Jumping is often perceived as an innocent behavior, especially when adorable puppies engage in it upon greeting their owners and welcomed guests. Problems start, when 100 pounds later, the puppy matures into a big dog and people start remarking “Do you have a saddle for that thing?” At that growth stage, dogs can easily knock over people leaving muddy paws on their suits and concerned looks on people’s faces. This is when dog owners start realizing that their pup must have grown almost overnight and they’re now facing a “big” problem.
Jumping from Your Dog’s Perspective
A while back, jumping was considered a dominant behavior; basically, a way for the dog to assert himself over people and try to take control. A better understanding of dogs nowadays reveals that dogs don’t have a will to rule the roost on their agenda, but rather behave in certain ways simply because certain behaviors have a history of reinforcement. According to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, it’s a behavior myth that dogs jump to assert their rank over you.
If we would ask Oliver why he jumps, most likely he would smile and remark “because it’s fun!” Jumping is a natural behavior in dogs, and it’s simply their way to say hello. If you are away for a good part of the day, your dog will likely be eager to celebrate your return. Among dogs, greeting rituals often encompass enthusiastic tail wagging and face licking. Because we are much taller than them, jumping is the best way to come closer to our faces and celebrate our return.
Reducing Jumping Behaviors
Luckily, jumping behaviors can be reduced, but as many other dog behavioral problems, it will require time and some effort. This is one of those behaviors where dog owners must commit to changing their behavior in order to see a behavior change in their dog. So it’s time to roll up those sleeves and ensure that others are also on the same page. Following are some tips to reduce jumping behaviors.
- Implement the “four feet on the floor” rule. In other words, give your dog attention only when all of his four feet are glued to the floor.
- Don’t give any form of attention when your dog is jumping! That’s how the behavior established in the first place. Dogs who have been left alone for a good part of the day crave attention, and this includes ANY type of attention. Talking to your dog, pushing him away or even scolding him are forms of attention your dog may appreciate. So when your dog jumps, don’t talk, don’t touch him and don’t look at him. Just cross your arms, turn your back to him and become the most boring thing on earth.
- After ignoring your dog, the moment all his four feet are on the floor, you can then calmly give attention to your dog, telling him what a good boy he is, but if he feels compelled to jump again, turn your back at once and ignore him again. The message you are trying to send is that four feet on the floor cause you to dole out attention; whereas, jumping causes you to “close up” and become boring.
- Train your dog to perform an alternate, incompatible behavior. In other words, ask your dog to sit in order to attain attention. A dog cannot jump if he’s been asked to sit, because sitting is incompatible with jumping.
- Step out of the room. Most dogs jump the moment we come inside from another room or after being out for some time. When you open the door and see your dog is jumping quickly, get out for a few seconds. Try coming back inside opening the door gradually, if your dog still jumps then close the door and leave, but if he’s not jumping, open the door wider and come inside praising your dog calmly. Repeat this sequence every time you come inside. It’s normal to have to repeat this sequence for about a dozen times at first, but eventually your dog will get it.
- Generalize the behavior. Once your dog gets better at greeting you without jumping, invite some guests over and ask them to try the same exercises. This can be challenging at first as your dog may get excited at seeing them, but with practice he’ll eventually learn to apply the same polite greeting you have worked on.
- Be consistent. At times, you may stumble on guests who will say they won’t mind if your dog jumps on them and will pet and give attention to your dog when he jumps. Don’t fall for it. You cannot successfully train your dog to jump on some people and not jump on others. Make sure everybody follows your rules so you are all on the same page and you make it easier for your dog to learn.
- Prevent rehearsal of unwanted behavior. The more your dog jumps and gets attention, the more he’ll want to repeat this behavior in the future. If you don’t have time to have your guests implement your exercises when they come over, keep your dog on a short leash so he’s prevented from jumping or in another room. Alternatively, you can toss a toy or treats on the floor when guests come over so he’s focus will be on the toy or treats instead of jumping.
- Use positive training methods. Avoid yelling at your dog, pulling him off, squeezing his paws or kneeing him in the chest. These methods may increase your dog’s arousal and excitability levels which will worsen the behavior. On top of that, if you use aversion-based methods the excitability may transform into defensive behavior and may trigger growling or even biting.
- Prevention is better than curing. You can train polite greeting behaviors in puppies so that you won’t have to work hard in removing a behavior that has a history of being rehearsed for many months or years. Train your puppy to sit for greeting and then shower him with attention.
The Bottom Line
Stopping your dog from jumping requires dedication along with the collaboration from others. Behaviors that have been rehearsed for a while require some time to extinguish. You may notice at times a worsening of the jumping behavior, but if you were persistent in training your dog not to jump, most likely you are dealing with extinction bursts and the jumping behavior will start fading over time.