Jumping is one of the most common behaviours dog guardians want to overcome. But decreasing jumping is as much about changing a human’s behaviour as it is about changing the dog’s.
How you respond to a jumping dog is important, and it all comes down to action and consequence.
- If your dog jumps on you while playing with a toy, don’t keep playing; drop the toy and walk away.
- If your dog jumps on you while you’re preparing their meal, don’t push them away; walk completely away from the food (making sure it’s not accessible to your jumping dog).
- If your dog jumps on you when you come home, don’t enter the house; wait for a brief moment outside for your dog to calm down.
In all of these scenarios, your dog WANTS something—your attention, food, or to play with a toy. This is what motivates them to jump, bringing them closer to the object of their desire.
To change the behaviour, your dog has to understand that not only does jumping not work to get them what they want, it also makes their object of their desire disappear or go farther away. In other words, by removing the reward, your dog has to attempt another strategy to get what they want.
When you see them make that attempt at an alternate behaviour—for example, sitting when you walk in the door instead of jumping, reward them heavily for it.
The more a dog is rewarded for a behaviour, the more frequently they will practice it!
Changing a natural impulse
This process doesn’t happen overnight. What’s even more frustrating is that before you see an improvement in the behaviour, you’re likely to see it get worse. This is called an “extinction burst,” and it’s your dog’s last all-out attempt to do the behaviour that comes naturally to them in order to get what they want.
But stick to your guns! If you can use these strategies consistently, over time, you’ll see a lasting change take effect.
If your dog becomes overly excited and jumps up on you
- Turn your back. Do not push your dog off with your hands. They will probably think, at the very least, that jumping wins them attention, if not that you’re playing with them. NEVER knee your dog when they jump on you. This is painful and dangerous.
- If you’ve turned your back once or twice and your dog is still jumping on you, let them know this behaviour isn’t acceptable by telling them “Too bad!” and walking away from them, putting a closed door or baby gate between you.
- When your dog is calm, you may return to interacting with them.
If your dog jumps on you when you come home
- Open the door part of the way. If your dog is overly excited and one or more of their paws are off the ground, immediately close the door and wait for 30 seconds.
- Begin to open the door again. If your dog is still jumping around, close the door and wait another 30 seconds.
- Continue closing the door and waiting until your dog is calm enough for you to walk in without them jumping on you.
If your dog jumps on friends when they come to visit
- Put a lead on your dog and unlock the door for your guest. Instruct them ahead of time to knock when they arrive (to alert you) but to enter on their own and wait in the entry way for you to come and greet them.
- When your guest has entered, bring your dog close enough to see them but far enough away that they cannot reach your guest. Ask your dog for a sit.
- Have your friend walk toward you but ask them to stop and stand still if your dog becomes too excited and stands up. When this happens, calmly get your dog’s attention and ask them to sit. When seated, your friend can begin walking forward again.
- Repeat Step 3 until your friend reaches your dog with all four paws still on the floor. When they arrive, let the two say hello!
If your dog jumps on strangers saying hello at the park
- Ask the friendly stranger if they would spend a moment helping you to teach your pup polite greetings. Ask the stranger to stand still and let you come to them.
- Begin walking your dog toward the stranger to say hello. If your dog gets too excited—tugging on the lead, bouncing around, barking, and so on—get their attention back on you while backing up a step or two.
- Give your dog a moment to calm down (standing or sitting is OK), then begin to approach the person again. Repeat step 2 each time your dog gets too excited to greet.
- When you’ve made it to your new friend with all four of your dog’s paws on the ground, allow them to say hello.
With time and patience, this behaviour can be overcome—and your dog will learn to show their love and enthusiasm in other ways.