Stop Jumping Up! 

The first thing to consider about any “problem” behavior you want to change in your dog is why he does it.  In the case of jumping up, it is a dog’s way of greeting you.  It is natural for dogs to want to be close to their people and jumping up gets them closer to you. 

Because jumping up is a greeting behavior, it is important never to punish jumping up.  Punishing a greeting behavior could lead to fear of strangers or even aggressiveness towards new people. 

There are two things you should do to stop your dog from jumping up.  One is to take away the reward of jumping up.  Dogs do what works.  If jumping up gets them what they want, they will do it again.  If it doesn’t work, they will try a new strategy.  The second thing to do is teach them an alternate strategy.  Show your dog what to do, rather than focusing on what not to do.  Your dog jumps up to get your attention, so to take away the reward, you must take away your attention.  Dogs don’t differentiate between positive attention and negative attention, so you need to take away all attention.  This means you should never touch your dog, talk to your dog, or even look at your dog when he is jumping up.  If your dog jumps up, cross your arms, turn away, and look at the ceiling.  If your dog continues to jump up when your back is turned, back up into him, being very careful not to step on him, or just walk forward into his space when he jumps up.  Dogs do have a concept of personal space (some more than others), and you invading their personal space will cause them to pause and back up a bit. 

The second step is to teach your dog what he should do to get what he wants.  The moment your dog stops jumping up, give him your attention.  Look at him, pet him, and tell him what a good dog he is.  This will teach him that “four on the floor” gets him what he wants.  You may eventually want to take this a step further and ask your dog to sit before you give him your attention.  To do this, you first need to teach your dog to sit.  Once he knows “sit”, you can start to ask for a sit before you pet him.  Eventually, your dog will start to sit without you having to ask. 

In order for this to work, everyone who interacts with your dog must follow the same rules.  No petting until he sits.  If even one visitor to your house rewards your dog with attention for jumping up, it will be much harder to get rid of the jumping.  To help your dog understand that “four on the floor” applies with every person he meets, enlist the help of some friends or neighbors.  Put your dog on a leash and give your helper some dog treats and explain what you want her to do.  You should hold your dog’s leash, stand completely still, and say nothing.  Instruct your helper to approach your dog.  If your dog jumps up, your helper should say “oops” and walk away.  If your dog does not jump up, your helper can feed your dog a treat and pet him.  The more people you practice this with, the less your dog will jump up.  

Points to Remember

  • Never reward your dog for jumping up
  • Do reward your dog with attention and petting when he keeps "four on the floor"
  • Enlist the help of friends and neighbors to teach your dog that jumping up doesn't work with anyone.

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