaviour. i.e., four on the floor for attention.

What to do if your dog jumps up

It your dog jumps up then look away and ignore them. You can fold your arms (so you don’t accidentally touch them) and don’t speak. Remember, even telling your dog no, stop, etc., is still giving attention attention. Wait until they have sat down calmly and kept all four paws on the floor for a few seconds before rewarding. You may find it useful to do this with a clicker as you can mark the instant they put four paws on the ground and sit for you which will help your dog learn faster what you are expecting. They may jump up like a looney to get your attention but it’s important that you completely ignore them until they sit.

Ignoring jumping up is difficult, but absolutely essential to help extinguish the behaviour. Your dog doesn’t understand that you pushing them off and saying ‘no’ is something they shouldn’t want. They still got your attention.  As far as they are concerned, jumping worked.

All on board

For training to work, the whole family and friends have to be on board. This is the hardest part. Every person that comes into contact with your dog has to follow these rules, even strangers you meet out and about. Otherwise, the behaviour ends up being on a variable reinforcement schedule. In other words, your dog gets rewarded when he jumps on people sometimes and sometimes he doesn’t. This will actually make the behaviour stronger.

So, what do you do when someone says  “that’s okay, I don’t mind if your dog jumps on me”? You will have to manage the situation so your dog does not get the chance to practice the unwanted behaviour and even worse, be rewarded for it.  Here are some ways to manage your dog’s environment while they are learning good manners, or in a situation where you think the people will not respect your rules.

1. At home, block their instant access to people. Use baby gates, close doors or put your dog in a crate when people are coming over so they can not rush to the door and jump them as soon as you open it. This gives you time to explain the new rules, get everyone settled and give your dog a chance to calm down before greetings can be exchanged.

2. Outside. Keep your dog on a fixed lead. If you know your friends can’t handle following the rules, maybe your dog does not get to greet them while they are in training. If your dog must say hi, you can keep a leash on your dog and step on it, so they can’t physically jump up on them.  This also works great on walks when a complete strangers walks up too fast for you to explain the rules or get your dog to sit.

3. Speak up. It’s important you tell people they can not pet your dog, or that they need to wait until he is being appropriate before saying hi. You don’t have to say it rudely, but don’t back down, either.  You wouldn’t let a stranger approach your child in any way they want—treat your dog with the same care. You could use the Yellow Dog awareness campaign to help (http://www.yellowdoguk.co.uk) just pop a yellow ribbon on your leash or a yellow bandana on your dog to indicate to others that your dog needs some space whilst they are in training.

And finally, if you want your dog to be able to jump up sometimes, but not others, you should put it on cue. This will teach your dog stimulus control so they only do the behaviour when asked. Dolly knows that when I say ‘paws up’ it’s okay to jump up and get attention.

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2 Comments

  1. Alison
    29th January 2018 / 12:01 pm

    Thank you for this great advice! I’m starting today 😊🐾

  2. Anita Howard
    30th January 2018 / 5:54 pm

    Hi Sarah, this has been most useful. Bilbo is calm most of the time meeting and greeting but he gets over excited when he realises we are going out and he is coming with us. We can use this method for those times.

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