Why Your Dog Jumps Up At You And How To Stop It
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Having your dog jumping up at you is a really common behaviour problem that most dog owners will experience. For us adults it might seem like an annoying thing to have a dog jump up at us the second we walk through the door, however for smaller people such as children, or people who have physical disabilities or the elderly then it can become dangerous behaviour. The good news though, is that you can stop this behaviour. It’s possible to train your dog to stop jumping on people and to start greeting people more politely.
Let’s start with why this happens, what causes dogs to jump up on people? Well there’s a number of theories as to why they do this and the most popular are either that it’s a dominance thing, or it’s just a greeting behaviour. Most likely though, is that your dog is probably jumping up to grab your attention. Dogs see any acknowledgement of them as a good thing, even just eye contact. Tie that with the fact that they’ve been sitting around all day with not much to do, waiting for you to arrive home to begin play time. So the second you walk in they think it’s time to play.
A lot of problems can come from accidentally or unknowingly rewarding your dog for jumping up by giving them what they want. Similarly in the discipline of children, negative attention may be better than no attention at all. Your dog doesn’t necessarily connect the dots between you pushing them down and yellowing at them and the fact you’re trying to punish them. They can often see this as a friendly challenge or playing. Instead, your pup may view your behavior as exactly what it's seeking - treasured attention from you.
In this case, any type of attention that the dog gets from you or others may be perceived as a reward. It makes sense then that instead of rewarding your dog for jumping up, you make it more rewarding for it to keep all four paws on the floor, so let’s have a look at how we can establish this behaviour.
It takes time and practice to establish good behaviours - training your dog not to jump up on people will be something you have to teach through repeated rewards for good behaviours while punishing unwanted actions. If you’re steady and consistent with this training though, you’ll be rewarded with a best friend who keeps its front paws to itself.
The first step is to hold back on attention if your pet is doing something undesirable. There are a couple of ways to do this:
Turn your back as soon as your dog jumps up at you. Cross your arms over your chest and don't make a sound. If the dog runs around to jump up again, turn the other way. Repeat this as needed as you wait for the dog to stop jumping. Another method is to remove yourself from the situation altogether. If your dog jumps up when you walk in the door, turn around and walk back outside again. If it jumps up when you're inside, walk out of the room. Wait a moment; then step back inside. Repeat this until your dog calms down and then reward the good behaviour.
While we’re mentioning the rewards, it can really help to keep some treats close at hand when you're working on preventing unwanted jumping. As soon as your dog is standing in front of you with all four paws on the ground, toss it a treat. Praise your dog as well, but keep things low key. Too much excitement and attention from you may stimulate another round of jumping.
It helps if you can set up situations to practice with your dog as practice makes perfect. For instance, if the jumping occurs most often when you come home after work, spend a few minutes several times a day coming and going. Don't make a big fuss over your dog and step back outside if it jumps up. Offer a reward anytime all four feet are simultaneously on the floor.
Once your dog is able to keep four paws on the floor for a few seconds or more, start asking it to sit. Walk into a room or through the front door and immediately give the command "sit." As soon as the dog sits, offer a treat and a pat. Practice this over several training sessions. With plenty of repetitions, your dog will start sitting as soon as you walk through the door or enter the room.
It's not enough that you practice with your dog. You should also involve friends and family in this training to show that it’s a universal behaviour your dog must maintain for everyone. Otherwise, your dog may learn that it's not OK to jump up on you but everyone else is fair game. Having other people help with this training teaches your dog to keep all four paws down no matter who comes into the room.
There are some not-so-effective methods of training that you may have heard - ways that get a dog not to jump that call for some form of punishment or aversive. One such method is a knee to the dog's chest. Another is using leash correction—pulling or yanking on the leash—to get the dog off you. There are several problems with these methods, if you knee or leash correct your dog too harshly or improperly, you can seriously injure the dog.
When you use a knee to the chest, you may knock your dog down, but the dog may interpret this as your way of initiating play. Your dog's response will likely be to jump up again to continue the game because you've actually reinforced the behavior you're trying to stop. Your dog may learn not to jump up only when it's on a leash. Since most dogs aren't leashed 24/7, chances are your dog will have plenty of opportunities to get away with jumping up when it's off its leash.