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Jumping up is a common behavior for dogs, and it happens for many reasons. Whether they are excited, want attention from people, are seeking information, or are nervous or anxious, dogs aren’t out to behave badly. It’s common for dogs to jump up when they encounter new people, for any of the reasons listed above. Jumping is a totally normal canine behavior, especially for puppies, and it’s good to remember this if it becomes an issue we would like to work on.
The rules of engagement
If you like your dog jumping up to greet you, remember that you make the rules in your house. Encourage the behaviors that you like with positive reinforcement (in this case, your attention) and add a cue for your dog, like patting your lap or chest, to indicate that’s how you’d like to interact with them.
Jumping can be an issue when very young or older people are involved. Knocking humans over, causing injury, or frightening people are valid concerns. To help your dog stop jumping up, work to establish an alternative behavior that is incompatible with jumping, such as sitting or lying down. Positive reinforcement based training provides an engaging and fun way for you to work with your canine bestie to establish new habits.
Management is an integral part of any training plan. Simply put, management gives your dog access to a space where they are not able to rehearse the behavior you are trying to eliminate, work on, or replace. This is especially important for puppies as they learn to navigate a human world.
Use management when jumping is likely to occur, such as when people are arriving (home from work, guests, or people working in the home).
Put up a baby gate or exercise pen, or close a door to restrict sections of the house or keep the dog in one room. If your dog is crate trained, sending them to their cozy crate is a good option to avoid jumping.
Provide your dog with a space to engage in an activity on their own that they find enjoyable and fulfilling, like working on a long lasting chew, a lick mat, or other food enrichment toy. Licking, chewing, foraging, and sniffing are all relaxing activities for dogs that encourage calm behavior.
If it is difficult for your dog to be separated from you inside of the house, reach out to a credentialed trainer who utilizes modern, science-backed, humane training methods.
Management takes the pressure off of the human and the dog by providing a space where the jumping behavior cannot be rehearsed, and time for everyone to be calm.
If you’re having a hard time entering your home without your dog jumping on you, first consider if there is a better way to manage their access to you when you get home. Exercise pens can expand to block a longer area and may provide a good barrier to let you get in the door.
Scattering a handful of kibble or some small treats on the floor is an easy way to reinforce your dog for keeping their feet on the ground.
What to do if your dog does jump on somebody
You won’t be able to remove every opportunity for your dog to jump up. Be it an interesting space they’d like to investigate (like a countertop), or a person they meet, if your dog is prone to putting their front feet up, work with them to modify the behavior.
If your dog is on a leash, avoid pulling them back, especially if they are wearing a collar. Pulling all of the slack out of the leash may also make it easier for the dog’s front feet to leave the ground. Ensure the leash is secured but still has slack as much as possible.
Here’s how to redirect your dog after they have jumped up:
- Move your body backward in an inviting and encouraging way, calling your dog to you.
- Provide treats down low or on the ground when they are close to you.
- Cue your dog’s incompatible behavior (sit or down).
- Provide treats down low or on the ground as soon as they perform the behavior.
If your dog is excited and likely to jump again if you approach the object or person, simply walk the other way and provide treats and/or praise for following you. Take note of the things that make your dog more likely to jump up so that you can work those situations into your training. Seek out a qualified trainer if you need help creating a training plan.
Set yourself and your dog up for success by making training treats easy to access. Place small containers of treats around the house where jumping is most likely to occur, like by the door you generally enter. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that are reinforced, and treats and attention are the easiest way to reinforce a behavior.
Always begin training sessions in a low-distraction environment, such as inside the house. Keep each session short and positive. Training is a wonderful bonding activity–you and your dog will both learn a lot!
Positive reinforcement for four on the floor
Provide your dog with a few small treats when they keep all of their feet on the floor (a.k.a. four on the floor) in these common jumping zones. Tossing treats directly on the floor is an easy way to accomplish this.
Do not engage with your dog when they are jumping up and you don’t want them to. There is no need to push, kick, or punish your dog. Removing your attention can send the desired message if attention is what they are after. See if you can stand still and wait for them to make a different decision.
If your dog has a solid sit or down, cue one of those behaviors after all of their feet touch the floor, then provide treats.
Teach cues for “up” and “off”
It may be useful to have a cue that means “please put all of your feet on the floor.” Teaching your dog how to get up on an object and then off is one way to accomplish this.
Use a low bench or piece of furniture that your dog is familiar with and is easy for them to get on for this exercise. To teach “up” and “off”:
- Use inviting body language (such as patting your hand on the surface) and encourage your dog to get up on the platform you’ve selected.
- Provide treats and/or praise.
- Move your body backward and use inviting body language and an encouraging tone of voice.
- Provide treats on the floor.
Repeat this sequence until your dog is familiar with it. Then add verbal cues such as “up” for step 1 and “off” for step 3.
Since the “off” cue is reinforced when all feet are on the ground, it can be practiced if the front feet leave and then land on the ground. If your dog puts their front feet up on something or someone, cue “off,” and provide treats on the ground.
Move at your dog’s pace. If they do not understand a verbal cue, avoid repeating it. Help them succeed by using your personality, inviting body language, and providing treats and/or praise.
Calm greeting setups
If greeting guests without jumping is difficult for your dog, use management to help them. Have a person your dog sees often (such as another person they live with) help your dog practice greeting in a calm manner. Practice approaches in a low distraction environment first.
Note: Ensure your dog is wearing equipment that will not cause damage (e.g. a well-fit harness) if they pull at the end of leash or tether.
- Leash or tether your dog, keeping slack in the lead.
- Have the greeter approach calmly.
- If the dog is able to keep all of their feet on the floor, scatter treats on the ground for them.
- If the dog is jumping, back away and approach again.
- Repeat Steps 1-4.
- After a few successful approaches, cue sit or down when the greeter approaches.
- Provide treats on the floor/ground.
- If the dog can stay down, allow the greeter to move closer and touch the dog (if the dog is comfortable being reached for and enjoys being touched).
- Repeat Steps 6-7.
- Practice this training exercise in progressively more distracting environments and with new people when your dog is ready.
It’s important to work with your dog in a way that allows them to succeed. Save greeting guests for later.
Teaching your dog to go to a certain place, known as a stationing behavior, is another way to teach behavior that is incompatible with jumping. The station could be a mat, rug, bed, crate, or any space you’d like your dog to go lie down and chill out.
Stationing (place) is trained using positive reinforcement. Force or aversive equipment is not necessary.
Setting your dog up for success
Management is key when working on changing your dog’s behavior. You may also need to work with the people in your life so they understand how to engage with your dog in a way that helps them succeed. A place or stationing behavior is also management. Any behavior or setup that provides your dog, your guests, and your family calm spaces are worthwhile endeavors.
Remember that all dogs are individuals with their own preferences. Not all dogs like to be approached or touched by strangers. When you advocate for your dog’s needs, everyone wins. If they are not comfortable being approached, reached for, or touched, let approaching humans know this. Practice a u-turn behavior with your dog so you can quickly change directions and avoid situations they are not comfortable with.
Managing your dog’s environment and teaching your dog to perform behaviors that are incompatible with jumping are both forms of management. Management is more than baby gates and crates, and the purpose is always setting your dog up to succeed and have positive experiences.
As previously mentioned, if you need help working with your dog, find a qualified trainer to be part of your team.
Trainer that reviewed this article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content.
This is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Founder – K9 Fun Club Staff Trainer – Summit Assistance Dogs Certified in Canine Studies (CSS), NW School of Canine Studies